Atlantic Slave Trade: How Racism Is Inherent To The Slave Trade

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The number of European and American merchants, shipbuilders, and investors directly involved in the transatlantic slave trade over a period of more than 350 years was immense. It is difficult to imagine that a system that one treated human beings as commodities was not only very legal, but was considered to be ethical and a major source of wealth, influence, and respectability for many. A slaving voyage was always a risky financial venture for all eventualities. Despite the risks, slave voyages proved to be greatly profitable for their investors.

Sighting land in America was a relief for the captain and crew but most have brought uncertainty and fear to those who had survived the Middle Passage. Slave traders sold enslaved people in a variety of ways. Arrival in the Americas did not mean the end of an enslaved person’s journey. In Brazil, for example, newly arrived Africans were moved on. From capture in Africa to their final sale in the Americas, enslaved people experienced loss, terror, and abuse that challenged even the strongest willed and most resilient among them.

We as Americans now have basically what we call a good life and we should be thankful for it. Just sit back and imagine how the slaves felt being taken from what they knew and trusted, to something different against their own will. Some would say if we could speak with them today, they would say that they felt targeted because of their skin color at the time. Even in today’s society, some would say they were targeted probably because they were considered stronger than whites and to have a longer life span than whites as a whole. Even a few thought they were even sold but their own families, honestly only a few know what really happened and how racism was inherent with the slave trade.

With that being said, below in this research paper to follow, I will be giving insight and stating facts on how the slave trade and racism were brought about throughout the period that the slave trade was going on.

During the 15th century, the slave trade came about when the Portuguese started to explore the West Coast of Africa. When at first the Portuguese people started to explore Africa, they weren’t really into looking for people to take back to America for hard labor and battle needs. “ In fact, at first the number of enslaved Africans taken was small. In about 1650, however, with the development of plantations on the newly colonized Caribbean islands and American mainland, the trade grew. (Banton,1978 )” With the growing demand for slaves steadily increasing form Europe, that meant that the African suppliers steadily increased their activities to match the rate of growing demand for slaves.

Slaves that were considered to be staying on the coast had to be taken to Europe by a long march of hundreds, even thousands of miles in chains and cuffs. Many died on the way there, but the ones who didn’t, it was their first time seeing the sea and the new lands that they were going to be forced to work in. For all of them, it was the first time they had ever seen a white man in their life. Just the experience alone of them marching hundreds upon thousands of miles to what was going to be considered a new way of life for them, the experience would have been frightening as they had no idea of what was happening to them to come.

The newly enslaved people were needed to help keep basically everything running smoothly under the say-so of their masters. They were used in the cotton fields to pick cotton when it was ready to be harvested, they were used both in and outside the house, for example making dinner, sometimes basically raising the kids of their master, and even doing simple yard work and repairs. The life in the cotton fields was completely different than the one they would have in the battlefields. ‘Around the time the Civil War rolled around, there was about 4 million enslaved Africans that were fighting for their lives and their earned freedom (Martinez )’ Life in the battlefields were a little easier to live but weren’t that much better. They were considered to be like gold to have on their side because of the stuff they could do and they were considered to be just an object of property lost if they were killed in the line of fire.

On arrival, most of the new captives were moved into holding pens, separated from their shipmates, and put up for auction. They then faced the challenge of surviving in a society that had declared each of them to be private property and that was organized to maintain their subservient status. “In the eyes of the law and of most non-African Americans, they had no authority to make decisions about their own lives and could be bought, sold, tortured, rewarded, educated, or killed at a slaveholder’s will ( OMalley, 2014 )” “All the most crucial things in the lives of the enslaved African American-from the dignity of their daily labor to the valor of their resistance, from the comforts of family to the pursuit of art, music, and worship-all had to be accomplished in the face of slave society’s attempt to deny their humanity ( Solomos, 2009 )’ Life for them after they traveled the dangerous seas and walked many miles would only change even more. In the Americas, they would realize that they would start to experience racism in all forms and the consequences to follow if they tried to fight back against the things they were experiencing.

When the slaves started to experience racism, they took it to heart as most people would in today’s society. The reason for that is because they were taken from what they knew and basically tossed into something new to them. So basically they didn’t use to being told what to do, given that they would often act out and become violent. “So because of that, they would receive harsh punishments such as whipping, beating, burning, and things of a much worse nature ( Banton,1978 )” To them they felt like they were being targeted because you didn’t see any white people in the fields working long hours day and night nor being treated the way they did. In many eyes today it would seem like a form of racism just because of what’s visible from the necked eye.

“The roots of European racism lie in the slave trade (Martinez)” Racism in this time frame came out as a way to make the slaves feel lower than dirt. For any and everything they did wrong, they would know about it as so as possible. Whether they are called a named we all know today or just simply by them being punished. You knew and could tell that just by the looks of the slaves that they were mentally hurt and abused. Even after the Transatlantic Slave Trade has come and gone, racism is still very much alive and well. From each generation through the centuries, the people that are constantly being born, feel like they are being born and raised straight into racism. For example, George Washington was born into a slaveholding family and even after the fact that he became president, he became a slaveholder himself with more than 300 slaves. If he was still alive today, he would probably state that he owned slaves because his family did just so he could care out the families legacy. Even though that’s wrong.

“Once Abraham Lincoln became president, he wrote a document called the Emancipation Proclamation (OMalley,2014 )”. This document was written to say that he would use his war powers to free all slaves in states still in rebellion as they came under Union control. Lincoln might have not given the freed slaves as many rights as the white men had, but he gave them the right to improve their condition in society and to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Lincoln thought colonization could resolve the issues of slavery. Even after the fact, the document was released and everyone knew about, the now somewhat freed slaves still faced a probably in the road that lied ahead. “They were still being treated as slaves and were disrespected, even though they had some rights (Solomos, 2009 )”. Not only do African Americans experience some form of racism but other people that are not of the white domination do as well. By the end of the slave trade and the end of the era, African Americans weren’t the only ones considered to be slaves. Latinos, Mexicans, Germans, and many more.

When President Lincoln gave slaves some rights through the Emancipation, the racism didn’t stop there. “In his will, he freed his slaves; that meant they could do as they please (OMalley 2014)”. But that didn’t stop the racism from pouring in on them. I would argue and say that racism started with the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and the fact is that it probably will never end as long as the world is spinning. In reality, it should have ended when President Lincoln gave the slaves their rights just as any other human being.

In conclusion, slaves were originally brought over from their homes to do the necessary work needed for people to survive during this time frame. They were being used to make a better life for the settlers of the new land. Basically taking a load off of their shoulders so they could focus on events to come in the New World. Without the slaves, the life for the settlers would be so different. In all honesty, the Africans were being targeted because of their ability to get the job done. Racism during the Slave Trade was a big problem for the slaves come and it even has continued to this day. Even though, Lincoln gave some slaves some rights and freed his in his will. All we can do as Americans to put an end to racism is learn to accept one another and treat everyone equal.

Works Cited

  1. Banton, Michael. The Idea of Race. Westview Press, 1978.
  2. Martinez, Jenny S. The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law. Oxford
  3. O’Malley, Gregory E. Final Passages: the Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619-
  4. 1807. University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
  5. Solomon, John, and Les Back. Theories of Race and Racism: a Reader. Routledge, 2009.

Cite this paper

Atlantic Slave Trade: How Racism Is Inherent To The Slave Trade. (2021, Aug 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/atlantic-slave-trade-how-racism-is-inherent-to-the-slave-trade/

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