How the Slave Trade Drove the Formation of Southern Colonies

Episode 4: The Southern Colonies Take Hold

A New History of the American South

Dr Edward Ayers (2018)

Film Review

In this lecture, Ayers traces the formation of the other Southern colonies, in most cases linked to the exploding North Atlantic slave trade.

Florida – the first colony to be settled by Europeans, was founded by the Spanish in 1565. By the time the English created the colonies north of it, Florida had established colonies along the eastern coast as far north as the sea islands of Georgia.

Maryland – founded in 1653 by Lord Baltimore after Charles 1 (a Catholic) granted him a plot of land north of Virginia to host 150 Catholic settlers (many of them Jesuits).

Carolina – In 1663 Charles II granted a plot of land to eight Barbados colonists to establish the colony of Carolina. Its initial purpose was to grow food for Barbados plantations that produced nothing but sugar. Most of the new settlers were former indentured servants from Barbados who had completed their seven year contract. Some brought their own slaves with them and some enslaved Native Americans or traded them in Barbados for African slaves. By 1700, the English had killed or expelled all Native Americans out of Carolina, which now became a slave colony like Virginia and Maryland. Carolina adopted rice as its main cash crop after Native Americans taught them how to grow it. In 1712, Northern Carolina, which had become a haven for poor whites to escape domination of Virginian and South Carolina elites, separated to become the colony of North Carolina.

Louisiana – in 1698 the French sailed down the Mississippi River to claim the region for the French, founding the city of New Orleans in 1718.

Georgia – in 1730 George II granted philanthropist James Ogelthorpe a charter to establish a colony for the “deserving” poor of English cities. Initially Georgia prohibited both strong drink and slavery. However Georgian farmers ignored the anti-slavery law, and in 1750 the governor of Georgia legalized slavery, making it a slave colony.

During this entire period the trans-Atlantic slave trade was expanding. Beginning around 1700, three new African states formed (Ashanti, Oyo and Dahomey) that sent special armies deep into the African interior to meeting growing demand. More than 10% of African captives died during their journey to the new world, Even more died following their arrival in the New World owing to overwork and starvation.

Film can be viewed free with library card on Kanopy.

The Lost Civilizations of Africa


Directed by Basil Davidson (1984)

Film Review

Africa is a 1984 documentary exploring the great civilizations of Africa. In it, late historian Basil Davidson demolishes the myths Europeans concocted about Africa to justify the 400 year slave trade – these myths concerning a continent of subhuman savages persist to the present day. Davidson reviews archeological evidence, ancient African and Europeans artwork and historical records and contemporary tribal traditions that survive from past civilizations.

The documentary is divided into 8 episodes of approximately 25 minutes each.

Episode 1 Different But Equal – studies the depiction of blacks in medieval and renaissance European paintings to show how the concept of race was created in the 16th century to justify the immensely profitable enslavement of human paintings. He starts with an examination of cave paintings that point to a highly advanced Saharan civilization prior to the Sahara’s desertification (around 7,000–8,000 years ago   and the prominence of black-skinned the 3,000-year  civilization Egypt enjoyed under the pharaohs.

Episode 2 Mastering a Continent – focuses on Kushites and the great Nubian civilization to the south of Egypt. The latter converted to Christianity and persisted until the 11th century when it was destroyed (by Saracens) during the Crusades.

Episode 3 Caravans of Gold – discusses the vast commercial trade network (extending as far as India) centered in Timbuktu (Mali) and the Ashanti civilization (in modern day Ghana). In the 14th century, Mali converted to Islam. Under the guidance of Muslim scholars, Timbuktu became a global center of Islamic scholarship in law, literature and science.

Episode 4 The King and the City Within – describes the civilizations of Huaser, Benin and Ethe in modern day Nigeria.

Episode 5 The Bible and the Gun – covers the arrival of the Europeans and the devastating of slavery on long established African civilizations. Over 400 years, the African continent lost approximately 15 million skilled craftsmen and farmers. As the slave trade declined in the 18th and 19th century, Europeans opened up Africa’s interior in order to exploit its rich natural resources. As in Latin American and Asia, Christian missionaries played a fundamental role in this process.

Episode 6 The Magnificent African Cake – gives an overview of the extensive European military campaigns that flattened African resistance to colonization. By 1914, Liberia and Ethiopia were the only two countries not under European military control.

Episode 7 The Rise of Nationalism – relates how forced conscription in World War I and World War II radically changed Africans’ view of Europeans and fueled demands for independence. The Gold Coast (later renamed Ghana by President Dr Kwame Nkrumah) would launch the first independence struggle in 1945. Davidson contrasts this with the more bloody independence struggles in Kenya, Algeria and other countries with substantial(European) settler populations.

Episode  8 Legacy – explores how the adoption of European-style Parliamentary systems proved disastrous for many African countries. Davidson blames this on the fact that Parliamentary government is based on a well established class divisions. It worked poorly in Africa owing to the continent’s historic tendency towards egalitarianism.