Ten facts about slavery that you probably didn’t learn in class
By Marie Seva
The invention of the cotton gin caused the number of enslaved people in the South to rise from 700,000 to 3 million. Because Africans were transported in very cramped conditions, sometimes even chained and not supplied with food, about 125,000 Africans died while in transit to the U.S.
Here are more facts about the slavery that was once practice in the United States:
- In 1619, among the first Africans to set foot in America who were set to be enslaved were 19 people who were taken to Jamestown, Virginia by Dutch tradesmen from a ship they had seized which was run by Spaniards. The workers were baptized by the Spaniards before they boarded. In accordance with the English Law, there is a restriction against enslaving Christians. Hence, under a contract, the Africans became “indentured servants” who were to serve only for a given period of time— usually 7 years.
- In 1640, three men tried to escape indentured servitude. The Virginia court sentenced the two white men to an increased number of years in servitude (about 4 more years), while John Punch, an African, was sentenced to slavery (which lasted a lifetime).
- In 1654, a former indentured servant, Anthony Johnson, won the ruling of the Northampton County Court to have legal hold of John Casor for the span of his entire life. Casor became the first person ruled by law to be a “slave,” even without breaking any law.
- In 1808, the international trading of slaves was banned. However, this did not put an end to slave trading within the country. About a million slaves were transported from the Upper South to the Deep South. Total slave count in the South reached 4 million at the time.
- Among those who spearheaded the slave revolts were Gabriel Posser (1800), Denmark Vesey (1822), Nat Turner (1831), and John Brown, who was white (1859). Considered ‘martyrs’ to many, they were all hanged upon capture.
- In 1849, Harriet Tubman eluded slavery and escaped to the North to the free states. Tubman went back about 12 times to the South to rescue her family and other slaves. Through her tenacious spirit and a network of people and hideouts that were dubbed the “Underground Railroad,” Tubman rescued about 70 people from slavery.
- In 1852, the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe was quite instrumental in inflaming, creating and spreading sentiments that opposed slavery. It was the second bestselling book at the time (second to the Bible) and it sold about 300,000 copies in America in its first year.
- In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as president. The Southern states did not agree with the views of Lincoln, which included the freedom of slaves, so they detached themselves from the government and formed an independent body called the ‘Confederacy’ or the Confederate States of America.
- In 1863, after the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, ordering the slaves of the Confederacy to be set free. Only 1.25% of the 4 million slaves in the South were immediately set free. Others were freed eventually
- In 1865, the 13th Amendment was passed and officially added to the Constitution the prohibition and abolition of slavery and forced servitude.
Though slavery in now illegal in the country, a so-called ‘modern day slavery’ still exists. Human beings are still victims of abuse, servitude and bondage, according to the Free the Slaves organization in Washington, D.C.
“In the U.S. at least 10,000 people” are suffering from slavery at any given moment,” stated the pro-freedom group. “How ironic that in modern times, there are many who are still uncivilized and still exercise such crude, inhuman practices. Let us work together to bring back humanity in this country and in the world. Let us set others free, to make this world not just a better place but the best, put together by every individual’s extraordinary and great contribution. For Albert Einstein did say, ‘Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.'”
To report slavery or any circumstance of abuse, please contact Free the Slaves.
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