A Depiction Of The Sufferings Of Slaves Specific Details On The Suffering Of African Slaves As Well As Some Basic History

1256 words - 5 pages

A look into the lives of slaves reveals an existence of despair, in which pain and sorrow was a way of life. During the centuries that people used African slaves to obtain profit and wealth, simply being born the child of an African slave sentenced an individual to the life of bondage and hopelessness. Only by researching the treatment that these people were subjected to can one truly begin to understand the injustice of this practice.America's first slaves arrived in 1619 on a Dutch vessel in Jamestown, Virginia, to be traded for food. The first shipload held only twenty slaves, but once the slave trade was started, it increased quite rapidly. The Africans were originally treated as indentured servants, people who would serve a master for a predetermined number of years in exchange for the transportation to America and room and board. After the years of serving were completed, the servants were freed. However, in the mid 1600's the African indentured servants lost their rights to freedom, and were doomed to slavery indefinitely. In 1672, one of the largest slave trading companies, the Royal African Company, was chartered, and slave population dramatically increased (Sawyer 16). By the beginning of the American Revolution, the African slave population was equal to white population.The African slaves received no respect, and were treated with less dignity than farm animals. They usually worked from dawn to dark, and were given meager food rations. A letter from a Virginia planter elaborates on the food a slave was generally given, saying that a slave would normally receive twelve quarts of Indian meal, sevensalted herrings, and two pounds of smoked bacon a week (Sawyer 18). Masters also provided their slaves with several pieces of clothing a year.Codes written by state legislature were strictly enforced. Louisiana's code, similar to codes written in Southern states, stated in part: "The condition of the slave being merely a passive one, his subordination to his master and to all who represent him is not susceptible of modification or restriction... He owes to his master, and to all his family, a respect without bounds, and an absolute obedience, and he is consequently to execute all the orders which he receives from him, his said master, or from them" (Sawyer 20). The codes essentially stated that a slave had to passively submit to his master, and that he could not leave his master's land without a pass. African slaves were not allowed to learn to read or write, with the exception of the slaves in the states of Maryland, Kentucky, and the city of Washington. The slaves were also not permitted to gather in groups of more than five, and they could not practice medicine, own a gun, raise animals, or testify against whites (Sawyer 20). William Still (62) tells of a young slave named Anthony Blow who was shot with squirrel shot by a sheriff, who was attempting to arrest him for beating off three white men who had tried to thrash him.Punishment for...

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