Slavery in the Americas

Zack - Wahid- Carlos

Conditions of Enslavement / Adaptation and Resistance

Conditions of Enslavement

Slavery was an oppressive and uncomfortable state. While some slave-owners took pains to ensure that the slaves that they owned were well fed, and healthy, larger numbers of slave-owners simply believed that slaves were supposed to be worked as much as possible, with no regard to their welfare.

Adaptations and Resistance

If the master or the plantation owners harmed the slaves or the family of the slaves, the slaves could resist by harming the plantation owners crops working more slowly to produce less, or sabotaging equipment. The slaves could also resist against their masters by keeping their original language or customs and culture alive. This itself was a type of resistance.

Some methods of individual resistance :

  • Pretending to be ill.
  • Refusing to do work.
  • Performing their jobs very poorly.
  • Destroying the farm equipments.
  • Setting fire in the buildings.
  • Stealing food/supplies.

A great number of slaves attempted to run away from their slave masters, but the results were not very positive. There were very few slaves that actually succeeded in their journey and the majority were returned back to their masters.

Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave that returned to help approximately one thousand other slaves to escape to the north.

The Pro-slavery Arguments


Slavery was supported in the South because it was seen as a pillar of the southern economic structure. The way the South was set up, the slaves were necessarily on the bottom of the pyramid, and did not see the benefits of their labor. The people in charge of making decisions in the South, the plantation owners that made money off of the slaves, deemed it necessary to maintain slavery to maintain their economic standing; a plantation with 50 slaves would have only a small fraction of its original profit if it had to pay all of those slaves a wage.


The slaveholder claimed that they had a right given to them by the Bible to hold and use slaves, and thus that to infringe upon their slaveholding would be to infringe upon the practice of their religion as they saw it (a right protected by the 1st amendment).

Insurrections and Reactions


Making the first successful Slave rebellion in the world, the Haitians revolted for a variety of reasons:

  • Slaves outnumbered whites 500,000 to 28,000
  • The French Revolution brought with it the ideals of equality for all
  • As free blacks fought for equal civil rights the slaves began to think about overthrowing the slave system altogether.
  • The revolt started in earnest on August 22nd 1791
  • It ended in 1804 when Napoleon, unwilling to expend more effort trying to regain the island and having already sold Louisiana to the United States, left the island.
  • Major leaders:


The biggest violent actions in the US were John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry when he tried to raise southern slaves in rebellion against their masters. It failed, and John Brown was hanged.

The //Amistad// was a Spanish ship that was taken over by slaves and sailed into New York, where eventually the Supreme Court decided that the slaves were illegally taken, and thus they were free to return home.

Life of the Free African–Americans

Life for freedmen varied by the location that they lived in, and the amount of money that they were able to gain. Because the majority of freed slaves were freed in the areas that they were enslaved in, unless they had some money, or some way to gain money, the usually found themselves pressed back into menial labor of some sort that was only marginally better than the condition than they had been in before. That said, some of the freedmen living in the Northern United States were able to amass money and become important in their own right as members of society. Some of the supporters of the Haitian revolution had been the freed blacks in Haiti who had called for full civil equality for free black men.

Pro-Abolition Arguments


//The Impending Crisis of the South// was a book written by Hinton Rowan Helper, which he self-published in 1857. It was a strong attack on slavery as inefficient and a barrier to the economic advancement of whites.

  • He said that the South was stagnant and under-industrialized (therefore unable to compete internationally) because it relied on Slavery


Slavery was opposed on religious grounds, because it went against the tenets of compassion etc. that were preached in the New Testament.


People felt that Slavery was against the principles that the nation had been founded upon (i.e. liberty, equality, etc.)

Some important abolitionists :

William Lloyd Garrison
His intentions was to free slaves and he blamed the goverment for failing to condemn slavery .
David Walker
David walker was an abolitionist that wanted slaves to fight for their freedom rather than just wait to be freed.
Frederick DouglassFrederick Douglass
He was a former slave who run away from his master to New york to find freedom. He later became Garrison's speaker and then later he started his own news paper by the name of North star.
Harriet Tubman
As noted above, she was a former slave who helped other slaves to escape; called the Moses of her people, she also campaigned in the North to call for the abolition of slavery through legal means.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin to appeal to people's emotions about how bad slavery was.


  • Three-Fifths Compromise (1787) - Three-fifths of the population of slaves would be counted for enumeration purposes regarding both the distribution of taxes and the apportionment of the members of the United States House of Representatives.
  • Northwest Ordinance (1789) - The banning of slavery in the territory had the effect of establishing the Ohio River as the boundary between free and slave territory in the region between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. This division helped set the stage for the balancing act between free and slave states that was the basis of a critical political question in American politics in the 19th century until the Civil War.
  • Compromise of 1850 - California is admitted to the union as a free state but a more strict fugitive slave law is enacted.
  • Fugitive Slave Law (1850) Fugitives could not hold trial or testify on their own behalf.
  • Personal Liberty Laws forbade the imprisonment of runaway slaves and guaranteed that they would have jury trials.
  • Dred Scott (1799 – September 17, 1858), was a slave in the United States who sued unsuccessfully in St. Louis, Missouri for his freedom in the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford case of 1857. No one knows exactly when he was born. His case was based on the fact that he and his wife Harriet Scott were slaves, but had lived in states and territories where slavery was illegal, including Illinois and Minnesota (which was then part of the Wisconsin Territory). The United States Supreme Court ruled seven to two against Scott, finding that neither he, nor any person of African ancestry, could claim citizenship in the United States, and that therefore Scott could not bring suit in federal court under diversity of citizenship rules.

-13^^th^^ Amendment (1865) Slavery is abolished
-14^^th^^ Amendmentt (1868) Everyone born on American soil is a US citizen. Nullified the Dred Scott decision. (ZB)

Previous “Slavery” Questions

1.) Why was the slave rebellion on Haiti successful, while slave rebellions elsewhere in the Americas before 1850 failed? Wahid and carlos.

  • The fact that Haiti's slave population was a lot more than slave population in America made a big difference on why the rebellion was successful in Haiti. A lot of slaves were starving and did not have anything to eat.
  • Haiti was colonized by France.
  • Haiti was Europe's main supplier of sugar.
  • Sugar production depended on extensive manual labor.
  • a high mortality rate meant that salves were always being imported.
    • By 1789: slaves out numbered the slave owners . 8 to 1.
  • French revolution declared all men free and equal
  • One of the military leaders that fought to free the slaves was Toussaint L'ouverture.
    • In 1801 L'ouverture was taken by the french army and he was imprisoned right after he was promised freedom.
  • Haiti was declared a free republic in 1804.

Burns (68)
(1789) 40000 Plantation owners, half a million slaves + Terrible conditions and treatment = Rebellion

  • Code Noir (1685) defined the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire, restricted the activities of free Negroes, forbade the exercise of any religion other than Roman Catholicism, and ordered all Jews out of France's colonies. The code has been described by Tyler Stovall as "one of the most extensive official documents on race, slavery, and freedom ever drawn up in Europe."
  • Main crop was sugar. Life was harsh, plantation owners worked their slaves to death then purchased new ones. Astonishingly high death rate (70 % death to total population).
  • August 22, 1791 slaves liberty rebellion started in Saint Dominigue by Toussaint L'Ouverature who led the rebellion. The rebellion was victorious over the overseers but Napoleon was sent from France to intervene. Napoleon killed L'Ouverature after shipping him back to France, however, Napoleon would eventually leave due to a spread of Yellow Fever amongst his army. The slave rebellions were too much for French to handle from a meager economical addition to France. (ZB)

2.) "The dominant response of blacks to slavery was a complex one: a combination of adaptation and resistance." To what extent do you agree with this view? Support your answer with specific examples from one country of the region.

Well, well, well, this you can answer from what you think, the information is provided above.

This statement can be justified to a good extent due to the fact that slaves were both adaptive and resist-full during the era of slavery. There were a lot of slaves that adopted the new culture, religion and way of life and accepted slavery as the way of life but on the other side there were other slaves that resisted in many different ways and wished to bring an end to slavery.

3.) “The wasteful economy of slavery was replaced by the productive economy based on salary.”

With reference to two countries of the region, explain to what extent you agree with this view.

4.) Who opposed slavery in the Americas, and why?

Slavery was supported by plantation owners and those who were able to benefit from slaves, economy and money were the main reasons for the supporting of slavery .

5.) Analyze the main arguments of

(a) those who supported slavery

(b) those who opposed slavery (abolitionists)

6.) (2006) For what reasons and, in what ways, did supporters of slavery in the nineteenth century use legal, religious, and economic arguments in its defense?

There were those who used the Bible as a defense for slavery. Wahid , carlos

It is believed that in the Bible it states that it is a servant's duty and job to obey and respect his master.

The old Testament of Bible promotes Slavery while the new Testament of Bible neither promotes it nor condemns it.

It is stated that Jews enslaved other Jews.

By late 1800s the Protestant churches in the United States of America were spit in two sectors. There were northern and southern sectors over the issue of slavery.

"The primary citation of the Bible for Pro slave masters was Genesis 9:25-27 in which it is stated that Noha has cursed all he offsprings of his son ham and that they were supposed to serve all the other people." just something out there. I am not so sure to what extent is this correct.


Agriculture was the American economy's strong point.

In order to produce plantations , slaves were needed to work in the plantations and produce crops. The more slaves , the more crops the better gain.

If slavery was abolished in America, The economy of America would suffer greatly and there would not be so much gain.

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