Friday, March 28, 2008

Slavery and the History - Free Essay -

Slavery and the History

The Middle Passage was the most infamous route of the triangular trade. This voyage carried Africans across the Atlantic Ocean. Captains of slave ships were known as either "loose packers" or "tight packers," depending on how many slaves they crammed into the space they had. However, most ships were "tight packers" (especially those in the 18th century); life for the slaves on these ships was extremely uncomfortable. Slaves were taken from the holding forts, shackled together impairs with leg-irons and carried to the ships in the dugout canoes. Once they were aboard, they were branded with red-hot iron, like cattle, to show who owned them and their clothes removed.

Slaves were housed in the ships as if they were cargo. Men were kept in chains while women and children were allowed to go free, they laid on specially built shelves with about 0.5 meters of vertical space. As long as the slaves were in the hold, they had to remain lying on their backs. There were times when the captain of some ships would allow the slaves to be brought up out their dungeon area. However, the men's legs were linked to a chain running down the center of the ship's deck to prevent them from jumping overboard. While on deck a good captain would have the slaves washed down with warm vinegar and scrubbed and some did not bother in rough weather (would not allow the slaves out at all).

These conditions allowed for sickness and disease flourish and the slaves. The heat in the hold could be over 30 degrees and the slave would have no toilet or washing facilities, causing many to die. They were forced in these conditions for 6 weeks to 3 months depending on the length of the voyage. Other causes of death among the slaves were the choice of committing suicide by jumping overboard choosing to die by drowning or shark attack rather than endure what was faced on board. There was also inadequate ventilation causing suffocation and at time there, revolt on the ships, which the captains used, advanced weapons such as pistols and rifles to slaughter numerous of slaves. Nevertheless, the average loss was 1/8 of all slaves it can be estimated that a further 1.5 million Africans were buried in the Atlantic Ocean between Africa and the Americas.

However, it is important to understand why this cruelty occurred. Slavery began in 1440 when Portugal started to trade slaves with West Africa. By the 16th century, Western Europeans developed and organized system of trading slaves. However, the slave trade did not run as smoothly as expected. Slaves began to revolt and tried to flee from hardship and labor. Regardless of their attempts, slavery expanded, leading the "Triangle Trade," between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. This organized system lasted until 1800's, shortly after the War of Independence that was intended to abolish slavery. The law was stalled when the U.S. allowed the slavery to continue until 1800. A federal law, which was passed in 1793, allowed for the Fugitive Slave Act, which continued the slave trade and prohibited the freedom of Africans.

Before the passage began, slavery had already existed in Africa, but it was much different from the one that Europe would create. In Europe, slaves were dehumanized and viewed as property but in Africa humans were still humans. A reason why Africans were enslaved in their own country traced back to their status. If a person had committed a crime, were prisoners of war, or had debt that was unpaid then they were enslaved. Europe and Africa began their ill-fated relationship; the influx of European goods (particularly firearms) slowly disrupted the West African culture. To Europe improved technology brought power and wealth, but to Africa it brought only more efficient means to capture slaves for market. The religious and political power structure of West African states was peculiarly susceptible to corrosive effects of the slave trade. Believing in divine kingship and divided by intense religious loyalties, the forest people of Guinea looked upon one another as contemptible heretics who deserved death or slavery. In addition, since the tribes that captured the most slaves received the most European goods it became a competition in the interior between the Ashanti and Dahomeans, to raise in power as specialist in the art of slavery. The kingdoms eventually pushed toward the sea, extending the zone the terror as their power increased. However, the triumph of the Dahomey had destroyed the orderly fashion of the slave trade. The African that may have been selling slaves on day may be a slave themselves the next. However, the Europeans did not care who was who and how it came about all they wanted was profit, the merchants did not scruple at kidnapping or inciting raids on peaceful villages. The difference is that the European nation captured innocent people for their own purpose. But, unfortunately some of the Africans began to sell themselves. Why, didn't the Europeans enslave their own people, it was free labor. Sugar cane became the number one crop produced for Europe, which increased their growth.

There were a number of factors that contributed to the Atlantic Slave Trade ending (officially in the early 19th century) after it had been going on for over 400 years. One factor was the growing public revulsion against the slave trade, an important person that brought about the change was Olaudah Equiano. He was born in Nigeria (what is present-day Nigeria) and taken to the Americas as a slave. During his life he was able to buy his freedom (which was very rare) and wrote about his experience being captured and sold into slavery. The publishing of his book was read throughout America and Europe in multiple languages and it had a profound effect on public opinion of slave trade.

In addition, between 1801 and 1803, there had been a successful slave revolt in the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, which shook people throughout the Americas to realize that the system of slavery should be changed and overthrown. Under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture, an ex-slave, in 1804, Haiti became the first black republic in the world and the first country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery.

At last, the Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America, which occurred simultaneously with the Atlantic Slave Trade, was fueling and growing a demand free rather than labor. In the early years of the Industrial Revolution, cheap raw materials (like cotton) produced by slave labor in America was essential, but by the 19th century continued industrial expansion was dependent on a flexible and mobile labor force. However, leaving European and American industrialist who supported slave trade in the 18th century a change of mind, because it was no longer an economic benefit.

In 1807, Britain became the first European nation to ban slavery. However, since Spain and Portugal did not follow the same rule. African slaves continued to be sent to countries in South America until near the end of the 19th century. Britain attempted to stop slave trade by trying to intercept the ships with war ships (off the west coast of Africa). When successfully intercepted the Africans were shipped back to Africa in the areas of Liberia ("Liberty") and Sierra Leone (Freetown) in West Africa, which was established by US and Britain anti-slavers as haven for freed slaves.

But the end still was yet to come, because in spite of the efforts to end slave trade slavery continued to be practiced in the Americas. The British freed slaves in the Caribbean colonies in 1883. Then the French abolished slavery in the American colonies soon afterwards. Slavery was not abolished in the US until 1864. Cuba and Brazil were the last countries in the Americas to abolish the practice of slavery in the late 19th century.

Abolitionist in the north began a movement to end slavery because were beginning to view slavery as an "evil deed." They began an anti slavery movement which also existed in the south, but most southerners regarded slavery as profitable means and over time thought of it as a good thing rather than bad. Slavery soon became a major issue in the US presidential election of 1860. Many democrats in the north were against slavery and those in the south favored it, each wanted to elect it's own president resulting a splitting of party. There were also some republicans that of the expansion of slavery as a bad thing because they considered it as something that would cause tension between the states and colonies. So eventually, Lincoln was elected president in 1860. Southerners began to fear that he would limit slavery or ban it al together so one of the started seceded from the union (12/20/1860). South Carolina was the first of these states and on April 12, 1860 Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina (starting the American Civil War).

Lincoln's main concern at the start of the Civil War was to preserve the union not to abolish slavery. At first he did not want any African American to join the union army in the Civil War because he thought that would cause more states to secede from the union. However, Lincoln decided in March of 1862, to give congress a plan for the freedom of slaves. He signaled the plan and ended slavery in all the federal territories, he began to accept African Americans in the union army. After the bill he signed, he then issued a preliminary order to emancipate free slaves. He wanted everyone to have rights and freedom. The order declared that all slaves in the areas of the states in rebellion against the US be free. On January, 1, 1863, the final order was issued (Emancipation Proclamation). Which strengthen the north's war effort and weakened the south's. After the Civil War was more than 500,000 slaves had fled to freedom behind the northern lines. The emancipation hurt the south by discouraging Britain and France from entering the war. These nations depended on the south to supply them cotton, the confederacy also hoped that they would fight on their side. But since the Emancipation Proclamation made the war a fight against slavery most Britain and French citizens opposed slavery so they gave their support to the union, leading to the end of slavery in the US. The Freedmen's Bureau was established by the congress on March 3 to provide health care, education, and technical assistance to emancipated slaves. However slavery continued in the states that were part of the union forces. Slavery came to an end in 1865 under Andrew Johnson (vice president of Abraham Lincoln) after Lincoln was assassinated (April 15). The Thirteenth Amendment states: Slavery would be outlawed in the United States.

However problems still remained so during July 1867, Frederick Douglass was asked by President Johnson to take charge of the Freedman's Bureau, a position that would have allowed him to oversee all the government programs administering to the needs of southern blacks. Douglass was tempted by the offer, the first major post to be offered to a black man, but he realized that by associating with the Johnson administration, he would be helping the president appear to be the black man's friend. Instead, he refused to serve under a man whose policies he detested. By 1867, Douglass could see that Johnson's days in office were numbered. The president was unable to stop Congress's Reconstruction acts, which divided the South into five military districts and laid out strict guidelines for the readmission of the Confederate states into the Union. The new laws required the southern states to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and to guarantee blacks the right to vote. The radical Republicans were angered by Johnson's attempts to block the Reconstruction measures, and they instituted impeachment proceedings against him, the first time a president underwent this ordeal. The impeachment measure fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority in the House and Senate needed to remove Johnson from office, but the president exercised little power during the last two years of his term. But, even with the bills that Lincoln passed and the bills there after the struggle remained.

by Anonymous Student



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