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Slavery’s Impact on Contemporary Society


The history of slavery continues to have a significant influence on contemporary society in diverse ways. According to Crane (2013), societies are not blends of distinct people fashioning themselves anew from various generations. Rather, “a complex web of social connections and a long train of historical influences interact to form the opportunities and shape the outlook of individuals” (Crane, 2013, p. 51).

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It does not imply that personal commitment does not contribute to shaping one’s life. Nonetheless, cultural affinities, historical backgrounds, and communal influence play a significant role in one’s life. It underscores the reason the conservatives are adamant that cultural divergences are the primary causes of racial inequality in the United States. A study of America’s “underclass culture” reveals the repercussions of the history of slavery. The study reveals that the history of slavery influences the politics of the United States, the identity of African-Americans as well as the education system.

Impacts of History of Slavery on Contemporary Politics

Nunn (2007) posits, “The theory of historical persistence of political attitudes maintains that regional differences in contemporary white attitudes in part trace their origins to the late slave period and the duration after its collapse” (p. 161). The history shows that the fall of slavery was an unfortunate incident that had negative impacts on the economic and political clout of the Southern whites. It resulted in a sudden liberation and enfranchisement of the blacks.

Further, it ended the political control that the whites had enjoyed for a long time. Also, it posed a significant threat to the Southern plantation economy. The economic and political transformations that arose as a result of the fall of slavery served as a scapegoat for Southern Black Belt leaders to peddle anti-black sentiments. The leaders called for the whites to revolt against blacks.

Nunn (2007) maintains that the history of slavery influences contemporary politics in the South. The present political attitudes, which are prevalent in the U.S. South, are a product of the history of slavery. It continues to influence the political stance that white Southerners embrace. Nunn (2007) argues that a majority of the whites who reside in the Cotton Belt have negative opinions towards blacks.

They believe that the fall of slavery is what robbed them the political and economic powers. Presently, many residents of the Cotton Belt associate themselves with the Republican Party. Further, they are opposed to all policies that support the abolishment of racial discrimination like affirmative action. The “slavery effect” contributes to over 10% of the political party inclination in the United States today. Levine (2012) maintains, “In political circles, the South’s opinionated conservatism is often credited to ‘Southern exceptionalism’” (p. 52). Nevertheless, research shows that contemporary political divergences are as a result of the historical existence of slaves. Slavery continues to influence the political views of the Americans long after its abolishment.

History of Slavery and Modern Education System

According to Reece and O’Connell (2016), the legacy of slavery has a significant impact on the contemporary education system in the United States. The history of slavery influences school enrollment, particularly in the South. There is a strong correlation between regions that had high slave concentration and school enrollment. Racial isolation characterizes the American education system. In the South, racial segregation is prevalent in private schools.

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Reece and O’Connell (2016) claim that historical circumstances like slavery contribute to the contemporary degree of racial isolation in schools in the South. After the abolishment of slavery, the blacks embarked on a reconstruction program that entailed enrolling for education. Nevertheless, the whites were determined to ensure that the blacks did not get a quality education. They opposed the establishment of the universal education system. Later, Brown vs. the Board of Education case allowed the blacks to enroll in public schools that initially registered the white students only. Eventually, the whites started to renounce public schools and construct private learning institutions.

Reece and O’Connell (2016) claim, “The history of slavery suggests that there is a link between whites’ understanding of the contemporary education system and enrollment patterns” (p. 49). In spite of the effort made to improve the education standard in public schools, many whites prefer to enroll their children in private schools. Besides, numerous private schools are concentrated in areas that were renowned for slavery. Today, many whites view enrollment into private schools as an avenue to avoid integrated public schools. They used the same strategy during slavery. Crane (2013) holds that whites use education as the modern form of racial segregation.

Today, it is hard for whites to force minority groups to work for them. Nevertheless, they can use other methods to ensure that minority groups continue to serve as a primary source of labor. The standard of education in public and private schools differs. Private schools offer a quality education. Therefore, students who enroll in private schools are likely to secure better jobs. It leaves the students from minority groups who enroll in public schools with no option but to work for their white counterparts.

Legacy of Slavery and Contemporary Black Identity

Harper, Patton, and Wooden (2009) claim that the United States guarantees sovereignty and impartiality to all races. Nonetheless, the past few years have seen resurface of concerns of social rights. Currently, the damaging relationship between police and African-American teenagers is a significant public discussion. Harper et al. (2009) hold, “Although there has been robust discussion regarding police-minority relations, a more comprehensive discourse of institutional racism in the media and the black identity it contrives has seldom been heard” (p. 392).

Experts in black identity blame the history of slavery for the challenges that the African-American teenagers face in the effort to forge an identity. Many black teens prefer to associate themselves with renowned athletes such as Michael Jordan, the late Muhammad Ali, and Jim Brown. Success in athletics serves as a status symbol among the blacks. Levine (2012) claims that the value attributed to athletic proficiency these days is premised on the demand for physical abilities that made slaves invaluable.

The whites believed that slaves who looked healthy served as an attractive labor force. The association of physical strength with adeptness during slavery is what has resulted in many black youths struggling to keep healthy. According to Levine (2012), slavery brought about the need for African-Americans to appear physically robust. The demand to appear healthy has developed into a custom and a source of pleasure amid the black youths. Indeed, most African-American teens prefer athletic careers to education.

Legacy of Slavery and Mental health

Evans-Campbell (2008) alleges that the history of slavery has devastating impacts on the mental well-being of the minority groups, particularly the African-Americans. Many African-Americans still struggle with the repercussions of white supremacy. Unfortunately, the government of the United States does not have modalities to address the adverse effects of the history of slavery (Evans-Campbell, 2008).

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Today, many African-Americans grapple with stifle emotions related to slavery. The study shows that cases of suicide are common among the African-Americans. Psychiatrists associate the high rate of suicide with the aftermath of slavery. Historians claim that African-Americans are descendants of slaves. The fact that blacks are offspring of slaves is degrading and impairs the self-esteem of African-Americans. Evans-Campbell (2008) holds that the history of slavery does not affect blacks only. It also has negative impacts on the whites. The whites feel guilty for being complicit in a system that is against the egalitarian principles on which the United States is founded. It underlines the reason there is an increase in the number of race-based crimes perpetrated by the whites.


The history of slavery has diverse impacts on contemporary society. It influences the politics of the United States. The whites who originate from regions that were notorious for slavery are ardent supporters of the Republican Party and its ideologies. They oppose all race-based policies. The legacy of slavery contributes to contemporary disparities in school enrollment in the United States. Public schools are associated with blacks.

Most whites decline to enroll their children in public schools, particularly in areas dominated by blacks. History of slavery influence black identity in modern society. The whites valued slaves who looked healthy. Today, African Americans endeavor to appear healthy as they associate it with success. Research shows that the legacy of slavery affects the mental health of both whites and blacks. Many blacks endure psychological pain when they recall what their ancestors suffered at the hands of the whites. Conversely, many whites feel ashamed of being complicit in a system that undermined the principles of the United States.


Crane, A. (2013). Modern slavery as a management practice: Exploring the conditions and capabilities of human exploitation. Academy of Management Review, 38(1), 49-69.

Evans-Campbell, T. (2008). Historical trauma in American Indian/Native Alaska communities: A multilevel framework for exploring impacts on individuals, families and communities. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23(3), 316-338.

Harper, S., Patton, L., & Wooden, O. (2009). Access and equity for African American students in higher education: A critical race historical analysis of policy efforts. The Journal of Higher Education, 80(4), 389-414.

Levine, L. (2012). Black culture and black consciousness: Afro-American folk thought from slavery to freedom. New York: Oxford University Press.

Nunn, N. (2007). Historical legacies: A model linking Africa’s past to its current underdevelopment. Journal of Development Economics, 83(1), 157-175.

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Reece, R., & O’Connell, H. (2016). How the legacy of slavery and racial composition shape public school enrollment in the American South. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 2(1), 42-57.

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