Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog Post #1 ” Mogran- American Slavery American Freedom”

 The passage “American Slavery American Freedom” by Mogran describes Slavery in the year 1619, and the reasons behind it. In 1619, the first African enslaved people were brought to Virginia on a ship. Many innocent people were stacked into the ship and placed head to toe with thousands of other people. There were men, women, and even young boys. Everyone was categorized, tied up, and left without any food or water. Many were sick, and many died. Those poor people went through something unimaginable and were treated as animals. The author, Mogran, proceeds to explain in the first few paragraphs the reason why Virginia did such a thing. There was a demand for tobacco in England and Virginia needed as many men as possible for this labor. The captured enslaved people worked mostly on tobacco fields in severe and harsh conditions. They worked from sunrises to sunsets and were often punished by their masters for the slightest mistakes. They were put through impossible labor in horrifying conditions with a lack of food, clothes, shelter, and basic necessities. Morgan states, “ It had, and although Virginians were not at all happy about it, throughout the century they kept crying for more. They wanted men, they could not get enough of them. (pg 295)”. This line is very significant because it shows how Virginians were very stubborn and just wanted servants to do labor for them, even if it wasn’t needed. Virginians first wanted servants; however there was a huge lack of them and many were declining the offer, so Virginia quickly switched over to salvery and took advantage of the poor. Morgan also states, “ It is possible that the conversion to slavery in Virginia was helped, as it was in Barbados, by a decline in the number of servants coming to the colony. (pg 299)”.  This line shows that there was a lack of servants coming to the colony and that is why they had to turn to slavery. Throughout the passage there were many insights on Virginia and their thought process, but what stood out to me the most was the fact that African people were not enslaved because of their race. Virginians had to make a decision whether to keep the people or not and that had nothing to do with race. This stood out to me because to me the idea of salvery always associated with racism. However, in this passage the author makes sure that we’re not mistaken and that racism wasn’t the main ingredient to slavery. Overall, this was a very informative reading that made me learn much more information about salvery and made me see it from a different point of view.    



One thought on “Blog Post #1 ” Mogran- American Slavery American Freedom””

  1. Nataliya,

    What’s missing for me here is a sense of change over time. It’s clear that you’re familiar with the horrors of the slave trade and the cruel and inhumane treatment of enslaved people, but that’s not really Morgan’s focus here (although he does discuss the latter, particularly at the end). Rather, he’s mainly interested in explaining how and why slavery took root in colonial Virginia in the mid-17th to early 18th centuries, and especially in explaining why the transition to slavery took place only slowly and gradually, not “quickly” as you state here. See p. 297 where he prefaces his argument.

    I think you’re probably right to say that slavery hasn’t always been associated with race historically, nor was race “the main ingredient” even in colonial Virginia, at least at the beginning. But it’s equally true that the only people enslaved in the colonies of British North America were non-white (African or Native American), so it’s impossible to sustain the claim that it had “nothing to do with race.” Morgan seems to second-guess himself a bit here when describing the punishments meted out to slaves, which he says would be difficult to imagine being given to European indentured servants (see p. 314, second para). So even if Virginians turned to African slavery out of an economic imperative for labor, the distinctions between races—who could and could not be the “chattel personal” of someone else”—did appear quite early in the laws governing slavery in the colonies, and they changed relatively little over the next 200 years.

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