Race has certainly become a hot-button issue once again. Along with stereotypes and common prejudices, there are many ways by which people of various races and creeds can be misunderstood and misconstrued. It is important to learn the facts about a background in order to better understand a people; however, history–like individuals–can often be severely misinterpreted. And this is why I bring you: Shit you didn’t know about the Slavery!
Let’s start at the very beginning…
1. Slavery is not reserved for blacks, nor was African American slavery anywhere near “the worst in history.” The origin of the word “slave” comes from “Slav,” as in, the Slavic people. The Vikings would kidnap Slavs and sell them as unpaid laborers to the Romans. The term “slave” only dates back to about 580 AD. Before which, the Latin word “servus” was used for servants or slaves. Slavs, who were essentially white people, were the primary source of slavery during the Middle Ages.
And for about 500 years, when the Moors ruled Spain, they would send white Christians to Egypt for slavery.
2. Is American Slavery solely the responsibility of white people and should they be held completely accountable? Actually, no. Slavery was officially established in America in 1654 by Anthony Johnson. What’s so special about Anthony Johnson? Well, he was a black paid servant in America who saved enough money to buy our his contract (along with his wife’s). And what was their logical next step? Own a slave, of course!
Johnson fought in Virginia court for his right to own a slave on his property and won! Thus, becoming the first legal slave owner in America. Johnson’s actions came back around to bite him in the ass when his land was taken away and given to a white man because “Negroes” were considered “aliens” and couldn’t own property.
At the peak of slavery’s popularity, only about 6% of Southern whites owned slaves. If you include the slaves in the North, only about 1.4% of white Americans ever owned slaves.
But what about freed blacks? In 1860, an estimated 3,000 freed slaves owned about 20,000 black slaves. This means that 28% of blacks coming from slavery owned slaves themselves.
3. A little bit about the Civil War: How many times have we been told that the Civil War was fought for the abolishment of slavery? Confederate General Robert E. Lee had released all of his slaves prior to the Civil War, and 5 years before the war started, he famously wrote that “slavery is a moral and political evil.” Union General Ulysses Grant, on the other hand, had famously stated that he would never fight to end slavery.
Grant, in fact, owned slaves throughout the war and continued to own slaves after the war. Due to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, slaves were outlawed in the South, but still legal in the North.
4. The horrors of the Cotton Gin. Although farm work, such as picking cotton, is relatively safe when compared to jobs such as lumberjack, commercial fisherman, and miner, it was still obviously unpleasant. In the late 18th century, slavery was starting to gradually die out. Slave owners began to free their slaves due to a decrease in manual farm labor.
Just then, in 1793, some fuckface named Eli Whitney came along with this cotton pickin’ machine called the Gin. Suddenly, cotton became a huge cash crop due to Whitney’s unknowing enabling. Suddenly, slavery sparked up again–cementing its place in history forever.
5. Slaves–Where are they now? Well, an estimated 50,000 humans are brought into this country every year in some form of forced labor or slavery. There is really no way to know how many slaves still exist worldwide. Experts estimate it could be anywhere from 27 million to 200 million, mostly in South America, South Asia, and Africa (these numbers don’t include those who are in some form of servitude that isn’t technically labeled as “slavery”).
This massive population of slaves–more than any other time in history–are cheaper and offer more extensive labor than ever before. Servants and sex slaves are sold anywhere from $90-$1000.
To put that in perspective, adjusting for inflation, an African slave in America would have cost about $40,000 in today’s dollars. Most surprising is that according to a study at Berkeley University, there are an estimated 10,000 slaves that still exist in the United States.
Slavery is a big part of our history. It’s an important part; and indeed it’s something to remember when you go throwing around nonsense about something being “like slavery” or “animals being the slaves of the 21st century.” If this sounds like you, you’re either batshit insane or pig-fucking-ignorant.
Slavery remains one of the largest and most significant human rights issues in the world…so let’s think about humans before we start to worry about how chicken feel about being in a cage.
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