How the Slave Trade Drove the Formation of Southern Colonies

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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.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/southern-colonies-take-root

The Birth of Slavery in North America

Jamestown (settlement) | Jamestown Wiki | Fandom

Episode 3: Slavery Becomes American

A New History of the American South

Dr Edward Ayers (2018)

Film Review

Jamestown was the first North American to participate in the Atlantic slave trade. According to official accounts, a Dutch ship transported 20 African slaves pirated from a Spanish ship to the Jamestown in 1619. They were traded for “victuals (food).” The settlement would turn away a second slave ship (presumably their slaves were also pirated) to avoid “Spanish animosity.”

With plenty of surplus labor to supply their indentured servant scheme (see Hidden History: How Slavery Fueled Capitalism), England was slow to tap into the African slave trade. Initially they only transported slaves to Bermuda and the Bahamas to work sugar plantations. Prior to 1660, the English transported 200,000 African slaves to the New World. Of these, 120,000 went to Bermuda and the Bahamas, 22,000 went to New England and 50,000 to Virginia. The first slaves worked in glass, pitch, sassafras or iron production, but low demand meant poor return for investors.* It was only when Jamestown settlers began growing tobacco (in high demand in Europe due to its addictiveness**) that slavery became profitable in Virginia.

The 1666 Great Fire of London (and subsequent rebuild) also gave the Virginia slave trade a boost by creating local job opportunities for homeless Londoners that might otherwise have emigrated indentured servants.

Virginia adopted slave laws initially codified in Bermuda and the Bahamas. These  differed significantly from those adopted by Portuguese and Spanish in Central and South America. Under English law, Africans and mulattoes were denied the option of buying their freedom (as under Roman slave law adopted by Catholic slave colonies).

Ayers describes the background behind Bacon’s Rebellion in 1675 in some detail. After 1670, white settlers and freed indentured servants*** had little prospect of accessing new undepleted land in the coastal settlements. At the same time, they experienced increasing conflict with Native Americans as they pushed West sinking fertile land. In 1676 after Governor Berkeley banned freed servants from squatting on indigenous land, aristocrat Nathaniel Bacon (who belonged to Berkeley’s governing council) mobilized disenchanted indentured servants, free Africans and slaves to join an armed expedition against the native Americans and eventually Berkeley himself.

The rebellion collapsed when Bacon died of dysentery. Berkeley was recalled to England in disgrace following the rebellion.


*Queen Elizabeth and her successors, who “owned” the land the first Virginia settlers claimed on behalf of England, granted charters signing it over to private investors willing to finance ocean voyages to the New World.

**King James I was the first to campaign to outlaw tobacco use, owing to its detrimental effect on human health.

***The standard contract required  an indentured servant to work for a master 7 years, after which Virginia colony investors would grant them 50 acres of their own land.

Film can be viewed free with a library card on Kanopy.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/slavery-becomes-american

Link

What is the definition of the middle passage Charles R ...

Episode 2: The World of Slavery

A New History of the American South

Dr Edward L Ayers

Film Review

In this presentation, Ayers discusses how the organized, efficient and globally interconnected slave trade established a precedent for the smooth operation of global capitalism.

The Portuguese began industrial scale slave trading to furnish labor for sugar plantations in their main New World colony Brazil. The principle purpose of colonies was to furnish profit, and silver and gold, so plentiful in Spanish colonies were absent there.

Although England was the largest European market for tobacco, sugar cotton, dyes, spices and other products of slavery, they were slow to enter the slave trade themselves because they had an immense homeless* population they transported to the New World to provide cheap labor.

Although England began fishing for cod off the Newfoundland Banks from the early 1500s, they were slower to establish overseas colonies than the Portuguese or Spanish. In 1585, Queen Elizabeth commissioned Sir Walter Raleigh to found a colony on Roanoke Island Virginia to produce olive oil,** sugar and wine and provide a base for English ships to pirate the Brazilian and Spanish ships carrying gold and silver. Given Virginia was the same latitude as North Africa, Raleigh assumed it would have the same climate.

When English provision ships returned six months later, the 100 initial settlers had vanished. In Ayers view, they most likely abandoned the colony to live with neighboring Native Americans.

In 1607, English established a second colony in Jamestown Virginia, consisting mainly of English soldiers and war veterans. When a supply ship arrived with provisions six months late, only 38 of the original 104 will still alive. Although the Powhatan Confederacy objected to permanent European settlement on their land, they only killed the occasional settlers who strayed from the official colony. Most died of dysentery and typhoid after they contaminated their water supply with their own sewage.


*England’s epidemic of homelessness stemmed from the Enclosure Acts (1604-1914) that drove 50% of its peasant population off their communal lands. See Forgotten History: The Theft of the Commons

**Whale oil was growing prohibitively expensive

The film can be viewed free with a library card on Kanopy

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/world-slavery

How the Colonization of Africa Replaced Slave Labor Lost to Abolition

Menschenhandel - Eine kurze Geschichte der Sklaverei 1789-1888

Slavery Routes – a Short History of Human Trafficking

Part 4 Slavery’s New Frontiers

DW (2020)

Part 4 begins by examining Brazil’s unique history in the international slave trade. Two million African slaves landed in Brazil during the 18th century. At present, it has the second highest population in the world (with Nigeria at number one). One of the last country’s to end slavery (in 1888), it’s currently world leader in police violence against its Black residents.

In 1791 a massive slave revolt in the French colony of St Domingue (where African slaves comprised 90% of the population)* successfully defeated Napoleon’s army to overturn the white government and end the plantation system. The Haitian revolution destroyed the most productive slave colony in the world and reduced the Atlantic economy by half.

White plantation owners and foremen fled Haiti to use their experience in running plantations in Cuba, the US and Brazil. Their relocation effectively consolidated slavery (on cotton and coffee, as well as sugar, plantations) throughout the Western hemisphere.

In 1807, the British Parliament passed a law abolishing the British slave trade, and in 1815, the British Navy was granted authority to intercept slave ships from other countries. After 1815, the US would become the center of industrial-scale slavery. Spain would abolish slavery altogether in 1824, Britain in 1833 and the Netherlands in 1863.

In 1864 (in the midst of the Civil War), President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery in the US. In the South, slavery ended in name only, owing to laws that denied southern Blacks freedom of movement, the right to vote, the right to protest their working conditions or treatment by whites and Jim Crow laws that caused many to be incarcerated and sentenced to forced labor for minor offenses.**

Following the abolition of the slave trade, many European countries sought to replace the slave labor they lost in the New World by aggressively colonizing Africa. This occurred by means of  wholesale land confiscation and forced labor that amounted to de facto slavery. The filmmakers devote the last third of the documentary to this history.


*The island of St Domingue is currently home to two countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

**The most common offenses under Jim Crow were vagrancy and failure to show proof of employment.

For information on broadcast times, see https://www.dw.com/en/slavery-routes-part-4/a-52207639

A Nation Founded on the Institution of Slavery

Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents

by Margaret Kimberley

Truth to Power (2020)

Book Review

This book should be required reading in all US high schools and colleges, along with Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States and Roxane Dunbar Ortiz’s Indigenous People’s History of the United States. It will make absolutely clear to all history students that the main purpose of the US War of Independence and the US Constitution were to preserve the institution of slavery in North America.

It was to preserve slavery the nation’s capitol was moved in 1791 from Philadelphia to a coastal swamp between Virginia and Maryland. Traveling to a national capitol in a northern state was too embarrassing for slave holding presidents like Washington. It meant having to rotate slaves between Philadelphia and Virginia – any slave remaining in Pennsylvania longer than six months automatically won their freedom.

Kimberley also totally demolishes the mythology around America’s “shrewd and brilliant” slaveholding founding fathers. Even northern presidents who favored emancipation (including Lincoln who only did so for political expediency) held profoundly racist beliefs about the innate inferiority of Africans. In fact, they sought to forcibly expel them to offshore colonies.

As Kimberley ably demonstrates, no US president has ever supported social justice reforms benefiting African Americans except in response to massive grassroots pressure.

For me the most interesting part of the book concerns Fannie Lou Hammer and her battle to seat the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. The 1968 Democratic National Convention, would ultimately seat them – leading to the breakaway of Storm Thurmond’s Dixiecrats. This wholesale defection of Southern whites would ensure a Republican presidential victory (for Nixon) the same year.


* Lincoln, who fervently believed in keeping the US white, worked on a number of colonization strategies to forcibly deport freed slaves, first to Île À Vache near Haiti and later to Panama.

 

The BBC Does Colonialism

The History of the World Part 5 – Age of Plunder

BBC (2018)

Film Review

This episode concerns the role of  plunder (ie colonialism) in the founding of the capitalist economic system. The major weakness of the fifth episode is its promotion of two notorious myths about Columbus that historians debunked several decades ago. The first maintains that most of Europe regarded the Earth as flat prior to Columbus. Untrue. Europeans sailors had known for centuries that the Earth was round from the way a ship disappears over the horizon (hull first and sails last). The other myth is that Columbus died believing he had reached India. This myth, traced to an 1828 biography by Washington Irving, is debunked by the explorer’s own writings.*

The primary outcome of Columbus’s voyage to the new world was the enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans and the pilfering of 45,000 tons of gold and silver (valued at £10 trillion in modern currency). The precious metals would be used to decorate churches and noble palaces and to fund religious wars during the Protestant Reformation.

The Catholic Church obtained their share of these riches (used to build St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican) by selling “indulgences,” paper certificates that guaranteed Catholics entry to eternal life. It was mainly opposition to this corrupt practice that led Martin Luther to break with the Church in 1517.

In 1580 Ivan the Terrible hired Cossack warriors to invade Siberia, which was still ruled by a descendant of Genghis Khan. His goal: plundering 5,000 Siberian pelts from traders. With the start of the 300 year Little Ice Age in 1530, there was a thriving market for furs in Western Europe.

In the early 17th century, the Dutch East India Company captured and enslaved the Banda spice islands in South East Asia for their nutmeg crop. Believed to be a cure for plague, it was the most valuable commodity in the world. As the British East Indian Company also claimed the spice islands, this would lead to four Anglo-Dutch wars beginning in 1652. In 1667, the wars ended when the Dutch agreed to trade Manhattan Island for the main nutmeg islands.

The fifth episode ends with the creation of the world’s first stock exchange in Holland in 1608 and the resulting speculation in tulip bulbs. The world’s first recorded speculative bubble burst in 1637, ruining thousands of Dutch investors.


*Both myths are debunked in James Loewen’s 1995 Lies My Teacher Told Me

 

How the Irish Saved Civilization

How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe

by Thomas Cahill

Hodder and Stoughton (1995)

Book Review

This book covers the history of Ireland from the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century to the sacking of most Irish monasteries by Viking invaders in the 11th. It mostly focuses on the life of St Patrick (aka Patricius), a Romanized Britain kidnapped into slavery by Irish pirates in 401. In Ireland, he was forced to work as a shepherd for six years until he heard God’s voice telling him he was free to leave.

On his return to Britain, he undertook religious studies to become a priest and bishop and returned to Ireland as a missionary – the first in Church history to minister to so-called “barbarians.” He was also the first person in history to speak out against slavery.

In addition to converting Irish Celts to Christianity, St Patrick played a crucial role in establishing a network of Irish monasteries. As Ireland lacked significant population centers prior to the Viking invasions, these monasteries served as hubs of wealth, art and learning.

As barbarian hoards overran most of the former Roman Empire, most European libraries were burned and “copyists” who had copied classical texts (mainly for the wealthy Roman elite) vanished everywhere except in Irish monasteries.

The Irish invented the “codex,” a method of producing books as multiple pages of parchment rather than a single scroll. Like the Jews before them, the Irish enshrined literacy as a central religious act. Irish was also the first vernacular language to be used (written down) for popular literature, at a time when books elsewhere in Europe were all in Greek or Latin.

 

Fighting Globalization by Rebuilding Local Economies

White Widows

Directed by David Straub (2019)

Film Review

This documentary concerns work by the Indian-German Peace Foundation to assist rural Indian villages in diversifying their economies. The goal is to make them less vulnerable to exploitation by the global commodities market. The village featured in the film is Dahnoli, which produces cotton. The Foundation is assisting local farmers in constructing a textile facility based on hand looms.

Most of Dahnoli’s current economic problems stem from the introduction, in the 1990s, of Monsanto’s BT resistant cotton seed. Although this genetically engineered seed initially increased yields, over time the cotton plants lost their resistance to BT and other pests and required increasingly heavy application of pesticides. As yields plummeted, farmers sought to return to traditional cotton seed, but it was no longer available.

Owing to the higher costs of patented seed and pesticides, many farmers became indebted to money lenders. Nationwide more than 300,000 farmers committed. Thousands of others have died from pesticide related health problems.

At present 65% of India’s population works in agriculture. When crops fail, many move to the big cities – where a total of 8 million live in slavery.

 

The Forgotten Black Settlers Who Helped Settle the American Midwest

The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Forgotten Black Pioneers & the Struggle for Equality

Anna-Lisa Cox

Hatchette Book Group (2018)

Book Review

This is a fascinating book about the freed African American slaves who helped settle the Northwest Territory* and the vicious white backlash that deprived many of them of their farms and, in some cases, their lives. Interesting how the vital role of African Americans in settling the Midwestern United States has totally vanished from modern history books.

African American scholar and activist W.E.B. DuBois was the first to note, in 1906, the important role role of freed slaves in settling, defending and clearing the dense forests of the Northwest Territory.

The 1787 Northwest Ordinance both banned slavery throughout the Northwest Territory and allowed African Americans to vote in local and territorial elections.

Cox’s book traces the gradual prohibition of slavery in all northern states after the the trans-Atlantic slave trade ended in 1807 (except New Jersey, where slavery persisted until the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation). In nearly every case, legislation ending slavery followed on from favorable court rulings when slaves sued to win their freedom.

Cox also examines the pressures leading slaves, having purchased their freedom, to migrate to the Northwest Territory. Southern Blacks were fleeing the constant threat of whites kidnapping and re-enslaving them. Northern Blacks came to escape deadly mob violence (in which white mobs burned Blacks out of their homes, churches and schools) that plagued Northern cities with large African American populations.

The white backlash that eventually stripped Black Northwest Territory settlers of civil rights they had enjoyed for decades was driven by a number of factors: 1) the 1799-1815 Napoleonic Wars, during which France sought to reinstate slavery in all  its colonies, 2) the rabidly racist leadership of Ohio’s first governor William Henry Harrison (who unsuccessfully campaigned to make Ohio a slave state), President Andrew Jackson and his Vice-president Martin van Buren (who openly encouraged white mobs to attack Black farmers in Ohio and Indiana), and the outright greed of land developers who sought to profit from slave labor in converting Northwest and Louisiana Purchase territory into prime agricultural land.

In the end, all Northwest Territory states (except Wisconsin) enacted Black Code Laws that required African American settlers to post $500 bond – which they forfeited if white farmers attacked them. As each of them achieved statehood, their new state constitutions stripped Black settlers of their right to vote and their right to testify against whites in court. The latter made it impossible to convict whites for mob violence. Eventually Indiana, Ohio and Illinois banned all new immigration of Black settlers.

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and 1857 (Supreme Court) Dred Scott decision made life for freed slaves in the Northwest Territory even more precarious. The former made it possible for whites to kidnap free African Americans in the North and sell them into slavery in the South. The latter decreed that no person of African descent could ever be considered a US citizen.


*The Northwest Territory encompassed most British pre-war colonial territory west of the Appalachians, north of the Ohio River and south of the Canadian border  – ie the modern day states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and the eastern part of Minnesota.

 

 

Hidden History: How 13 Million Kidnapped Africans Built Global Capitalism

Slavery Routes – Part 2 From Sugar to Revolution

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

Part 2 of Slavery Routes covers the so-called “Sugar Wars”* and the entry of the rest of Europe (Holland, Prussia, Denmark, England, Spain, France)  into Portugal’s lucrative slave trade. It also explores the role of European banks and insurance companies in making this expansion possible. Slave traders always undertook cross-Atlantic voyages on credit, which meant they had to be insured against losing their “cargo.” Insurance companies (Lloyd’s of London was the most prominent) were happy to ensure an enterprise in which a trader stood to triple his stake.

In this way, the slave trade provided the financial capital for both European and American capitalism.

Too Valuable to Kill

Rebellions by captive slaves were continual on both sides of the Atlantic. Because it took four years of plantation work to pay off the price of a captive, rebellious slaves were too valuable to kill. Instead ship captains and plantation owners became quite ingenious in devising brutal methods to compel submission.

In 1685 Louis XIV of France (funny I majored in French history and they never mentioned this) enacted the Code Noir, which made it legal to beat slaves but not torture them or mutilate their limbs.

The European Abolition Movement

By the late 1780s there was growing awareness and opposition in European society against the brutal conditions of the Middle Passage.** Britain’s abolition movement gained considerable momentum following the 1783 lawsuit in which a slave trader sued his insurance company for refusing to reimburse him after he threw his cargo of 133 living slaves overboard.

The English outlawed the slave trade in 1807. By 1815 there navy was strong enough to prevent other European nations from engaging in slave trading.

In all, 13 million Africans were kidnapped to the New World between 1520 and 1815.

The video can’t be embedded but can be seen free at the following link:

From Sugar to Revolution


*”Sugar Wars” refers to a series of naval conflicts between European nations seeking the upper hand in the slave market.

**The Middle Passage was the stage of the triangular trade (resulting in large exports of sugar to Europe) in which millions of Africans were shipped across the Atlantic as slaves.