Slavery and Racism in Colonial America

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For centuries, the strong have preyed on the vulnerable. The origins of slavery date back to ancient times, and the concept was certainly not new when American colonists began enslaving Africans to work on their thriving and expanding plantations. However, in America, slavery was not only a longstanding institution, it was essential to the colonies’ early success, and consequently to the establishment and rise of the nation as a whole. Despite the abolition of slavery after the Civil War in the 1860s, famous African-Americans such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks were still fighting against racial segregation in the mid-20th century. There is no question that Americans have acknowledged the past wrongdoings and mistakes and have tried to correct them, but even today racism has not been entirely eradicated. The historical debate rages on as to whether racism was the cause or effect of slavery. Between the laws and codes of the colonies and the mistreatment of white indentured servants, there is more evidence to support the claim that racism evolved from slavery. The content of the laws and codes over the colonial time period shows a trend of a change in viewpoint towards black slaves after the early 18th century, when their population increased substantially. In New York, only three statutes were passed in the 1600s. The first, in 1652, even forbade whipping a slave, attempting to prevent their mistreatment, and the second officially legalized slavery in 1664. However, it is not until around forty years later, when their numbers grew, that a multitude of laws and codes were written regarding prohibition of blacks from certain activities and their punishments. Laws in Virginia passed before 1700 detailed punishments for English servants aiding or running away with slaves, suggesting that there were instances of camaraderie between them at that time. “In case any English servant shall run away in company with any negroes…shall serve for the time of the...
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