Enforced servitude in a society which acknowledges property rights over human beings. Forced labor. A violation of basic human rights, condemned by the United Nations.

In ancient times slaves were taken in war. It happened a lot to the Slavic peoples in the Dark Ages. Arguably the worst excess to date occured during the Slave Trade when African people were exported to the U.S.. This practice ended in 1807, but slavery itself did not end in the U.S. until the end of the American Civil War.

Speaking in Springfield, Illinois in October 1854, Abraham Lincoln said1 "... my ancient faith teaches me that 'all men are created equal' and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man's making a slave of another." and that "Slavery is founded on the selfishness of man's nature--opposition to it on his love of justice." On the strength of this argument Lincoln would ascend to the presidency without garnering a single Southern electoral college vote, and thus the stage for Southern secession and the American Civil War was set.

  1. Reported in Shelby Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative, Vol. 1, pg. 27
This is an essay I wrote for my AP History class.

The abolitionists believed that the institution of slavery was a sin. Their strong feelings compelled them to take action through public speaking, the press, and violence. After failed attempts in the South, abolitionism rooted itself in the North, and struggles with peaceful battles made the reformers revert to militancy.

The common moral principle that abolitionists all agreed on was that slavery was a sin, and that it couldn’t continue in the United States any longer. This sin required repentance, and the South needed to acknowledge the unalienable rights of all of its citizens. Abolitionists all believed that this goal should be achieved as soon as possible, yet they knew it couldn’t be don’t at once. Such a quick change itself would be immoral because of the importance of stability. The journey towards abolishing slavery should start soon, but move gradually.

The activities of abolitionists were numerous. William Lloyd Garrison started the Liberator, a weekly newspaper dedicated to the abolition of Southern slavery, in 1831. A year later, he organized the New England Anti-Slavery Society, and later helped to create the organization on a national level. In 1839, Theodore Dwight Weld published “Slavery as It Is,” which was a compilation of Southern newspapers and court records. White people were not the only abolitionists, however. Prominent agents and orators such as Samuel Ringgold Ward, Lunsford Lane, Sojourner Truth, Charles Lenox Remond, and Frederick Douglass all contributed to the cause, too. David Walker, a free black American from North Carolina, wrote “Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World”, which was an angry justification of violence. Henry H. Garnet likewise encouraged violence in a black convention in Buffalo. Others, such as Harriet Tubman, helped large amounts of blacks escape to the North.

The shift from South to North in the campaigning can be attributed to the stubbornness and the hatred the Southerners showed toward the presented cause. The manumission establishments were unsuccessful, and people in the North were more willing to listen to what these people had to say. Another change also took place during the campaigning. Things went from pacifist to military. This was because moral suasion wasn’t achieving its original goal. To eliminate the discrimination and prejudice in the South, more would have to be done than talk. Though the pacifists started the fight, it was the more aggressive that carried it out.

The abolitionists all shared the common principle that slavery was a sin, and that unalienable rights should be acknowledged for all living in the South. Numerous activities took place, involving opinionated writing, public speaking, and even violence. Throughout the campaigning, abolitionists moved to the North because of Southern lack of interest in their cause. Pacifism also changed to militancy when the point could be made no other way.

Historical review of chain gangs.

Slavery in the colonies was the first large scale capitalist venture, and the most successful up to that point. The newly freed slaves were as easily exploited by southerners as the native people were by the early settlers. Free but uncertain, fearful of venturing out beyond the plantations of their births, they were easy targets for further exploitation. The plantation owners held out promises of better treatment, improved working conditions, and future pay as enticements for the freed Negroes to stay on and continue working.

Cheap sources of labor were sorely needed to keep things running smoothly for the profiteers. Slavery took on another form; hence, we had its other version, the "chain gang". The majority of prisoners in the south who were sentenced to spend time on its chain gangs were blacks. The symbolic connection between the chain and slavery results thus obvious. The particular stigma attached to the chain gang itself denoted that not only was a man guilty of some offense, but that he was deserving of his bondage and punishment, i.e., "hard labor".

Herein, we can see the connection between penology, Black people, and labor exploitation. Across the south, those who benefited most from this updated form of forced labor were the states and local plantation owners. Forests were cleared, roads were built, levees were constructed, fields were plowed and cotton was picked by those early chain gangs. Many times these gangs were leased-out to work for farmers in nearby communities. The chain gang became an extension of slavery.

"There are too many colors under the sun." (Francesco Sinatra).

I wrote this for history.

Slavery and its Downfall in America

The United States, particularly the southern states, employed the institution of slavery for nearly 300 years. This practice of capturing, holding and trading of people for the purposes of involuntary labour was initiated by the growing American cotton and tobacco industries in 1616. British slavers sailed to Africa to procure slaves and sold them in America for goodly sums of money. With this profit, they brought back cotton and tobacco to sell in England for an even greater profit. This circuit, in many ways an economic microcosm boosted both America's industry and Britain's finances. However, in the late 1800's slavery was abolished as a direct result of the concluded Civil War, started to prevent the states from seceding from a United States ruled by an Abolitionist.

When America was a newly established colony of England it was an exploited land with tobacco and cotton growing freely. The Americans could make a great deal of money from trading these much sought after products. With this new untapped land the Americans needed cheap and plentiful labour. In the 16th and 17th centuries, slaves were used to harvest sugar in Brazil and the Caribbean so the view of the inferiority and sub-humanity of black Africans was already widespread, so slavery could be used to support this labour shortage. England realised that the amount of money that would flowing into England would be astronomical and would justify the colonisation of America financially.

And so, with the formation of the Royal African Society in 1663, businessmen in England hired the men necessary to capture, transport and trade the Africans that would now become their income. Additionally, the slave ships could not only capture the slaves and sell them in America, but also purchase the wares that the slave industries produced and sell them back in England. The ships became the means of a circuit of commerce, the end result being riches of the businessmen, the traders, the plantation owners and the government of England. Even after independence in 1776, the Southern States still supported slavery because they had become reliant on the free labour it provided their industries.

Slavery was not an ethically sound trade, however most people turned a blind eye towards the moral degradation that was inherent in the system. The people who did not were called the Abolitionists. Both black and white Americans joined this movement in their fight to free the slaves and rid America from forced labour. The Abolitionists cited many reasons why slavery should not exist in a civilised society, from religious to moral grounds, and presented their views in diverse forms, from William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator newspaper to John Brown's fanatical attempt to distribute weapons to the slaves.

The force of industrialisation swept America and irrevocably changed the North, making slavery a non-necessity. Once the North was converted and slavery was no-longer needed they recognised the terrible and nationally damaging consequences of slavery. The Southerners were becoming more and more reliant upon slavery, ignoring the rush for industrialisation, and began losing and forgetting skills now performed by Africans. The almost universal cruelty to the slaves also made America as a society more tolerant towards cruelty among others and blind to the punishment they forced their slaves through.

This conflict of ideals came to a head when America elected Abraham Lincoln in 1860, an active abolitionist. The Southern states feared that this would mean the end of the Southern way of life, and a month later, North Carolina and ten other states announced they would secede from the USA and form a new nation called the Confederate States of America. Lincoln could not allow this to happen, so the Civil War began.

After one of the bloodiest wars in history, the slaves were declared free by Lincoln in 1863, who was shot six days after. Slavery could not exist in an industrial society, and a divided nation could not function.

The practice of Slavery comprised of the capture, holding and trading of people, in the USA's case Africans, for the purposes of forced labour. It was implemented in the USA, through slave ships, to support growing primary industries in the southern states. As the North industrialised, slavery became more and more unfeasible there which resulted in a schism of ideals and morals between the Southern and Northern states, resulting in the Civil War. At the conclusion of this conflict, President Abraham Lincoln declared slavery illegal, but its effects of racial hatred and discrimination are still visible in the United States of America today.

Slavery, eh? Allow me to say this about that.

Nowadays the first thing that pops into your head when you think of "slavery" is, of course, slavery in America and the American Civil War. But slavery still exists all around us - indentured labour, usually migrants exploited by criminals, exists in most western societies and a lot of prostitution amounts to sex slavery. In many cases the individuals concerned have tragically sold themselves into slavery, thinking they were just getting passage to another country. Then when they get there the people traffickers demand years of service in return. And slavery still very much exists in Africa, particularly in Sudan, where the natural resources to be extracted exceeds the free labour power available. It might make you feel uneasy to realize that slavery is involved in some of the products we all enjoy from Africa.

The origin of slavery lies essentially in superior physical strength of individuals or groups over others, and the outcome of conflict. Many ancient societies had archaic laws about slavery, and in some you could only imprison foreigners who were defeated in battle.

The origin of this practice in Ancient Greece and the ideas behind it were not racial, as we tend to think of slavery as being. Instead, this sort of slavery was based on a disdain of the qualities of a particular individual. Slavery has its origin in the fact that some people can overpower others and force them to do their will, but clearly an individual in this situation faces a choice between slavery and death; the putative slave could fight the more powerful individual and die, thus robbing him of his prize because no-one can command dead men (this is the genius and special dignity behind passive resistance).

Any man who submitted to slavery rather than die was considered to be little better than an animal because he was allowing his brute desire to survive to win out over his human dignity, which wants to be free. In fact, it was believed that it was because he was himself a slave to this base side of himself that he had allowed himself to become the slave of another man rather than dying like a noble person would have done. And the tasks to which slaves were set hence also had the lowest dignity - they were to provide for all the basic menial tasks that higher, more dignified men would not deign to do themselves, such as the unending process of food preparation and cleaning which consumes so much energy but leaves no lasting human monument. With all these slaves to take care of that, the Ancient Greeks could devote themselves to politics, the arts and philosophy; and not without them.

Nowadays the process of providing for comfortable human life has actually become the central goal of our politics rather than something that goes on behind closed doors in kitchens and laundry rooms because it is too undignified to be done in the open. This used to be the province of slaves but is now the province of vast government departments dedicated to maximizing economic growth and making everyone as comfortable as possible - without the need for slavery, except over the microchips and clockwork which run the labour-saving devices that make all this possible. So this kind of slavery and the idea that anyone concerned just with the mere process of staying alive is a "slave" because they can't engage in some form of activity considered higher is quite alien to us.

Easier to understand is slavery as it exists in Africa and has existed in Africa for the entirety of recorded history. In Africa, land tends to be poor but is abundant; hence it was much more fruitful to control people than land, because you can never possibly use all the land available. Hence, slavery in Africa was a way of getting more crucial labour to allow for the extraction of natural resources and food from the land. Slavery also addressed the fact that people had the tendency to wander away from African statelets rather than submit to their control and taxation because there was just so much land to run away into. A similar situation obtained once in South East Asia, where some rulers used to actually go to the length of sticking a tattoo on people to mark them as citizens and make it more difficult for them to escape.

African tribes would raid one another and the peoples who lived around their areas of settlement and bring them back to increase their own productivity - and women to impregnate to increase their numbers. And if you can guess why the slave trade developed as an outcome of this tendency before the end of this sentence, you get ten points.

No? Okay, well it goes like this. If an African tribe raided its neighbour and brought some slaves back, then these slaves could just leg it back to their home at the earliest opportunity - they know the way and it is not far to go. But if the raiders sell the slaves to a distant tribe - probably in exchange for other slaves - then the slaves wouldn't have a clue where they were, and wouldn't be able to get back. Hence, they'd find it much harder to run away and would be stuck as slaves to the tribe that purchased them. And that's why there was such a vibrant slave trade - as opposed to just a custom of raiding - in Africa before the Europeans arrived and made things even worse.

Slav"er*y (?), n.; pl. Slaveries (#). [See 2d Slave.]


The condition of a slave; the state of entire subjection of one person to the will of another.

Disguise thyself as thou wilt, still, slavery, said I, still thou art a bitter draught! Sterne.

I wish, from my soul, that the legislature of this state [Virginia] could see the policy of a gradual abolition of slavery. It might prevent much future mischief. Washington.


A condition of subjection or submission characterized by lack of freedom of action or of will.

The vulgar slaveries rich men submit to. C. Lever.

There is a slavery that no legislation can abolish, -- the slavery of caste. G. W. Cable.


The holding of slaves.

Syn. -- Bondage; servitude; inthrallment; enslavement; captivity; bond service; vassalage.


© Webster 1913.

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