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Encyclopedia > Slave labor

Slavery is any of a number of related conditions involving control of a person against his or her will, enforced by violence or other clear forms of coercion. It almost always occurs for the purpose of securing the labour of the person or people concerned. A specific form, chattel slavery, involved the legal ownership of a person or people, which is now illegal in all countries. When this article refers to people as "slaves" today, it is simply describing the conditions in which they are held, not the law. The condition of laboring for another without one's willful consent, but not constituting a complete lack of freedom as in slavery, is commonly referred to as involuntary servitude.

In the strict sense, slaves are people who have no rights. Therefore serfdom does not usually mean slavery because serfs almost always have some rights and military conscription would be slavery in some militaries and not others. Similarly, in the broader sense of the word, slavery has sometimes been regarded as an expectation associated with other relationships, such as marriage and/or other family relations, mandatory military service, or debt relationships, for more details of the latter form, see debt slavery). However, people subject to these conditions may also have some rights and they are also covered by a more generic term: unfree labour, which includes all forms of slavery and similar labour systems. Unfree labour is now the preferred term of many scholars, because of the wide variety of meanings, usages and ambiguities which may be attached to words like "slavery".

The 1926 Slavery Convention described slavery as "...the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised..." Therefore a slave is someone who cannot leave an owner, master, overseer, controller, or employer without explicit permission, and who will be returned if they stray or escape. They may be legally owned or controlled to the same extent informally. Control may be accomplished through official and/or tacit arrangements with local police and other authorities — by masters who have some influence with the authorities, because of their status as landowners and/or wealthy persons.

Slavery is in all countries considered to be a criminal activity, outlawed by UN conventions. However some states such as Myanmar and Sudan do facilitate the institution of slavery, according to anti-slavery groups such as Free the Slaves. In these cases, unfree labourers are often told that they are working off a debt, but to have no access to an accounting for that debt, and no right to take any higher-paying or less supervised employment. These people may be considered slaves if they are under the impression that challenging these conditions, or leaving in protest of them, would lead to serious bodily harm. Some labor conditions for imported "domestic" workers approach conditions of slavery in countries like Singapore, Canada, and Saudi Arabia, under the color of law, such as Canada's “Live-in Caregiver Program. [1] (http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&call_pageid=971358637177&c=Article&cid=1099087810560). Numerous abuses are reported to the authorities which frequently turn a blind eye. Deaths of imported domestic workers in Singapore during 2000-2004 are estimated to be about 100 people. The Singapore government has compounded their problems by putting a tax of up to 100% on the salary of these modern slaves. [2] (http://www.asianlabour.org/archives/001810.php)

In all countries, people in many occupations are contracted for a period of years, but they are usually paid on a regular basis, are rarely contracted until a debt is paid, and are rarely sold into that status by their parents or others.


Who becomes a slave?

Historically, slaves were often those of a different ethnicity, nationality, religion, or raceanimal rights and Great Ape personhood advocates would also include species — from those who enslaved them, but in general such slaveries were short. It has been relatively rare in history for an entire ethnic group to be held as slaves for more than a couple of generations. In most cases intermarriage, granting of liberty, right to buy one's own freedom, have caused slave and slave-owning populations to merge all around the world.

Societies characterized by poverty, population pressures, and cultural and technological backwardness are frequently exporters of slaves to more developed nations. Today most slaves are rural people forced to move to cities, or purchased in rural areas and sold into slavery in cities. These moves take place due to loss of subsistence agriculture, thefts of land, and population increases.

Slavery is almost always a matter of economics - in effect, those with poor birthright or bad luck in any society have sometimes been forced to throw themselves on the mercy of those with better birthright and luck, or simply been forced to provide service to those who had power and were willing

After the United Nations and western observers withdrew in 1964 leaving Indonesia in authority and able to begin a program of genocide, the natives were used as conscript labor in logging camps.

External References

History of slavery

Slavery in the Mediterranean world

Slavery in the ancient Mediterranean cultures was a mixture of debt-slavery, slavery as a punishment for crime, and the enslavement of prisoners of war.

Undoubtedly a majority of slaves were condemned to agricultural or industrial labour and lived hard lives. In some of the city-states of Greece and in the Roman Empire, slaves were a very large part of the economy, and the Roman Empire built a large part of its wealth on slaves acquired through conquest. In both Greek and Roman societies, slavery had the effect of providing the ownership class with the leisure to engage in intellectual and cultural pursuits that built a civilization which later became the foundations of today's western civilization.

Slaves could be freed by their masters and often rose to positions of power.

Slavery in the Bible

See Sabbatical year, Onesimus, Bible-based advocacy of slavery, in addition to the details of the Book of Exodus.

Old Testament

In Leviticus, the Old Testament draws a distinction between Hebrew debt slavery:

25:39 If your brother becomes impoverished with regard to you so that he sells himself to you, you must not subject him to slave service. 25:40 He must be with you as a hired worker, as a resident foreigner; he must serve with you until the year of jubilee, 25:41 but then he may go free, he and his children with him, and may return to his family and to the property of his ancestors. 25:42 Since they are my servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt, they must not be sold in a slave sale. 25:43 You must not rule over him harshly, but you must fear your God.

and "bondslaves", foreigners:

25:44 As for your male and female slaves who may belong to you, you may buy male and female slaves from the nations all around you. 25:45 Also you may buy slaves from the children of the foreigners who reside with you, and from their families that are with you, whom they have fathered in your land, they may become your property. 25:46 You may give them as inheritance to your children after you to possess as property. You may enslave them perpetually. However, as for your brothers the Israelites, no man may rule over his brother harshly.

Slavery in Rome and Greece

Some philosophers of antiquity vindicated slavery as a natural and necessary institution; Aristotle declared all barbarians to be slaves by birth, fit for nothing but obedience. According to the Roman law, "slaves had no head in the State, no name, no title, no register; they had no rights of matrimony, and no protection against adultery; they could be bought and sold, or given away, as personal property; they might be tortured for evidence, or even put to death, at the discretion of their master. Cato the Elder expelled his old and sick slaves out of house and home. Hadrian, one of the most humane of the Roman Emperors, wilfully destroyed the eye of one of his slaves with a stylus. Roman ladies punished their maids with sharp iron instruments for the most trifling offences. A proverb prevailed in the Roman empire: "As many slaves, so many enemies." Hence the constant danger of servile insurrections, which more than once brought the republic to the brink of ruin, and seemed to justify the severest measures in self-defence.

Greek and Roman urban slaves, as opposed to agricultural slaves, seem to have had some chance at manumission. In Rome, slaves were organised as a social class, and some authors found in their condition the earliest concept of proletariat, given that the only property they were allowed to own was the gift of reproduction. Slaves lived then within this class with very little hope of a better life, and they were owned and exchanged, just like goods, by free men. They had a price as "human instruments"; their life had not, and their patron could freely even kill them. There was however a sort of class of freedmen and freedwomen, called liberati, in Roman society at all periods. Their symbol was the Phrygian cap. These people were not numerous, but Rome needed to demonstrate at times the great frank spirit of this "civitas", so the freed slaves were made famous, as hopeful examples. Freed people suffered some minor legal disabilities that show in fact how otherwise open the society was to them—they could not hold certain high offices and they could not marry into the senatorial classes. Their children, however, had no prohibitions.

Much of the wealth of Athenian Democracy came from its silver mines, which were worked by douloi labor under extremely poor conditions, leading to their revolt in 413 BC.

Most of the gladiators were slaves. One of them, Spartacus, formed an army of slaves that battled the Roman armies in the Servile War for several years.

The Latin poet Horace, son of a freedman, served as a military officer in the army of Marcus Junius Brutus and seemed headed for a political career before the defeat of Brutus by Octavian and Mark Antony. Though Horace may have been an exceptional case, freedmen were an important part of Roman administrative functions. Freedmen of the Imperial families often were the main functionaries in the Imperial administration.

Several Classical comedies such as those of Plautus feature enterprising home slaves, who must use their wits to profit from their masters or to provide them their requests.

The influence of Stoic philosophy in Roman society gradually improved the conditions of slaves. The Stoics taught that all men were manifestations of the same universal spirit, and thus by nature equal. At the same time, however, Stoicism held that external circumstances (such as being enslaved) did not truly impede a person from practicing the Stoic ideal of inner self-mastery: one of the more important Roman stoics, Epictetus, spent his youth as a slave. As a result, Stoics spoke against the ill-treatment of slaves far more harshly than they did against the institution itself. Claudius ruled that if a master abandoned an old or sick slave, the slave became free. Under Nero, slaves were given the right to complain against their masters in court. Under Antoninus Pius, a slave could claim his freedom if treated cruelly, and a master who killed his slave without just cause could be tried for homicide. At the same time, it became more difficult for a person to fall into slavery under Roman law. By the time of Diocletian, free men could not sell their children or even themselves into slavery and creditors could not claim insolvent debtors as slaves.

While the beginnings of Christianity did not call for outright rebellion against slavery, many Christian leaders (such as Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom) often called for good treatment for slaves and condemned slavery. In fact Pope Clement I (term c. 92 - 99), Pope Pius I (term c. 158 - 167) and Pope Callixtus I (term c. 217 - 222) are considered to have been former slaves. [3] (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14036a.htm)

Costumes of Serfs, from the Sixth to the Twelfth Centuries, collected by H. de Vielcastel, from original Documents in the great Libraries of Europe.

Slavery in medieval Europe

Slaves were traded openly, mainly in Prague. They were sold by Christians, transported by Jews and then bought in the Middle East.

Slave catching and slave trade was one of the main occupations of the Vikings. Swedish Vikings, the Varangians or Rus, established strongholds and founded the first Russian state, Kievan Rus' during their trade and Slave catching operations. The Persian traveller Ibn Rustah recounts how they terrorized the Slavs and treated them like cattle. This trade was part of making the ethnic label Slav the name for "slave".

"As for the Rus [Swedes], they live on an island … that takes three days to walk round and is covered with thick undergrowth and forests; … They harry the Slavs, using ships to reach them; they carry them off as slaves and … sell them. They have no fields but simply live on what they get from the Slav's lands … When a son is born, the father will go up to the newborn baby, sword in hand; throwing it down, he says, 'I shall not leave you with any property: You have only what you can provide with this weapon.'" (1)

In Scandinavia, a thrall was cheaper than cattle, a question of supply and demand. A child born by a thrall woman (a Thir) was a thrall by birth, whereas a child born by a free woman was a free person even if the father was a thrall. The most dishonourable way of becoming a thrall was by debt, and it was the first kind of thralldom to be forbidden. Thralldom was lastly abolished in 1350. However, then thralls were rare as most thralls had been given serf status.

The institution of serfdom in medieval Europe was weaker than chattel slavery; serfs were obligated to serve or work the land for their master, but were not chattel property. Serfdom was reintroduced in Eastern Europe in 16th and 17th century and persisted until the mid-19th century. It was abolished by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1811/1823, Austria in 1848 and in Russia in 1861/1864. See also feudalism and guild.

Slavery in medieval Arabia

The Muslim Arab World also traded in slavery, especially with the Byzantine Empire. These consisted of Turkic and Circassian males from northern Black Sea regions who were enlisted into the army. This soldier class was named Mamelukes and were mainly responsible for the expulsion of the Crusaders from Palestine. Officially Islam dislikes the idea of slavery and had set rules for dealing with slaves, such as mandated liberation on conversion to Islam, an insistence that slaves be clothed and fed in the same manner as is their master, and that they not be forced into marriage, among other prohibitons. Slavery was abolished in Saudi Arabia in 1962, making it one of the last countries to ban this practice.

Slavery to North Africa

Slaves were imported from Western Europe to North Africa in the 15th and 16th Centuries. In all about 1.5 million Europeans were transported to the Barbary Coast. It was a period when Europe was preoccupied by sectarian wars and north-western European navies were depleted. The trade was run by the Moors and the expeditions were captained by Europeans with North African crews. They would raid coastal areas and carry away sometimes whole villages to the Moorish slave markets. It appears that women often fared better, as brides, than men. The true record of this history has not yet been fully researched.

Slavery in Africa

Main article: African slave trade, Atlantic slave trade

Slavery was common and widespread throughout Africa into the 19th century. The Dutch imported slaves from Asia into their colony in South Africa. Britain, which held vast colonial territories on the continent (including South Africa), made the practice of slavery illegal in these regions. Ironically, the end of the slave trade and the decline of slavery was imposed upon Africa by its European conquerors. This action is what today may be called an instance of cultural imperialism, albeit being one of the less mal-intentioned manifestations of the phenomenon.

The nature of the slave societies differed greatly across the continent. There were large plantations worked by slaves in Egypt, the Sudan, and Zanzibar, but this was not a typical use of slaves in Africa as a whole. In some slave societies, slaves were protected and almost incorporated into the slave-owning family. In others, slaves were brutally abused, and even used for human sacrifices. Despite the vast numbers of slaves exported from Africa, it is thought that the majority of African slaves remained in Africa, continuing as slaves in the regions where they were first captured.

Prior to the 16th century, the bulk of slaves exported from Africa were shipped from East Africa to the Arabian peninsula. Zanzibar became a leading port based on this trade. Arab slave traders differed from European traders in that they would often capture slaves themselves, sometimes penetrating deep into the continent. They also differed in that their market greatly preferred the purchase of female slaves over male slaves. This reflected their desire for household and sexual slaves rather than slaves to work on plantations.

The transatlantic slave trade peaked in the late 18th century, when the largest number of slaves were captured in West Africa and shipped to the colonies of the New World (triangular trade). As a result of the Spanish War of Succession, Britain obtained the monopoly (asiento de negros) of transporting African Negroes to Spanish America.

It is estimated that over the centuries, twelve to twenty million people were shipped as slaves from Africa by European traders, of whom some 15 percent died during the terrible voyage many during the arduous journey through the Middle Passage. The great majority were shipped to the Americas, but some also went to Europe and the south of Africa. While much of the slave trade in Africa was related to external protagonists, an internal slave trade unrelated to non-Africans did exist.

The demographic impact of the slave trade on Africa is an important question, regarding which consensus remains elusive. Some historians conclude that the total loss—persons removed, those who died on the arduous march to coastal slave marts and those killed in slave raids—far exceeded the 65-75 million inhabitants remaining in Sub-Saharan Africa at the trade's end. Others believe that slavers had a vested interest in capturing rather than killing, and in keeping their captives alive; and that this coupled with the disproportionate removal of males and the introduction of new crops from the Americas (cassava, maize) would have limited general population decline to particular regions at particular times—western Africa around 1760-1810 and Mozambique and neighbouring areas half a century later. There has also been speculation that within Africa female captives were taken in preference, for domestic and dynastic reasons, with many male captives being a "bycatch" who would have been killed if there had not been an export market for them. So the balance and timing of the two demographic sorts of market could make a difference.

Slavery persists in Africa above all other continents.Slavery in Mauritania was legally abolished by laws passed in 1905,1961,and 1981, but several human rights organizations are reporting that the practice continues there. The trading of children has been reported in modern Nigeria and Benin. In parts of Ghana, a family may be punished for an offense by having to turn over a virgin female to serve as a sex slave within the offended family. In the Sudan slavery continues as part of an ongoing civil war.

African slaves versus Caribbean slaves

African slaves and Caribbean slaves both received little respect from their masters, who looked at them as objects for work and trade. Both types of slaves suffered greatly over the centuries as sugarcane plantations and the production of other goods other required the work of slaves. Slavery and slave trading was widespread in both the Caribbean islands and in Africa. Many of the slaves were unable to reproduce because the stress of the work often caused still births in women and sterility in men.

Caribbean slavery granted the masters complete freedom over the control of their slaves. Caribbean slaves often worked on cane estates suffering hardship in harsh conditions and supervised under demanding masters. The sugar industry caused the need for complete control the master needed over the slaves in order to meet demands and control the harvest. Caribbean sugar plantations resembled factories in a modern capitalist society. The Caribbean islands used a factory like system to mass produce sugar production.

In contrast, African slavery was less harsh than slavery on Caribbean sugar estates. African kinship groups sought to assimilate new slaves into their circle. Many slave villages worked under their own management and paid tribute for their services. The family lifestyle of slavery in many parts of Africa had a closer bond as smaller groups usually have face-to-face relationships.

Slavery in colonial America

Main Article: Slavery in Colonial America

Slavery in the Americas during the 17th century was an institution that made little distinction as to the race of the enslaved or the free man. But by the 18th century, the overwhelming number of enslaved "black" persons was such that white and Native American slavery was less common. Slavery under European rule began with importation of white European slaves (or indentured servants), was followed by the enslavement of local aborigines in the Caribbean, and eventually was primarily replaced with Africans imported through a large slave trade as the native populations declined through disease. Most enslaved persons brought to the Americas ended up in the Caribbean or South America where tropical diseases took a large toll on their population and required large numbers of replacements. The African slaves had somewhat of a natural immunity to yellow fever and malaria but the fact that they were severely underfed, overworked, and poorly housed attributed to their perishing of disease. Another factor that took a toll on the population of black slaves is that their death rate was much higher than their birth rate prior to the 19th century. In British North America the slave population rapidly repopulated themselves where in the Caribbean they did not. The lack of proper nourishment, health, and desire are speculated to be the reason. Of the small population of babies that were born, only about 1/4 survived miserable conditions on a sugar plantation.

It was not only the big colonial powers in Europe such as France, England, Holland or Portugal that were involved in the transatlantic person trade. Small countries, such as Sweden or Denmark, tried to get into this lucrative business. For more information about this, see The Swedish slave trade.

Slavery among indigenous people of the Americas

In Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica the most common forms of slavery were those of prisoners-of-war and debtors. People unable to pay back a debt could be sentenced to work as a slave to the person owed until the debt was worked off. Slavery was not usually hereditary; children of slaves were born free.

In Tahuantinsuyu workers outside the not-for-profit sector were subject to a mita in lieu of taxes, that they paid by working for the government. Each ayllu, or extended family, would decide which family member to send to do the work.

Slavery in the Spanish New World colonies

Slavery in the Spanish colonies began with local Native Americans. Initially, the Spanish maintained the mita directing it to silver mining at Potosí. However, as these populations shrank due to imported European diseases, African slaves began to be used instead.

Most of the earliest black immigrants to the Americas were natives of Spain and Portugal, men such as Pedro Alonso Niño, a navigator who accompanied Columbus on his first voyage, and the black colonists who helped Nicolás de Ovando form the first Spanish settlement on Hispaniola in 1502. The name of Nuflo de Olano appears in the records as that of a black slave present when Vasco Núñez de Balboa sighted the Pacific Ocean in 1513. Other blacks served with Hernán Cortés when he conquered Mexico and with Francisco Pizarro when he marched into Peru.

Estebanico, one of the survivors of Pánfilo de Narváezs unfortunate expedition to Florida in 1527, was black. With three companions, he spent eight years traveling overland to Mexico City, learning several Native American languages in the process. Later, while exploring what is now New Mexico, he lost his life in a dispute with the Zuñi.

Juan Valiente, another black, led Spaniards in a series of battles against the Araucanian people of Chile between 1540 and 1546. Although Valiente was a slave, he was rewarded with an estate near Santiago and control of several Native American villages.

Between 1502 and 1518, Spain shipped out hundreds of Spanish-born Africans, called Ladinos, to work as laborers, especially in the mines. Opponents of their enslavement cited their weak Christian faith and their penchant for escaping to the mountains or joining the Native Americans in revolt. Proponents declared that the rapid diminution of the Native American population required a consistent supply of reliable work hands. Free Spaniards were reluctant to do manual labor or to remain settled (especially after the discovery of gold on the mainland), and only slave labor could assure the economic viability of the colonies.

Slavery in the English and French Caribbean

The Lesser Antilles islands of Barbados, Antigua, Martinique and Guadeloupe were the first important slave societies of the Caribbean, switching to slavery by the end of the 1600s as their economies converted from tobacco to sugar production. By the middle of the 1700s, British Jamaica and French Saint-Domingue had become the largest and most brutal slave societies of the region, rivaling Brazil as a destination for enslaved Africans.

These islands' death rates for black slaves were higher than birth rates. Three out of four slaves babies died before the age of five. The main reason why the birth rates were lower than the death rate was because many slaves were over worked. Slaves had to use axes to cut down trees and burn brush to clear land for sugar plantations. They also had to crush sugar canes and remove liquid from them. After that they had to boil and clarify the liquid until it crystallised into sugar. Slaves also had poor living conditions and consequent disease.

Caribbean slavery gave the masters complete freedom over the control of his slave. The low birth rates and high death rates caused the Caribbean island population to decrease. Slaves worked from sun up until sun down, with little medical care. Caribbean slaves often worked on cane estates suffering hardship in harsh conditions and supervised under demanding masters. The sugar industry caused the need for complete control the master needed over the slaves in order to meet demands and control the harvest. The Caribbean islands used a factory like system to mass produce sugar production.

The factors mentioned above were perhaps the main cause of small birth rates among Caribbean slaves, as life was extremely hard on every aspect of their survival. But there is another possible reason for the low birth rate among slaves in the Caribbean. Could it be possible that females simply didn't want to bring new life into their existing world? Author Jan Rogozinski briefly mentions this in his book, "A Brief History of the Caribbean." He states that "Perhaps slave mothers simply did not see much point in raising children solely to provide labourers for their masters" (p. 142). So could this had been another form of slave rebellion against their masters? We know how they sung songs degrading their white masters, and in some cases they would simply play ignorant or stupid to avoid punishment and further work, but could this act of defiance be incorporated into low birth rates of Caribbean slaves?

Producers, Reproducers, and Rebels: Grenadian Slave Women 1783-1833 (http://www.uwichill.edu.bb/bnccde/grenada/conference/papers/phillip.html)

Slavery in Brazil

During the colonial epoch, slavery was a mainstay of the Brazilian economy, especially in mining and sugar cane production. The Clapham Sect, a group of Victorian Evangelical politicians, campaigned during most of the 19th century for England to use its influence and power to stop the then already largely considered immoral traffic of slaves to Brazil. Besides that, because of the low cost of slave-produced Brazilian sugar, British colonies in the West Indies were unable to match the market prices of Brazilian sugar. After all, each Briton was using 16 pounds of sugar each year by the 1800s. This combination led to intensive pressure from the British government for Brazil to end this practice, which it did by steps over several decades. Slavery was legally ended May 13 by the Lei Áurea ("Golden Law") of 1888.

Brazil obtained 37% of all African slaves traded, and more than 3 million slaves were sent to this one country. The Portuguese were the first to initiate the slave trade, and the last to end the slave trade. Starting around 1550, the Portuguese began to trade African slaves to work the sugar plantations once the native Tupi deteriorated due to their sensitivity to European diseases, and no longer served as sufficient laborers. The African slaves were useful for the sugar plantations in many ways. First, African slaves had built-in immunities to European diseases. The white workers were unable to fend off deadly diseases of the Caribbean such as yellow fever and malaria. Second, the benefits of the slaves far exceeded the costs. After 2-3 yrs, slaves worked off their worth, and plantation owners began to make profits from them. Plantation owners made lucrative profits even though there was approximately a 10% death rate per year, mainly due to harsh working conditions. For more information see Chasteen 2001. The very harsh manual labor of the sugar cane fields led the slaves to use hoes to dig large trenches to plant the sugar cane followed by using their bare hands to spread manure in the trenches to allow for the sugar cane to grow successfully. The average life span of a slave was eight years.

In the mid to late 1800s, many Amerindians were enslaved to work on rubber plantations. See Içá for more information.

In the early 1990s evidence of illegal "forced labor and debt bondage" amounting to slavery was unearthed in the Amazon region. The Brazilian government has since taken measures against such activities, although concerns continue to be expressed that more stringent steps may be required. In 1995, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso announced a new series of measures to force compliance with the anti-slavery statutes.

In September of 2002, a report to the Ministério de Trabalho (Ministry of Labor), stated that between 1995 and 2001 approximately 3,500 slave labourers had been freed, and that it was estimated that 2,500 people remained in such conditions at that time (O Globo, 2002).

Slavery in North America

Main articles: Slavery in Canada, History of slavery in the United States, Atlantic slave trade

Mexico declared the abolition of slavery in 1814 during its War of Independence.

On May 29, 1733, the right of Canadians to keep Indians in slavery was upheld at Quebec City.

Example of slave treatment: Back deeply scarred from whipping

The first imported slaves brought to the English colonies on the rest of continent were landed at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. Slavery in the United States ended irregularly. In Rhode Island, indentured servitude was limited to 10 years May 18, 1652; however importation of slaves for trade was not forbidden in the state until June 13, 1774. Slavery was legal in most of the 13 colonies in the 18th century, and was ended in many Northeastern and Middle Atlantic "Free States" only after the turn of the 19th century. Through the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (also known as the Freedom Ordinance) under the Continental Congress, slavery was prohibited in the Midwest, including the Free States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. In the East, though, slavery was not abolished until later - in New York state, not finally until 1827, having previously been abolished for those born after 1799.

In 1807 the United States passed legislation that banned the importation of slaves, but not the internal slave trade, and the involvement in the international slave trade or the outfitting of ships for that trade by U.S. citizens. Though there were certainly violations of this law, slavery in America became more or less self-sustaining. Several slave rebellions took place during the 1700s and 1800s including the Nat Turner rebellion in 1831. The importation of slaves into the United States was banned on January 1, 1808. However, the overland 'slave trade' from Tidewater Virginia and the Carolinas to Georgia, Alabama, and Texas continued for another half-century.

Because the Midwestern states were 'free states' by ordinance before even the Constitution had been ratified, and because Northeastern states became free states later through local abolition and emancipation, a Northern aggregation of free states solidified into one contiguous geographic area, and with the entry of additional free states in the Great Plains, a territory free of slavery was formed north of the Ohio River and the old Mason-Dixon line. This separation of a free North and an enslaved South launched a geographic, cultural and economic struggle over the next two generations which would culminate in the American Civil War. The fiercest combatants were abolitionists and the slaves themselves against an array of planters in the South and pro-slavery shipping interests in the East, battling over control of the Federal Government, economic levers, cultural institutions, and the public opinion of freeholders and church congregants. Due to the three-fifths compromise, slaveholders exerted power through the Federal Government and the Federal Fugitive slave laws. Anti-slavery Democratic-Republicans, Whigs, and Free Soilers achieved nominal successes in advocating an end to slavery's expansion in the West, especially during and after the Mexican War. Refugees from slavery fled the South across the Ohio River to the North via the Underground Railroad, and their physical presence in Cincinnati, Oberlin, and other Northern towns agitated Northerners about the expansion of slavery, which had supposedly been settled and contained. The repeal of Western geographic limits to slavery's expansion led to democratic chaos in self-determination battles. Prominent Midwestern Governors, like Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, asserted States Rights arguments to refuse Federal jursidiction in their states over fugitives. Northerners fumed that the pro-slavery Democratic Party controlled two or three branches of the Federal government for most of the antebellum era. Finally, the Dred Scott decision which asserted that slavery's presence in the Midwest was nominally lawful (when owners crossed into free states) turned Northern public opinion against slavery. Border 'wars' in Bloody Kansas for which Congress had not legislated either 'freedom' or 'slavery' broke out, and propaganda 'wars' in Northern newspapers swept anti-slavery legislators into office, like Salmon P. Chase and Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, under the banner of the Republican Party. The anti-slavery political sentiment had finally found an outlet.

Influential leaders of the abolition movement (1810-60) included:

In the election of 1860, the anti-slavery Republican party had swept the North, and Abraham Lincoln into the Presidency, with a plurality of popular votes and a majority of electoral votes. Lincoln however, did not appear on the ballots of ten southern states: thus his election necessarily split the nation along sectional lines. After decades of controlling the Federal Government, the newly disenfranchised Southern states rebelled and demanded to secede from the Union, launching the Civil War. Ironically, Southern leaders clawed back the idea of 'states rights' from Midwestern and Northeastern leaders, and each Southern state would assert their individual sovereign status and right to 'self determination'. Northern leaders like Lincoln and Chase had viewed the slavery interests as a threat politically, and with secession, they viewed the prospect of a new slave nation, with control over the Mississippi River and the West, as a militarily unacceptable impossibility.

The 1860s saw the end of slavery in America. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was a symbolic gesture that proclaimed freedom for slaves within the Confederacy but not those in the strategically important border states of Tennessee, Maryland or Deleware. However, the proclamation made the abolition of slavery an official war goal and it was implemented as the Union retook territory from the Confederacy. Legally, slaves within the United States remained enslaved until the final ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in December of 1865, 8 months after the cessation of hostilities in the Civil War. However, practically, the slaves in many parts of the south were freed by Union armies or by the chaos of the time, when they simply left their former owners. Many joined the Union Army as supporting workers or combatant troops, and many more fled to Northern cities or stayed close to Union troops. When General Sherman led his famous march through the South to Atlanta and Savannah, hundreds of thousands of new 'freedmen' followed him in his wake, effectively rendering Sherman's army an army of liberation, in some part mitigating the devastation inflicted by it upon the regions of the South through which it passed.

During the period between the surrender of the last Confederate troops on May 26, 1865 and the final ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6, 1865 (with final recognition of the amendment on December 18), officially ending slavery in the United States, slaveholding persisted in the slave states that had not seceded (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri) and also in the territories located south of 36° 30' North latitude as per the Missouri Compromise

  Results from FactBites:
Slavery - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (5370 words)
African slaves are known to have engaged in at least 250 shipboard rebellions during the period of the translantic crossings.
The basis of slavery is a slave master and the serf.
Slaves in the United States who escaped ownership would often make their way north to the northern part of the country or Canada through what became known as the "Underground Railroad".
History of slavery in the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3475 words)
Around half a million Africans were brought over from Africa during the slave trade, but due to laws claiming the offspring of slaves as slaves, the slave population in the United States grew to 4 million by the 1860 Census.
Early on, slaves (indentured servants) were most useful in the growing of indigo, rice, and tobacco; cotton was only a side crop.
Many landowners began to grow increasingly dependent on slave labor for their livelihood, and legislatures responded accordingly by increasingly stricter regulations on forced labor practices, known as the Slave codes.
  More results at FactBites »



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