Throughout the past few weeks we have learned about many historical events that have happened and their details. There’s one specific event that the passage, Slave Societies Many Thousands Gone by Ira Berlin goes into detail about, slavery. This is a topic that I have been learning about since middle school, I thought I was pretty well-informed about slavery until I read this passage. I thought of slavery as it’s simple definition, the system of owning slaves, having restricted freedom, hard labor, but it’s a way bigger concept than that. This passage not only goes into the details of slavery, but also introduced me to new issues that happened during this time. From how it started, to the names of the slaves, how slavery became into a system, the labor slaves were put through, the treatment they dealt with, all contributes to the way I now think about slavery, meaning this passage as significantly added to my knowledge about slavery.
There is a significant difference between race, which we see in the text : black African Americans didn’t have the same opportunities as white people did, ” they worked harder and died earlier. Their families were truncated, and few men and women claimed ties of blood and marriage… They had small opportunities to participate independently in exchange economies and they rarely accumulated property,” (Berlin, 95). Another valuable piece that is mentioned in the text is about the slave trade, and slave ships. Slave ships were extremely harming, dangerous and not at all safe. I was never really taught about the transportation method of slaves so this part of the text I found particularly interesting, “Although conditions improved on slave ships over time, death stalked these vessels, and more than one in ten Africans who landed did not reach the Americas. The survivors arrived in the New World physically depleted and psychologically disoriented,” (Berlin, 104). Berlin’s emphasis on all the details of slavery made it really clear to me how this country is really based off of capitalism. The main goal is to make a profit and it didn’t matter to put humans in harmful environments and situations to get it. Slavery was made into a a large system for profit, “In each of these venues, planters practiced the art of domination, making laws, meting out justice, and silently asserting – by their fine with slaves,” (Berlin, 97).
Does slavery still exist to the same extent as back then? This can be a very controversial topic but today, there are even more forms of slavery like sex trafficking, forced labor, child sex trafficking, the list goes on.. Slavery is and has been a system back then and now. This reading allowed my knowledge to expand on slavery as well as support my thought that America has been based off of capitalism.