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What were the effects of the importation of African slaves into the Americas?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Bringing African slaves to the Americas (and I will focus on the United States) had profound impacts. Among other effects, the cheap labor slaves provided kept the Southern states bound to an agrarian economy even as industrialism took root in the North during the 19th century. Racism became socially entrenched. Many, many contemporaries noted the morally corrosive effects of the absolute power of the white caste and the absolute powerlessness of the black caste, the first group driven to cruelty, the second to abjection. Further, slavery broke up African families: slaves beyond a certain age could be sold away from their parents and siblings, and husbands and wives could be sold to different owners. Finally, the fierce polarizations caused by slavery in the United States led to a bitter and bloody Civil War that threatened to rip the young country apart. 

Slaves were also shipped to Latin America, where they suffered abuse and harsh conditions working on plantations and in mines, and as in the United States, had an impact on the larger culture. However, in the Caribbean and Latin America, slaves comprised a large percentage of the culture (up to 70% in some cases, according to, and thus had a more profound cultural influence on those regions.

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Michael Koren eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The importation of African slaves into the Americas had many effects on the Americas.  In the United States, the introduction of slaves led to a belief of an "inferior" race which permeated southern society for many years.  Because of slavery, many southerners could not imagine a society where whites and blacks lived as equals.  It led to major economic differences between the North and South.  It led to many disagreements about the spread of slavery in our country.  It ultimately led to the Civil War between the North and the South. It also led to the passage of Jim Crow laws which segregated the United States for many years. Throughout the Americas, an attitude existed for a long time that it was acceptable to enslave people against their will to serve one group of people. While most of the effects appear to be negative, there are some positive impacts which affect us today. African or African-American culture has enriched the culture of the United States. Art, music, and literature are just some of the positive impacts on our culture. While it has taken a long time, the concept of a diverse country has been growing and becoming accepted. While most of the impacts mentioned above involve the United States, similar impacts (both positive and negative) have been felt throughout the Americas. The introduction of slavery had many effects on the Americas.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There were many important effects of the importation of African slaves.  Among the most important are:

  • It created multi-racial societies in many countries of the Americas.  These contrives would later have to deal with the effects of having ex-slaves and the descendants of those slaves among their citizens.
  • It harmed both slaves and white people.  The system was one in which the slaves were brutalized and the whites were allowed and perhaps even encouraged to be brutal.  This was not good for either group.
  • It harmed the African societies from which the slaves were taken.  Taking that many people, mostly in the prime of life, had a devastating impact on the societies from which they were taken.

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