How was racism connected to slavery in the mid-1600s?Need examples and explanations to support how slavery in the U.S. came about.

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hi1954's profile pic

hi1954 | Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

This topic has been discussed numerous times in the past here on eNotes.  I suggest looking up some of them and following the links.  Racism was indeed an important component of slavery, but by no means the only issue or cause.  Slavery has existed since the earliest of recorded history, and slavery has been practiced within the same ethnic, linguistic and religious groups as well as by one against another.  In the 17th century in the New World blacks were used as slaves by white people, the French in the Caribbean but not in North America, the British and the Spanish and Portugese, not to mention the Dutch.  It was the Dutch who first brought African slaves to the British colonies.  But Native Americans were enslaved by the Spanish and Portugese, and whites were enslaved also.  The Spanish and Portugese put captured British, French and Dutch into slavery; whites were kidnapped in Britian and sold as slaves in the Caribbean and mainland North America.

So we see that racism is not the only cause of slavery in the New World in the 17th century.  But it was a major cause; the Spanish and Portugese viewed the Indians as savages, worth nothing more than use as forced labor.  The French did not enslave them, in part because of Catholicism, and yet the Catholic Iberians had no such scruples.  Everyone enslaved black Africans, who were captured and sold into slavery by other black tribes and by Arab slavers.  Approximately 800,000 Africans were brought to the New World as slaves between 1604 and the mid-19th century, while uncounted millions were taken forcibly to Arab countries or India in the same time frame.

Racism as a justification for slavery (ie the belief that blacks were inferior and therefore less deserving of freedom) in the British colonies began in Massachusetts, with the Body of Freedoms act of 1644.  Before that blacks were treated as indentured servants by English colonists.  Racism is one of the most common and yet ugliest of human traits.  But the search for cheap labor and greed are also causes of slavery.  Much of the economic condition of workers in the US since the 1860s has been analogous to slavery, as have been many labor practices across Europe and Asia throughout history.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This is somewhat of a multi-part question – your first question talks about racism and your other questions ask about how slavery came about and why. I’m going to assume that you are supposed to be thinking about the role of racism in causing slavery to come about in the colonies of North America.

I’m not sure I can answer this question for you without writing an essay, so I’m going to try to give you some questions to guide you. I think that answering these questions would allow you to answer your overall question.

First, are there any reasons other than racism that would make enslaving non-whites more efficient or more feasible than enslaving whites? Who would have an easier time escaping and why? Who would be more likely to think they should have equal rights with non-slaves and why? If you can answer these questions, you should be able to see where racism might not have been the only reason why Africans were enslaved rather than whites.

However, it’s hard to say racism didn’t play a part in the establishment of slavery. So, a second question could be “how would racism help to cause whites to enslave nonwhites?” To answer this, think about these questions. A) What is racism? B) How would racist attitudes make it easier to feel it was right to enslave people of another race?

If you think about these questions, you should be able to talk about both sides of this issue. The first set of questions encourages you to think that racism didn’t cause slavery while the second set encourage you to think about ways in which it did cause slavery.

parama9000's profile pic

parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Racism, or rather ethnocentrism of that time resulted in the developing of slavery as people of different skin color would be considered "less of a human" or a lower class compared to others, allowing for the concept that the "slave" should handle the dirty or hard work of its master because he is an object that is "owned".

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