Origins of American Slavery Essay

This essay has a total of 615 words and 3 pages.

Origins of American Slavery



In the early seventeenth century, the English began to rapidly and successfully colonize
America. With this rapid population increase also came, shortly after, a booming new
agricultural economy. And with this economy came a need for labor, a labor that was, at
first, hard to find. Looking desperately for help, big time planters and small time
farmers alike, began to develop a system of servitude, which first involved indenture
servants from Europe and Native American slaves. But soon the English looked across the
sea for a new source of labor. They looked to Africa and by the middle of the seventeenth
century everywhere in English America the status of slave, with all that it entailed,
became reserved for those of West African ancestry rather than for native Americans or for
certain Europeans (Betty Wood, Origins of American Slavery, pg6). But why did the
English look to Africa as a source of involuntary servitude?

Did the English consider the use of slaves from West Africa before colonization?
We know that the Spanish and Portuguese were enslaving them as early as the late fifteenth
century (Wood, Origins of American Slavery, pg 10). Perhaps the English sought slaves
in Africa, because it was already socially and economically acceptable. But why would any
country, including Spain and Portugal, turn to Africa for slaves in the first place? Most
scholars are under the influence that it was purely because of the Africans ethnicity. But
others lay significance mainly on the economic and demographic considerations of the time.
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