Inthe second half of the 1600s, the slavery of people was solely based on thecolor of the skin in North America and was targeted on those that came from Africa.These events that occurred within this century would dramatically change theculture in the upcoming years for the people that resided in the colonies. Althoughthis imposition of hereditary race slavery was gradual at first, it quickly becamea popular perspective that spread throughout the New World and was a completelydifferent form of slavery that occurred in the continent of Africa. The processof racial slavery was not a natural process and it definitely had the influenceof the how competitive the governments became in the Americas. The factors of qualifyingfor a slave was inhumane and, therefore, it created a stir of problems that canstill be present today. Before the type of slavery that the Europeans introducedin the United States, the slavery that already existed in Africa was very different.
There, slaves were taken as either prisoners of wars or people that needed topay off a debt. Typically, this term would only last for a couple of years untilthey paid off their crime. Many recognized slaves as dependents who wouldeventually be integrated into the slave owner’s family. In addition, slaves inAfrica were able to attain positions of power; either in the military or administrative(Clark et al.,16).
Most of the time, both the slave and their owners were blackAfricans and the color of their skin was not a factor in their position in thesociety. The enslavement in Africa was also usually small scale compared to theNew World. The traditional African practices of slavery started tochange when the Europeans started trading slaves from Africa. In the New World,there were more opportunities for Europeans to own many acres of land.
For thisreason, the need for the labor to maintain it was a driving force to obtainmore hands to work in their land. And, because the price of the slaves inAfrica was much cheaper than the yearly wages of a white laborer, it pushedlandowners to obtain slaves from Africa. In addition, the Europeans werefinding the indigenous people difficult to control and their labor was mostoften did not fulfill their hopes (Clark et al.,25). Slowly, over the years,they kept demanding for more slaves because they were expanding their plantationagriculture in the Americas. The demands of the plantation economies pushed thedemand for slaves. Therefore, the Europeans needed to find any way possible toget more and this caused inappropriate capturing of Africans. In a letter tothe Portuguese King Joao III, the Kongolese king Afonso I disclosed the Portuguesemen come to “seize many of our people, freed and exempt men, and very often ithappens that they kidnap even noblemen and the sons of noblemen, and ourrelatives, and take them to be sold to the white men who are in our Kingdoms” (“Insidethe Slave Trade”, 2).
This quote signifies that the Europeans didn’t care ifthe Kongolese people that they captured were free or not. They most likely sawall the Africans to be the same and belowthem. Therefore, to them, it was reasonable to capture them.
This Atlanticslave trade was drastically different from previous practices of slavery thattook place in Africa. In Africa, slavery was meant to help the community toproduce food and goods. On the other hand, slavery in the New World was criticalto the economy. Agriculture was their main source of income. One of the first ways or justification that the Spanishand Portuguese colonizers tried to enslave the men in Africa was that they wereof different religions and, therefore, they could be enslaved for the rest oftheir lives.
However, if they were converted to Christianity, the slaves couldbe free. This easy change in status would make it difficult to find a permanentand reliable workforce to labor in the plantation. They changed the law towhich “the conferring of baptisme doth not alter the condition of the person asto his bondage or freedome” (Hening, 84). Therefore, this might have been the causeof the colonizers to change the justification to the slave’s appearance. Forthis reason, black Africans were not able to get out of this justification andcould be enslaved for life. In addition, they added that enslavement could behereditary, so enslaved people’s children automatically get the same unfreestatus.
Another factor in the transformation of slavery becomingrace-based was the way the Europeans viewed things as a measure of status. Itshifted from what religion you were part of to physical appearance. Over time, theEnglish changed their perspective of Africans from heathen people to just blackpeople. In the similar vein, the English also started to refer themselves aswhite people instead of Christians. This change of perspective, therefore,transpired in their colonial laws. For example, in one of the statutes of thelaws in Virginia, it stated that “whatsoever English, or other white man or woman,shall intermarry with a negro or mulatto man or woman, bond or free, shall, byjudgement of the county court, be committed to prison” (Hening, 43) One of the keythings to point out in this previous quote is that they judge a person by thecolor of their skin.
In addition, they paint negro people in a negative light.If a white person were to be in a relationship with them, there are consequencesto it, even if the negro person was free. The people that were writing the lawsthought that it was not a matter of if a black person could be enslaved, but instead,it was the fact that they thought they should be. In addition, in the laws,they used slaves and negroes interchangeably. At the same time that slavery was becoming racial, it wasalso becoming hereditary.
At the beginning, a child inherited the legal statusof the father, but that quickly changed when officials were faced with cases thatinvolved an enslaved negro woman and an Englishman. Therefore, the law changed towhere, “all children borne in this country shalbe held bond or free only accordingto the condition of the mother” (Hening, 42). Therefore, it was getting harderfor future generations of Africans to be free and continued to be tied down toslavery. We can still see this today, although it has drasticallyimproved since the colonization of the United States. The black race in theUnited States is still fighting to catch up with everything that held them backin the day.