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Top 10 Misunderstandings About American Slavery

It's been almost a month of black history, so it's time to talk about the most important thing in American black history: slavery. It's not an easy topic, which is why there may be so many misunderstandings about who owned slaves, where slaves came from, how many there were, and how they lived. But there is much more variety in "the peculiar institution" than your history teacher has taught you.

See also: 10 Interesting Facts About Slavery

10 All Slaves Owned by Southerners

In fact, most Southerners did not own slaves. Although statistics vary from state to state, in the 1860 Mississippi and South Carolina census, with 49% and 46% of their European population owned, the states with the highest slave ownership were listed as South. Slavery was legal in Texas for only twenty years, from 1845 to 1865. By 1860, 27% of Texans had a total of 182,566 slaves. This 27% held 68% of government positions and 73% of state wealth. In this short period of time, slavery managed to become an integral part of the ruling elite of the state. [2]

Since the possession of slaves was equated with wealth and political power, many European families sought to reach this level. They were a status symbol, similar to today's BMW and Birkin bags. Desired by many, owned by few.

9 slaves came from all over Africa

European slave traders were business people; They wanted most of the product with the least effort. They had very little interest in traveling across an entire continent when they were able to remain largely stationary.

At the height of the slave trade, one of six slaves came from Senegambia, the area between the Senegalese and the Gambian rivers. Today it consists of Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Mali. About a quarter of all slaves sent to the United States came from this region. Another quarter came from West Central Africa, the territory of the modern nations of Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon. Although they spoke different languages, they had a lot in common in terms of culture, traditions and religion.

A significant number of slaves also came from the "slave coast", to which many of the ships would anchor. If the ships still had space, the traders would carry out coastal attacks to fill them. Today it forms the coast of Ghana. [3]

8 All enslaved Africans came to the United States. 1700s and 1800s. Approximately 388,000 have traveled to the United States (or the United States), which is approximately 3.6% of the total. [4]

This is tiny compared to the number of slaves shipped to South America and the Caribbean (Figure). Approximately 4.8 million people were shipped to Brazil to work on the country's gold mines and sugar plantations. About 40% of all Africans passed through the Middle Passage. Another 1.2 million were sent to Jamaica. [5]

Historians estimate that approximately 60,000 to 70,000 slaves came to the United States from the Caribbean, increasing the total number of Africans to approximately 450,000. This means that almost all of the 42 million African Americans living today are descended from less than half a million Africans. [6]

7 Slavery was only in the south

1776 Slavery was legal in each of the original thirteen colonies. Slave labor was vital in the construction of the city of Boston, and auctions were held weekly at New York's Merchant & # 39; s Coffee House. Slaves worked on the docks, in houses and on farms.

Although all northern states had passed laws to ban slavery by 1804, the laws did not immediately liberate all slaves in the state. To avoid controversy, laws have often abolished slavery. In New York, the gradual emancipation law released enslaved children born after July 4, 1799. However, since it would be irresponsible to release a large number of children without supervision, they were considered to be identified servants until they reached adulthood. In this way, New Jersey, the last northern state to ban slavery in 1804, still had eighteen slaves in 1860. They were legally considered "apprentices for life" The majority of American slaves worked in agriculture (especially cotton, tobacco and rice). About 10% lived and worked in urban areas. They worked in a variety of skilled professions, from dockers and firefighters to cooper and smiths. In some cases, plantation slaves were given permission to move into the city and make money there during the transition period. [8]

The majority of slaves in the city were women who did homework in European households. Wealthy families had a team of women who cleaned the house, cooked for the family, and did the laundry. Even middle-class families could afford to help with the daily chores. Some of these women were allowed to live with other Africans outside the city, both slaves and clients.

Industries such as the timber or brick industries would buy slaves to offset labor costs. The railways also used this method. There were also communal slaves owned and operated by city governments, as were public waterworks and septic tanks. The city of Savanah, Georgia, had a number of slaves who maintained roads, built city structures, and cleaned municipal buildings. It is even possible that they operated part of the local prison. [9]

5 Slaves did not have free time

Depending on their situation, slaves had different amounts of free time. Every slave on the South Carolina and Georgia rice plantations was given a daily task, and when that was done, they could spend the rest of the day as they wanted. After sunset, the slaves were left to their own devices on cotton and tobacco plantations. Some owners offered rest periods on Saturdays or Sundays. [10]

Slaves would also celebrate holidays, especially the period between Christmas and New Year. The work was interrupted and everyone enjoyed music, dancing, sporting competitions and drinking whiskey. It was also a popular time for weddings, as the stoppage of work allowed for a solemn ceremony. Some owners would offer gifts ranging from annual clothing allocations to small sums of money. [11]

4 slaves could not make money

Like everyone else in the history of the world, slaves had a need to make money, especially the few who could buy their own freedom.

Some owners had a system in which the slaves could do additional work called "revision" to make money. This could be for their owner or for other European people in the community. This was particularly often the case when the slave was highly skilled in a particular craft, such as blacksmithing or coopering.

The cultivation of small gardens was also popular because the families could either sell the vegetables or eat them themselves. With increasing success, they could buy animals such as pigs and chickens. Others made straw brooms or baskets to sell along with other handmade items on the market.

Slaves used their money to buy groceries, cooking utensils, clothing, toiletries and luxury items such as alcohol and tobacco. Not only did this prevent slave owners from having to get these things themselves, it also gave the slaves a small amount of personal freedom. Some owners argued that this sense of ownership was necessary to prevent an uprising. [12]

3 Slaves could not read

Slave owners were nervous when slaves learned to read. After all, literacy was part of the success of the Haitian slave revolution, and abolitionist literature became more and more popular. As a result, it has been illegal in many southern states to teach slaves to read. This makes the United States the only country in the world where slave education has been banned. [13]

However, many people were against the ban. On the one hand, the slave owners were furious with the government that state governments tried to control what they could and couldn't do with their property. Other slave owners needed their slaves to perform secretarial tasks, such as writing and filing letters, for which reading is essential. Baptist churches have also defied the law because it is central to their religion that church members be able to read the Bible. [14]

2 All slaves were Christians

In the 1600s and around 1700, it was considered unethical for a Christian to own another Christian. For this reason, slave owners have not only prevented their slaves from converting, but also done their best to hide their moral dilemma. They feared that this would promote abolition movements. So they viewed the intellectual life of their property with total disinterest and gave them the freedom to practice any religion they wanted. [51]

In the 19th century there was a wave of Christian fervor that was known as the second great awakening. The Methodist and Baptist churches began to turn to enslaved people who were converted in droves. Since slave owners could not prevent the spread of Christianity, they instructed preachers to preach in which passages from the New Testament were highlighted. Slaves in particular should accept their assigned status, and their patience and faith will be rewarded in heaven. [16]

1 Slaves lost contact with their African roots

The experience of crossing the Middle Passage was sold at auctions and forced into slavery was for him average Africans are obviously traumatic. To cope with the trauma, the slaves turned to their West African traditions and made them new for American life. [17]

Family is very important in West Africa. The tradition of honoring grandparents by giving their name to the next generation has continued, as has respect for the elders. When biological families were not available, others in the community took responsibility to be aunts and uncles. These adopted family lines kept stories about life in Africa alive.

On large plantations, there may also be a "magician" who practices West African spiritual traditions. For a fee, they may be able to cure an illness, drive away an uncomfortable spirit, or curse your enemy (who, understandably, could be your owner). The fewer generations a magician returned to Africa, the more powerful his power was. [18]

About the Author: Jackie Mead is a museum educator by day and a writer by night. Her letter has appeared on Cracked.com and History Magazine.

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