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The Trade Of African Slaves Began

The trade of African slaves began in 14th hundred when Portuguese were shipping slaves from West Africa to Europe. Hence, for the next hundred years Europe and the atlantics island owned by Portugal and Spain was the main market place for trading slaves. However, in1492 in new colonies were created which caused a great demand for slaves and from the mid-sixteenth century slaves were being shipped to North America, the Caribbean and also in Brazil.

At the beginning of this slave trade Portuguese and Spanish were considered the main organizing body of this trading system, however, at the end of 17th century North-west European countries were starting to get involved. We found that between sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, more than 12 million Africans were being shipped from, mainly West Africa.

1.1 causes of slavery in the Caribbean:

From our research we found out that there was a shortage of labors in the Caribbean, mainly due to the sugar plantation. In 1640 sugar planting was introduced into Barbados, primarily at Dutch instigation and within a very short time sugar was the main crop of the island – and subsequently of the whole Caribbean. Unlike earlier products, however, sugar needed huge amount of labors. The indentured white servants, imported from Ireland, Scotland and England, were not enough and could not be readily and swiftly replaced for efficient management of the new sugar plantations. Africans however seemed to fit the bill perfectly and furthermore had already been used extensively as slaves by the Spaniards and Portuguese in their own colonial settlements. Sugar rapidly established itself as the powerful economic force which lured the slave cargoes across the Atlantic in growing numbers. In the early 1640s there were, in Barbados, only 6400 slaves (and 2500 whites); by 1650 there were some 20,000 slaves. By 1680 there were about 37,000 slaves but only17,000 whites, and as the numbers of African slaves increased the size of the sugar plantations expanded, gobbling up ever more land and putting an end to the initial small holdings. Much the same pattern unfolded in Jamaica which was taken by the British from the Spanish in 1655.There the establishment of sugar rapidly transformed the island into a black society. In 1670 there were some7000 slaves (and whites); by 1690 the Jamaican slaves outnumbered the whites by four to one. By 1700 Jamaica was home to 45,000 slaves- and had become the world’s biggest sugar producer. Eighty years later in 1780 there were some 200,000 slaves on the island. (Walvin, Slavery and the slave trade, 1983)

Thus in Barbados, Jamaica and elsewhere the early European settlements had been revolutionized by sugar production and had in the process been utterly transformed into black slave societies While clearly not all these slaves worked in sugar, it is nonetheless the case that it was the ramifications of sugar cultivation which established the rapid growth in the slave trade cross the Atlantic and the demographic revolution in the Caribbean. As a result the plantation colonies became unalterably black- and enslaved. (Walvin, Slavery and the slave trade, 1983)

1.2 causes of slavery in America:

There was an English planter Mr. john Rolfe who realized that if they import labors from under developed countries then they will earn a lot of profit, since their cost of production will be low. He is credited with the first successful cultivation of tobacco as an export crop in the Colony of Virginia. His plantation served as one of the major reason for the adoption of African slaves as the main source of labor. Working in a tobacco plant is not easy. It takes long hours bending over plants under scorching hot sun. working in a tobacco plantation was considered an extremely labor intensive work so most white slaves proved entirely unsuited for this kind of labor. This is another reason why African people were taken as slaves, because of their high tolerance level. In 1793 Eli Whitney developed cotton gin, a machine that create cotton that is five times faster than manual method. As a result more slaves are needed for the factory. Some white indentured servants were forced to work as time passed it became scarce. Most indentured white servants proved entirely unsuitable for this kind harsh labor because they were not used to such hot and humid weather conditions. African slaves on the other hand were physically more used to such brutal weather conditions and also capable of laboring for longer periods.

Slaves in the South constituted about one-third of the southern population. Most slaves lived on large farms or small plantations; many masters owned less than 50 slaves. Slave owners sought to make their slaves completely dependent on them, and a system of restrictive codes governed life among slaves. They were prohibited from learning to read and write, and their behavior and movement was restricted. Many masters took sexual liberties with slave women, and rewarded obedient slave behavior with favors, while rebellious slaves were brutally punished. A strict hierarchy among slaves (from privileged house slaves and skilled artisans down to lowly field hands) helped keep them divided and less likely to organize against their masters. Slave marriages had no legal basis, but slaves did marry and raise large families; most slave owners encouraged this practice, but nonetheless did not hesitate to divide slave families by sale or removal. (Slavery in America, 2009)

The slave was forced by Americans at any age for work at long hours which was decided by master. They have no right for vacation, no right to wages no property and the slave couldn’t marry. They received tremendous torture from their masters. No matter how dangerous their task was, they just had to do it. The enslave worker had no right or protection as the laws were against them and in favor of their master, the slaves were considered as a property not a human being. When a slave suffered neither this pain he can neither fight back nor his master to court.

The enslaved Africans were forced to work in different laborious activities as mentioned before lie tobacco or sugar plantation. Other tasks include clearing land, planting cane and harvesting them. Inside the plantation, the working condition was very bad as it was like working in a boiling house and they had poor nutrition and working condition. Due to this their death rate was really high.

They were provided with minimal clothing and they had to share their home. We found in our research that 10-12 people lived together in a small hut.

Moreover, the slave woman’s did not get released from fieldwork for a long period, not even in their last week before childbirth. Even during such a time they picked three-quarters or more of the amount normal for women. Since they were undernourished, infant death rate was high as well. After giving birth, slave women’s didn’t get enough time to recover, they had to go back to work within 2-3 months of delivery. The infants were fed a starch-based diet which was bad for their health and not at all healthy.

The slaves living and working condition was so bad that they suffered from various fatal diseases. Common symptoms among enslaved populations included: blindness; abdominal swelling; bowed legs; skin lesions; and convulsions, beriberi (caused by a deficiency of thiamine); pellagra (caused by a niacin deficiency); tetany (caused by deficiencies of calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D); rickets (also caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D); and kwashiorkor (caused by severe protein deficiency).

Diarrhea, dysentery, whooping cough, and respiratory diseases as well as worms pushed the infant and early childhood death rate of slaves to twice that experienced by white infants and children. (Facts about the Slave Trade and Slavery, 2014)