Growing Up in Slavery: Stories of Young Slaves as Told by Themselves

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It was endorsed by the European nation-states and based on race, and it resulted in the largest forced migration in the world: Some The sale of their bodies and the product of their labor brought the Atlantic world into being, including colonial North America. In the colonies, status began to be defined by race and class, and whether by custom, case law or statute, freedom was limited to maintain the enterprise of slavery and ensure power. At the time, the Portuguese were trying to colonize Ndongo and nearby territory in part to acquire more people for its slave trade, and after two years as ruler, Njinga was forced to flee in the face of Portuguese attack.

Eventually, however, she conquered a nearby kingdom called Matamba. Njinga continued to fight fiercely against Portuguese forces in the region for many years, and she later provided shelter for runaway slaves. In , a statue of Njinga was unveiled in Luanda, the capital of Angola, where she is held up as an emblem of resistance and courage. Children made up about 26 percent of the captives. Africans were crammed into ships with no knowledge of where they were going or if they would be released.

This forced migration is known as the Middle Passage. I now wished for the last friend, death, to relieve me. Suicide attempts were so common that many captains placed netting around their ships to prevent loss of human cargo and therefore profit; working-class white crew members, too, committed suicide or ran away at port to escape the brutality. Enslaved people did not meekly accept their fate. Approximately one out of 10 slave ships experienced resistance, ranging from individual defiance like refusing to eat or jumping overboard to full-blown mutiny.

The slave trade provided political power, social standing and wealth for the church, European nation-states, New World colonies and individuals. This portrait by John Greenwood connects slavery and privilege through the image of a group of Rhode Island sea captains and merchants drinking at a tavern in the Dutch colony of Surinam, a hub of trade. These men made money by trading the commodities produced by slavery globally — among the North American colonies, the Caribbean and South America — allowing them to secure political positions and determine the fate of the nation.

The men depicted here include the future governors Nicholas Cooke and Joseph Wanton; Esek Hopkins, a future commander in chief of the Continental Navy; and Stephen Hopkins, who would eventually become one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. All children borne in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother. The use of enslaved laborers was affirmed — and its continual growth was promoted — through the creation of a Virginia law in that decreed that the status of the child followed the status of the mother, which meant that enslaved women gave birth to generations of children of African descent who were now seen as commodities.

This natural increase allowed the colonies — and then the United States — to become a slave nation. The law also secured wealth for European colonists and generations of their descendants, even as free black people could be legally prohibited from bequeathing their wealth to their children. At the same time, racial and class hierarchies were being coded into law: In the s, John Punch, a black servant, escaped bondage with two white indentured servants.

Once caught, his companions received additional years of servitude, while Punch was determined enslaved for life. Black people in America were being enslaved for life, while the protections of whiteness were formalized. Before cotton dominated American agriculture, sugar drove the slave trade throughout the Caribbean and Spanish Americas. Sugar cane was a brutal crop that required constant work six days a week, and it maimed, burned and killed those involved in its cultivation. The life span of an enslaved person on a sugar plantation could be as little as seven years.

'Self-censorship' of children's book depicting smiling slave condemned

Enslaved Africans had known freedom before they arrived in America, and they fought to regain it from the moment they were taken from their homes, rebelling on plantation sites and in urban centers. In September , a group of enslaved Africans in the South Carolina colony, led by an enslaved man called Jemmy, gathered outside Charleston, where they killed two storekeepers and seized weapons and ammunition.

Their goal was Spanish Florida, where they were promised freedom if they fought as the first line of defense against British attack. This effort, called the Stono Rebellion, was the largest slave uprising in the mainland British colonies. Between 60 and black people participated in the rebellion; about 40 black people and 20 white people were killed, and other freedom fighters were captured and questioned.

White lawmakers in South Carolina, afraid of additional rebellions, put a year moratorium on the importation of enslaved Africans and passed the Negro Act of , which criminalized assembly, education and moving abroad among the enslaved. The Stono Rebellion was only one of many rebellions that occurred over the years of slavery in the United States. Enslaved black people came from regions and ethnic groups throughout Africa. Though they came empty-handed, they carried with them memories of loved ones and communities, moral values, intellectual insight, artistic talents and cultural practices, religious beliefs and skills.

In their new environment, they relied on these memories to create new practices infused with old ones.

13 Honest Books About Slavery Young People Should Actually Read

In the Low Country region of the Carolinas and Georgia, planters specifically requested skilled enslaved people from a region stretching from Senegal to Liberia, who were familiar with the conditions ideal for growing rice. Charleston quickly became the busiest port for people shipped from West Africa. The coiled or woven baskets used to separate rice grains from husks during harvest were a form of artistry and technology brought from Africa to the colonies.

Although the baskets were utilitarian, they also served as a source of artistic pride and a way to stay connected to the culture and memory of the homeland. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. But the words point to the paradox the nation was built on: Even as the colonists fought for freedom from the British, they maintained slavery and avoided the issue in the Constitution.

Enslaved people, however, seized any opportunity to secure their freedom. Some fought for it through military service in the Revolutionary War, whether serving for the British or the patriots. Others benefited from gradual emancipation enacted in states like Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. In New York, for example, children born after July 4, , were legally free when they turned 25, if they were women, or 28, if they were men — the law was meant to compensate slaveholders by keeping people enslaved during some of their most productive years.

SparkNotes: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Themes

We want to hear your story. Yet the demand for a growing enslaved population to cultivate cotton in the Deep South was unyielding.

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In addition, the international trade continued illegally. The economic and political power grab reinforced the brutal system of slavery. After the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson and other politicians — both slaveholding and not — wrote the documents that defined the new nation.

In the initial draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson condemned King George III of Britain for engaging in the slave trade and ignoring pleas to end it, and for calling upon the enslaved to rise up and fight on behalf of the British against the colonists. Jefferson was a lifelong enslaver. He inherited enslaved black people; he fathered enslaved black children; and he relied on enslaved black people for his livelihood and comfort.

He openly speculated that black people were inferior to white people and continually advocated for their removal from the country. In the wake of the Revolutionary War, African-Americans took their cause to statehouses and courthouses, where they vigorously fought for their freedom and the abolition of slavery.

Frederick Douglass Biography

The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. Hartford, CT, Park Publishing, My Bondage and My Freedom. New York: Miller, Orton and Mulligan, Reprint, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Boston: Anti-slavery Office, McFeeley, William S. Frederick Douglass.

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New York: Norton, Russell, Sharman. New York: Chelsea House, Toggle navigation. Growing up without freedom Frederick Douglass was born in February on the eastern shore of Maryland. Escape from slavery After the death of Captain Anthony, Douglass became the property of Anthony's son-in-law. Civil War and Reconstruction With the beginning of the Civil War — , a war between Northern and Southern states in which the main issues were slavery and the Southern states' decision to leave the Union and form an independent nation, Douglass insisted that African Americans should be allowed to fight.

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User Contributions: 1. Frederick was an American slave in Frederick published many newspapers. Frederick became a leader of a movement. Frederick bought a two story home in Rochester, New York. A friend of his from England arrived to help him with his financial problems. Frederick was a brilliant speaker. He fought for the adoption of Constitutional Amendments.

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Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: Name:. E-mail: Show my email publicly. Type the code shown:. Public Comment: characters. Send comment. Other articles you might like:. Follow City-Data. Douglass sees that Auld has unwittingly revealed the strategy by which whites manage to keep blacks as slaves and by which blacks might free themselves. Doug-lass presents his own self-education as the primary means by which he is able to free himself, and as his greatest tool to work for the freedom of all slaves.

Though Douglass himself gains his freedom in part by virtue of his self-education, he does not oversimplify this connection. Douglass has no illusions that knowledge automatically renders slaves free. Knowledge helps slaves to articulate the injustice of slavery to themselves and others, and helps them to recognize themselves as men rather than slaves.

Rather than provide immediate freedom, this awakened consciousness brings suffering, as Hugh Auld predicts. Once slaves are able to articulate the injustice of slavery, they come to loathe their masters, but still cannot physically escape without meeting great danger.