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.

Big Sugar, Inc

Big Sugar: Sweet, White and Deadly

Brian McKenna (2005)

Film Review

Big Sugar is about the sugar lobby and how they use their wealth and power to prevent the World Health Organization (WHO) and other regulatory agencies from dispensing accurate information about the link between high sugar intake and obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

This Canadian documentary is divided into two parts. Part I deals with the links between sugar and slavery and the modern sugar barons have replaced the slaveholders who effectively controlled British foreign and domestic policy for 200 years. Part II is about the global obesity epidemic and efforts by WHO in 2005 to issue guidelines limiting daily sugar intake to 10% of total calories. The powerful sugar lobby defeated this initiative by employing many of the same techniques as the tobacco industry (and the climate denial industry). After attacking the science linking high sugar intake and obesity, they attacked the scientists themselves as biased fanatics. They then got them fired, demoted, and/or transferred. Under pressure from Big Sugar, both Bush administrations threatened to withhold the funding they owed WHO, and the pesky nutritionists who sought to warn people about the dangers of sugar magically vanished.

The documentary focuses on two of the most prominent slave holding families, as well a Canadian woman of African descent whose ancestors were owned by the Church of England and worked on a plantation in Barbados. The filmmakers liken these historical paragons to a modern day Cuban exile family in Florida called the Fanjuls. The latter donate generously to both major parties to make sure the US government continues to subsidize sugar production. The Fanjuls and other Florida sugar barons reap $1.5 billion in subsidies for $3.1 million in campaign contributions.

In addition to exposing the ecological devastation sugar cultivation has caused in the Florida Everglades, the filmmakers also visit the Fanjuls’ sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic. Despite the official abolition of slavery, working conditions on Dominican sugar plantations remain virtually unchanged. The Fanjuls lure Haitian immigrants across the border with a promise of paying work. Once their passports are confiscated, they become virtual slaves. Workers, who are paid $2 for a twelve hour day, experience chronic hunger and malnutrition. Forbidden to grow their own vegetables, they’re forced to rely on a company store that charges them three times the normal price for food. They have no access to medical care, and child labor is rife.