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Slavery in colonial America

By Edited Mar 17, 2016 0 0

Slaves in colonial America experienced hardships under three different types of systems. These systems can be identified by their geographic location: the northern, the Chesapeake (the mid Atlantic area) and the lower southern. Each of these systems produced different types of slaves and impacted their lives in varying ways. Factors that influenced the lives of the slaves in colonial America include: work conditions, population size, level of inclusion in the non-slave community, and the amount of solidarity between groups of slaves.

The Northern Experience
Slaves in the northern colonial region were more integrated into white society than those in the Chesapeake and the south. This was due to the style of the Northern slave regime, which allowed for increased interaction between slaves and whites. For example, slaves and whites shared agricultural work. Furthermore, many slaves in the north worked in urban areas as opposed to rural ones. Inside the cities, slaves attended fairs and other events that were frequented by whites that were lower on the economic ladder. There the poor whites and black slaves developed a camaraderie that was more about class, economic status and occupation than it was about race.

The Southern Experience
A few slaves in the south held relatively high status which caused division among the slaves, pitting the privileged against the outsiders. Some of the slaves in the south were able to escape but soon found out that they were going to have a much more difficult time surviving in the marshes of the lower south than they would on the plantations. The vast majority worked in large gangs harvesting rice. Generally speaking, they had little (if any) interaction with whites other than their masters. Over the years, slavemasters gradually began to move closer to the urban areas of the south, thus depriving the slaves of any interaction with whites whatsoever.

The Chesapeake Experience
Many of the slaves in the Chesapeake (or mid Atlantic region) interacted with whites frequently, much as was the case in the North. However, these slaves had less autonomy and suffered harsh treatment more often. They were better supervised than their low country counterparts being that they worked in tiny groups on smaller plantations. Just as was the case in the lower south, there was antagonism between different groups of slaves. One example of the conflict between the slaves of the Chesapeake region is the distrust between the Creoles, who were more successful at integrating into the white community, and Africans, who tended to be viewed with suspicion by most whites.


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