The history of African slavery goes far in the past. It has faced many changes related to the diverse political, economic, and religious factors that influenced the character of slave-master relations and the general tendency of enslavement. The emergence of the European slave trade influenced the history of Africans and imposed some state acts declared in America, which limited the rights and freedom of slaves.
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Difference between African and European Slavery
Slavery as an institution existed in Africa before the European colonial period and the inception of the slave trade. There were several different types of slavery in African states, the common feature of which was their fundamental importance for the economic status of societies (Stilwell, 2014). People were enslaved as the result of debts which they were supposed to return through their labor. However, all of the slaves in Africa had basic human rights and relative freedom, the degree of which “related to slave status” (Stilwell, 2014, p. 7). The situation was completely different in the European methods of enslavement.
The European colonists in America treated slaves as property, not giving them any rights or freedoms. Violent methods were utilized to bring slaves to the colonies “without indentures or covenants to testify their agreements” (“Slavery and the Making of America: The slave experience,” 2004, para. 2). Also, slavery was not economically obligatory for the USA but merely served as an emphasis on a master’s social status.
Change of Slaves’ Service Length between 1642 and 1705
Several Acts of the Virginia Commonwealth imposed a significant change in the status of slaves in the colonies. People of color were treated equally with white servants and had the same rights declared by law, which was started in the 1642 Act. However, the later acts differentiated between white servants and black slaves defined the latter as a property of masters and deprived them of any human rights or opportunities ever to be free (“Slavery and the Making of America: The slave experience,” 2004). Thus, in less than one hundred years period, from 1642 till 1705, African slaves lost their human status and became real estate.
Status of Slaves’ Children
In a lot of cases when European men became fathers to slave female’s children, the issue of the status of such children needed to be addressed by law. A 1662 Act declared the status of children born in the country as the same as the status of their mothers. There was no connection to a child’s father established. Therefore, if a child’s mother was bound in slavery, a child inherited the same status and became a slave too.
Slaves as Property
One of the most inhumane acts concerning slavery was the one declared in 1705 that stated that “all negro, mulatto, and Indian slaves … shall be held, taken, and adjudged, to be real estate” (“Slavery and the Making of America: The slave experience,” 2004, para. 7). From that perspective, enslaved people could be sold, taken for masters’ debts, or treated like any other physical property. This approach was applied even in the case when a master died. The children of a dead person would inherit the value of each of the remaining slaves.
In conclusion, during its history, slavery changed from an economically justified method in Africa to a means of international trade and to a property of colony planters in America. The destinies of thousands of people were ruled by the Acts of Virginia Commonwealth, which denied any rights or freedoms of people of color on the colonial territories. Slaves and their children had to remain bound to independence on their masters without an opportunity to be free.
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Slavery and the Making of America: The slave experience. (2004). Web.
Stilwell, S. (2014). Slavery and slavery in African history. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.