Seventeenth Century American Slavery

Seventeenth Century Slavery in America

Rebekah L. Pongrac

History 1301 Professor Rob Risko August 10, 2012

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Seventeenth Century Slavery in America The idea of slavery was not unique to the colonists of seventeenth century America. “Slavery has existed for nearly the entire span of human history” (Foner 102). The intent of the colonists was not to rely on slaves for the majority of the work to be accomplished in the new world. According to history, a lack of workers necessitated the importation of a new labor force. The transatlantic slave trade was the most accessible labor force for the colonists, but was not the only form of slavery used in the new world. “By taking the views of contemporaries seriously, and through a brief foray into the global history and sociology of slavery, we can recast mid-seventeenth-century ‘indentured servitude’ in the English Atlantic as a form of slavery that existed alongside the perpetual enslavement of Native Americans and people of African heritage” (Donoghue 945). When the Pilgrims first came to the new world, they called America the land of opportunity. For the slaves of the early seventeenth century America was the land of their captivity. To them, America symbolized hard work, harsh treatment, illness, and in many cases, death. A number of the deaths occurred on the voyage to the new world thanks in part to cramped spaces, poor hygiene and a lack of proper diet. The slaves who were already ill were put into tight quarters with those who were healthy and this led to a transfer of numerous diseases such as small pox, scurvy, and the flux. During the seventeenth century, the journey from Africa to America took close to two months to complete. Seventeenth century conditions in America were harsh at best for everyone, but they were especially cruel for slaves and servants. Imagine having no control

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over where one was to live, what one was to eat or how much one was to have to eat. For some the...