In the 17th century, Africans were taken from their homeland and forced into slavery in the New World. Once there, they were exploited for profit by European settlers. Despite mainstream historical accounts, it was African-Americans who built the foundation of the American economy, which eventually made it a super power. This essay will illustrate how Blacks survived in a hostile, racist environment by specifically looking at the psychological and physical brutality of slavery. The Portuguese were the first to embark upon the slave trade. Africans were snatched from their homeland and sold as slaves to the islands of the Caribbean and the Americas in the early 1500s. A prime area for slaves was on the west coast of African. People inhabiting this land were well known for their skills in agriculture, farming, and mining. Slave traders knew that by capitalizing on the mastery talents of these Africans they could become wealthy in other parts of the world. The Spaniards, the French, and the Dutch soon became part of the slave trade, and because of this, slavery grew to exponential proportions. The typical voyage for slaves taken by European traders started down the south coast of Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. They traded African slaves—human beings—for goods such as cloth, rum, brandy and guns. Then they would start on the second leg of this inhumane excursion. When the desired number of Africans was met, they shipped out to what is now known as the “Middle Passage”. These ships sailed from Africa across the Atlantic Ocean to one of several ports in the Caribbean and West Indies and slaves were bought and sold to work in sugar plantations. The English slavers would then load up the ships with sugar, tobacco and cotton produced by slave labor and head for the America and then back to Africa for repeat voyages. This slave route became known as the “Triangle Trade” or the “Transatlantic Slave Route”.
It is estimated that some ten to fifteen million slaves took the Middle Passage journey from Africa. They were packed in slave ships, surrounded by fecal matter and the corpuses of those who could no longer endure the disease and famine infested conditions. Mothers were even forced to give birth to babies in these conditions and children were treated no different. The mortality rate among these new slaves ran very high. It is estimated that fifty percent of those originally captured died, either in transit from Africa to the Caribbean or from the Caribbean to the Americas (The Middle Passage: White Ships/Black Cargo, 1995).
The first slaves to arrive in the New World were sold to settlers in Jamestown, Virginia. Some slaves were allowed to earn their freedom by working as laborers and artisans for slave owners. But by the mid 1600s, replacement slaves were in limited supply and the growth of the economy became noticeably halted. In 1641, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize slavery, with the Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey soon following their lead. In 1660, Virginia, the largest colony for the development of Black slavery, declared it law to purchase and sell slaves, as did Maryland in 1663. Soon after, legalized slavery spread quickly to other American colonies and the civil liberties given to a freed slave such as the right to marry and the right to own land were no more. Black slaves could no longer be freed from indentured servitude. When these new laws of the American colonies legalized the inferior status of slaves, it took away the last ounce of hope for many Blacks that longed and lived for the day to be free (Slavery and the Making of America, 2004).
By 1700, slavery was an integral and significant part of the Virginia economy. In 1705, Virginia enacted its first comprehensive statute on slavery, “An Act Concerning Servants and Slaves”. The law required that slaves be taxed as property and registered by...