Slavery and Servitude in the Colonies

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Why were slaves brought to the colonies?

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Slaves were brought to the colonies in order to solve a labor shortage problem on the major plantations. Sugar, tobacco, and cotton are very labor-intensive crops. Indentured servants would often die of malaria or yellow fever before their period of indenture ended. Those that survived were freed to pursue their...

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own interests, thus leaving a void in the workforce. The early colonists tried using Native Americans, but the Native Americans often escaped back to their own people or contracted European diseases and died. They were also unfamiliar with European farming practices. Those desiring slaves in the American colonies and the Caribbean then turned to African slaves. The first of these were bought from Dutch merchants. African slaves were familiar with European-style agriculture. They also had some immunity to tropical diseases. They could be kept as slaves until they died, and their children could also be used in the plantation labor force. Slavery allowed the major plantations of the South and the Caribbean to thrive, much to the detriment of the United States's future political stability.

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Why were Africans brought to the US as slaves?

This question can be approached from a long-term perspective, which would have to take into consideration the African context at the time of European arrival, the role of the Portuguese, the demand for labor in the New World, the growth and development of the transatlantic slave trade, the arrival of Africans in Virginia, slavery legislation in the English colonies, and so forth. There is abundant historical literature to probe the origins of race-based slavery in the United States.

In the proximate sense, the bringing of Africans to the United States as slaves was the continuation of the same practice in the English colonies. In other words, one might ask why the United States continued to bring Africans to America as slaves after the American Revolution. Why did the Constitution not eradicate slavery? The short answer is that slavery was convenient and profitable, but it was not quite that simple. One can begin probing the issue more deeply by going to the first link below. One could also look at the eventual prohibition of the slave trade through a series of legislative acts in the early 1800s. The second link below provides a helpful summary and a short bibliography at the end.

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