A Brief History of Slavery, note organizer                    Humanities 221 Professor Celia Easton

Internet pictures of slave ships from: http://gropius.lib.virginia.edu/SlaveTrade/index.html

Text references: Thomas Hughes, The Slave Trade, Simon and Schuster, 1997; Aristotle, The Politics, trans. Ernest Barker, Oxford, 1971.

It is thus clear that, just as some are by nature free, so others are by nature slaves, and for these latter the condition of slavery is both beneficial and just.

Aristotle, The Politics, Chapter V (1255a)

Philosophical endorsement of slavery from classical economies sustained by early Christian Church: Augustine (equal humanity, but slavery=consequence of sin).  General Council of the Christian Church, 345 CE (slaves must respect masters).  Christian Council in Carthage, 5th century CE (slaves cannot testify).  Pope Leo the Great, 443 CE (slaves cannot become priests).  Emperor Constantine, 417 CE (Jews cannot buy Christian slaves).

Decline of slavery in the Middle Ages: economic transformation to feudal economy; church leaders free their slaves; some church leaders call slavery unjust.  1066, William the Conqueror supports English Bishops in denouncing enslavement of (English) Christians.

1200 CE, slavery gone from England.  Slavery is alive in Islamic culture, and in southern Europe.  Slavery includes captured Christian Europeans & kidnapped black Africans.  Christians take Muslim slaves.  Slavery centers: Spain & Portugal, 13th & 14th centuries.

1444 CE, first commercial snatching of African slaves ("razzia") by Portuguese (235 men & women).  15th c. Africans resist with violence.  Portuguese begin buying "pagan" Africans from Islamic traders, who buy war captives from African kings.

15th c, Pope Nicolas V gives Portugal exclusive trading rights with Africa; enslavement justified by "conversion of pagans."

First transatlantic cargo of slaves: indigenous "New World" people sent to Spain by Columbus.  Isabella denies traders rights to her Indian subjects, except for cannibals.

Spanish imperialism expands importance of slavery/slave trade.  Only black Africans could be sent to the Americas.  Native Indians were called "unfit" for work.  Ferdinand issues 1st license for slave traffic.  European imperialism revives slave economies.

SUGAR production demands labor power.  Barbados in 1667 had 745 plantation owners & 80,000 slaves.  Sugar production correlates with "cult" of coffee, chocolate, tea; economic change from agricultural work encourages addition of calories, taste, and interest in diet through sugar; taste develops for rum & jam.

Restoration England: The Royal Adventurers into Africa trades in gold, spice, slaves.  Investors include royal family & aristocrats.  Subscriber list also includes John Locke.

Royal Africa Company, over 50 years transported 75,000 slaves to English or Spanish North Americans.

Colony of Carolina's 1670 Constitution ("Grand Model of the new colony of Carolina") includes paragraph on the need to accept the institution of slavery, indebted to John Locke.  Northern colonies employ slaves as household servants.  More slaves are sent to Virginia tobacco plantations.

Scandinavians join slave trade, but Great Britain dominates.  GB gained right to sell slaves to Spanish Indies through the Treaty of Utrecht (parodied by Swift as peace settlement between Lilliput and Blefuscu).  GB privatizes contract, selling it to the South Sea CompanySSC investors include Swift, Defoe, & Newton (who lost £20,000).

Manchester cotton cloth industry: buys raw material from British West Indies; sells cloth to Africa ("Guinea cloth" is lightweight, checked material) in exchange for slaves, who are sold to planters in West Indies who produce raw material….

Import of slaves to US soars in 18th century.  Early slave traders included Quakers.

Transportation of slaves: "economy & efficiency." "Spoonways" position.  Olaudah Equiano, a former 18th c. slave writes, "The stench of the hold while we were on the coast was so intolerably loathsome that it was dangerous to remain there for any time, and some of us had been permitted to stay on the deck for the fresh air; but now that the whole ship's cargo were confined together, it became absolutely pestilential.  The closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the number in the ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated us.  This produced constant perspirations, so that the air soon became unfit for respiration…and brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died."  After 8 days at sea, slaves on deck cleaned the ship; women were routinely raped and men sadistically beaten.

MORAL OUTRAGE--18th c. sentiment swings against mistreatment of Africans.  Catholic Church begins moral objections.  Abolitionists object first to the slave trade, then to slavery.  Quakers turn from trading to protest.  French National Assembly 1791 guarantees rights regardless of race (Napoleon later revives the slave trade).  James Madison calls for end to the slave trade, but Constitutionalists make compromises.  NJ abolishes slavery 1776; MA, CT, NY outlaw the slave trade in 1788.  The US criminalizes the slave trade in 1808 (slavery continues with slaves born in US & illegal trading). 

Slavery is fully outlawed in US after War Between the States, but effects linger.

Frederick Douglass: more than an "icon" for survival and daring (an icon created both by 19th c. abolitionists and subsequent history).  How is Douglass, like Marx, a revolutionary thinker?  How does his critique of slavery and racism go deeper than the immediate" symptoms" of 19th century history?

The following is an excerpt from Douglass' speech, "An Appeal to Congress for Impartial Suffrage" (http://www.toptags.com/aama/voices/commentary/appeal.htm).

To appreciate the full force of this argument, it must be observed, that disfranchisement in a republican government based upon the idea of human equality and universal suffrage, is a very different thing from disfranchisement in governments based upon the idea of the divine right of kings, or the entire subjugation of the masses.  Masses of men can take care of themselves.  Besides, the disabilities imposed upon all are necessarily without that bitter and stinging element of invidiousness, which attaches to disfranchisement in a republic. What is common to all works no special sense of degradation to any.  But in a country like ours, where men of all nations, kindred, and tongues are freely enfranchised, and allowed to vote, to say to the negro, You shall not vote, is to deal his manhood a staggering blow, and to burn into his soul a bitter and goading sense of wrong, or else work in him a stupid indifference to all the elements of a manly character.  As a nation, we cannot afford to have amongst us either this indifference and stupidity, or that burning sense of wrong. These sable millions are too powerful to be allowed to remain either indifferent or discontented. Enfranchise them, and they become self-respecting and country-loving citizens.  Disfranchise them, and the mark of Cain is set upon them less mercifully than upon the first murderer, for no man was to hurt him.