Slavery in America began when the first African slaves were brought to the North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, to aid in the production of such lucrative crops as tobacco. Slavery was practiced throughout the American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries, and African-American slaves helped build the economic foundations of the new nation.
By the mid-19th century, America's westward expansion, along with a growing abolition movement in the North, would provoke a great debate over slavery that would tear the nation apart in the bloody American Civil War (1861-65).
Reach Into Your Background
What actions would you take to get
something you really wanted? What would you do to hold on to
something that was already yours? (5 minutes)
Partner Activity Work with a neighbor and compare your
answers with theirs. What things are the same and what things
are different? (3 minutes)
Key Ideas- Slavery Slavery was an ancient practice of taking captives in war. Muslims traded with East Africans for slaves. The transatlantic slave trade began after
Europeans set up colonies in the Americas. Slavery devastated those parts of Africa from which slaves were taken.
Capture and the Middle Passage
Most slaves were captured by other Africans. West Africa is where the majority of slaves came from. After capture, Africans were packed tightly into slave ships.
The death rate of the “passengers” was 50%.
• Slaves were BRANDED with this tool (permanent burn scar) to show they were property.
The Middle Passage
Destination, Auction, and Seasoning
Most Africans landed in Brazil with the least number landing in North America. Slaves were auctioned off to the highest bidder. They learned a European language, were
named a European name, and were shown labor requirements.
The Beginnings of Slavery in the United States
The Portuguese and Spanish had already
brought Africans to South and Latin America. In 1619, the first Africans
were brought to the colony Jamestown, Virginia by the Dutch.
Why Not Enslave the Native Population?
Native Americans were highly likely to catch European diseases.
They were familiar with the terrain and could escape easier. They had political allies that could fight against the “owners.”
Reasons for Using Enslaved African Labor
Experience-They had previous experience and knowledge working in sugar and rice production. Immunity from diseases-Less likely to get sick due to prolonged contact over centuries.
Low escape possibilities-They did not know the land, had no allies, and were highly visible because of skin color.
Anthony Johnson He was an African brought to the colonies in the 1620s.
He obtained his freedom, and purchased 250 acres of land in Virginia. He owned both slaves and white indentured servants. This shows that blacks were not thought of strictly as slaves until the 1660s.
The Effects of the American Revolution and the Constitution
Gradual abolition of slavery in the northern colonies. End of the Atlantic Slave Trade in 1808. Entrenchment of slavery in the South with the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 by Eli Whitney.
Life of a Slave Most slaves had Sundays off and they went to church. Most slaves could not read or write, and it was illegal
for them to learn. Slave Codes-They could not: leave their home without a pass, carry a weapon, gather in groups, own
property, legally marry, defend themselves against a white person, or speak in court.
Resistance Flight-Slaves would run away. Refusal to reproduce-Women refused to
have children. Covert Action-Slaves would sometimes kill
animals, destroy crops, start fires, steal stuff, break tools, and poison food.
Punishment Slaves were often brutally punished for misbehaving. Punishments included: whipping, branding, being sold, gagged (silence), and other torturous methods were used.
Underground Railroad Many abolitionists, white and black, tried to help Southern slaves escape to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
Harriet Tubman was an ex-slave who continued to go back to the South and help people find freedom even though her life was constantly in danger.
Video- Harriet Tubman
Frederick Douglass, a former slave,
was able to communicate the plight of slaves as no one else could. He sought to embody three keys for success in
life: Believe in yourself. Take advantage of every opportunity.
Use the power of spoken and written language to effect positive change for yourself and society.
Video- Frederick Douglass
• Many freed slaves went on to fight for the side of the North during the Civil War.
Jog the Web 1. Why would the rapid expansion of agriculture in the Americas cause an increased demand for slaves? 2. Why did the Atlantic Slave Trade last as long as it did? 3. What impact did the slave trade have on African society? 4. What role did Africans themselves play in the continuation of the Atlantic trade of enslaved people?