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“Slave culture” was a Culture of Resistance Essay

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Updated: Apr 19th, 2019


At the time of colonisation, the Spanish and the Portuguese were the pioneers of the slave trade and thus slaves laboured in their farms. In the beginning of 17th century, explorers from the Great Britain entered Africa and gained some form of interest in Blacks.

Initially, the Britons shipped people from West Africa to the United States in order to teach them the English language as a way of facilitating communication that would enable effective trading. Consequently, slave trade started with John Hawkins being the pioneer as he was in a position to capture more than 300 African slaves, who he later sold to the Spaniards (Buchanan 2004).

After the slave trade became deeply rooted, other players entered the trade leading to colonisation mostly in Africa in order to obtain slaves for trade. This paper shall discuss the resistance of slave culture with regard to North America.

A majority of the Africans that were captured as slaves ended up in Brazil or Spain, whereas quite an insignificant number of them ended up in North America. These slaves needed replacement from time to time since most of them died from tropical decrease, hence a decrease in the initial numbers.

In addition, slaves lived under deplorable conditions that comprised malnutrition, inadequate clothing, and poor housing and were overworked with poor remuneration (Stuckey 1988). However, this scenario did not reflect in North America as the number of slaves kept on increasing with time as opposed to what was happening in the Caribbean (Stuckey 1988).

Although there were Indian slaves in North America, African slaves were preferred when it came to the provision of labour. One reason attributed to this preference was that Indian slaves had lived in North America for quite some time, and thus they could easily escape from the provision of forced labour. In addition, African slaves could hardly survive in the wilderness where Indians went hiding.

Resistance to slavery

African slaves faced numerous difficulties while living in North America. They lived under deplorable conditions, were overworked, and they lived in houses under very poor conditions. Clothing was not guaranteed as they received clothes from their masters twice a year (Buchanan 2004). The majority of them especially children suffered malnutrition due to poor diet combination and lack of enough food.

African slaves provided hard labour accompanied with corporal punishments as well as subjection to poor medical services. However, this suffering did not last long as resistance by these slaves started sooner than expected. Researchers hold that slaves resisted since enslavement and slavery were not natural as they violated fundamental rights of human beings (Kuyk 2003).

Resistance depicted by these slaves varied in forms, but all had a common goal of ensuring freedom to the slaves. They formed groups to resist against Americans who treated African slaves as some form of property. The impacts of the resistance were felt at places of work due to the prevalence of forced labour under unfavourable working conditions (Buchanan 2004).

Africans were not happy with the type of treatment they were receiving; therefore, they came up with various ways of boycotting their duties in farms. For instance, they feigned sicknesses, broke their tools, and sabotaged production deliberately (Watson 2009). Although this form of resistance caught the attention of their masters, little or nothing at all was done to stop this trend.

These masters feared that the problem would be compounded by implementing any punitive measures, hence a halt on the production activities (Kuyk 2003). Resistances by African slaves led to negotiations between slaves and their masters concerning terms and conditions of their daily routines.

However, this move was to the advantage of their masters as output increased as slaves worked hard and efficiently under the new and improved conditions (Kuyk 2003).

Africans also used theft as a form of resistance. Those who worked in orchards stole fruits, while those who worked elsewhere stole animals, tobacco, and money among others. However, not all forms of theft were unjustifiable. For instance, slaves stole food as they were provided with inadequate and low nutritional foodstuffs (Kuyk 2003).

While trying to seek additional freedom, some of the slaves fled from their master’s homes. For instance, in 1640, most slaves that resided in Virginia had fled away paving the way for the trend that went on until the time of the Civil War. The majority of those slaves that managed to escape were men.

However, the slaves that escaped faced various challenges since they could not communicate effectively due to language barrier and they were not familiar with the terrain in North America (Delombard 2007). Despite these conditions, they never gave up, but pursued their mission, which depicted their ability to withstand the deplorable conditions (Watson 2009).

However, those caught while escaping were subjected to severe punishments including beatings and eating together with some dirty birds. Those who managed to escape successfully sought refuge in some places such as swamps and some free states within North America.

Freed slaves together with the help of sympathetic whites helped to free other slaves from enslavement, an exercise that was conducted through discrete underground railroads. The problem of enslavement nearly ended during the time of the Civil War (Watson 2009). When the Civil War erupted among North American states, most slaves fled from their plantations and masters to join the army in a bid to fight slavery (Watson 2009).

Organised fights and armed rebellions are the most widely recognised forms of resistance studied by most researchers. Researchers document that at least nine rebellion revolts by slaves broke out between 1690 and 1860. New Orleans, Virginia, the city of New York, and South Carolina were some of the states and cities that witnessed these revolts (Stuckey 1988).

During these revolts, slaves came up with other ways to get access to weapons, which they used to fight, while at the same time destroying property through looting and burning, especially buildings and other structures. The fight did not only target the masters, but also other whites.

Many people lost their lives, but the whites retaliated, a move that saw brutal murder of African slaves especially those involved in the revolt (Delombard 2007). In one of the revolts termed as the most bloody in the American history, approximately sixty whites were brutally murdered and in return, a revenge mission was lounged that saw the killing of approximately 100 slaves.

In addition, some of the slaves were hanged together with some of the free slaves (Stuckey 1988). However, most of the revolts failed to bring slavery to its knees, which led to the rising of the Haitian revolution.

The revolution did not end in North America as it spread to the south during the 19th century. Through these revolts, Americans learnt that slavery is intolerable and can hardly go on without unchallenged.

Reference List

Buchanan, T 2004, Black Life on the Mississippi Slaves, Free Blacks, and the Western Steamboat World, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.

Delombard, M 2007, Slavery on trial law, abolitionism, and print culture, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.

Kuyk, B 2003, African voices in the African American heritage, Indiana Univ. Press, Bloomington.

Stuckey, S 1988, Slave Culture Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America, Oxford University Press, New York.

Watson, A 2009, Slave law in the Americas, University of Georgia Press, Athens.

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