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Slavery in the Southern Colonies Essay

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Updated: Apr 7th, 2020


Slavery has contributed a lot to the long history of the United States of America. Much of the slave trade business took place in the southern colonies. Some of the southern colonies that had the highest number of slaves were Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, as well as North and South Carolina (Morgan 13). According to experts, several factors were responsible for the emergence and development of slavery in the United States.

The main contributing factor was the colonialists who needed labor in their huge plantations. Studies have shown that climatic conditions in the southern colonies were good for agriculture. This encouraged the colonialists to grow cash crops such as tobacco, pine forests, rice, and indigo (Russell 100). Apart from the favorable climate, the close proximity of the colonies to broad rivers allowed the colonialists to ship in slaves and their produce with ease.

The colonists mainly bought slaves from the Caribbean and Africa (Morgan 20). People from these regions were physically strong and had high immunity to diseases. The slaves suffered a lot of cruelty at the hands of their masters, who lived a totally contrasting lifestyle compared to theirs. Although the southerners had numerous theories to support their activities, the slaves did their best to resist any form of mistreatment (Russell 109).

Arguments used by southerners to defend slavery

According to experts, slavery in the southern colonies was a great violation of human rights. Although the southerners knew that the trade was illegal and inhuman, they always provided arguments in defense of the vice (Morgan 27). As the business of slavery continued to provide the colonialists with good returns, they quickly changed it from being a vice into a positive societal element. According to experts, the defense of slavery by the southerners tagged along crucial elements such as religion, social welfare, and economic growth among others.

First, the southerners argued that prolonging slave trade was necessary because it provided a good opportunity for spreading their religion. The reason for this was that the slaves were easy to indoctrinate and convert into followers (Russell 117). Secondly, the southerners supported the development of slavery because they believed everyone was well taken care of, happy, and crucial to the achievement of their master’s welfare.

They believed it was inhuman for them to release the slaves back into their native homes, where there was no food, medication, as well as an opportunity to adventure and learn more about life. According to experts, this argument was mainly motivated by the fact that the colonialists were racists, who considered their slaves as inferior and worthy of no respect (Morgan 44).

Thirdly, the southerners supported slavery in order to maintain economic growth in the colonies. Studies have established that the slave trade had a huge impact on the economic development of the southern colonies (Morgan 60). The colonialists had huge plantations that required laborers. Slaves provided free labor, thus making it possible for the colonialists to make maximum returns from their cash crops. Slave trade created a foundation for economic growth in the southern colonies.

According to experts, the slave trade was a profitable business for the few powerful individuals who could afford to own a slave (Russell 131). These individuals used their political influence and power to ensure that slavery continued for the sake of their selfish economic interests. The slave trade was a business that entailed financial investments where those with plantations had to pay a little amount to acquire an individual from their owners.

Therefore, none of the colonial masters was willing to make losses by supporting the end of slavery. The biggest motivation for this argument was the fact that the southerners considered slaves as assets. This meant that they assumed full control over their lives and denied them a chance to enjoy basic human rights such as freedom of speech (Russell 140).

How slaves offered resistance to their masters

Colonial masters in the southern colonies were the main promoters of the slavery. Although it was very profitable, the slaves did not like the way they were treated and often staged various forms of resistance. Studies have established that the slaves offered resistance to their masters from the first day they arrived in the southern colonies (Morgan 96).

However, the slaves found it hard to achieve any form of freedom because they were up against individuals who considered them as their acquisitions. Some of the common ways in which the slaves offered resistance to their masters included altering production, pretending to be sick, destroying work tools, burning buildings, stealing, and playing dumb among others (Russell 134). Studies have established that the slaves used to steal food from the plantations as a way of punishing their masters for mistreating them.

Resistance strategies by the salves worked in some instances, especially when they slowed or altered production. Since the colonial masters feared making losses, the slaves were in a good position to negotiate for better working conditions. According to experts, the masters also benefited from the results of the resistance staged by salves. When the slaves negotiated for better working conditions, their masters also benefited through higher output and more efficient services (Morgan 112).

Slaves during the civil war

Slaves in the southern colonies were greatly involved during the American Civil War. At the time, slaves shipped from the Caribbean and Africa had increased in numbers to become part of the growing community of African Americans (Gardner 40). The African Americans provided support in the navy through various positions that required hard labor.

At the time when the war started, slavery was still going on and the masters used their laborers to protect their interests. According to experts, the salves also considered the chance to serve in the Navy as an opportunity to free themselves from their masters (Gardner 51). The slaves were held in high esteem during the war, as their ability to work under harsh conditions made them huge assets to the southern war effort.

Life of the slaves after freedom

The war helped to bring to an end slave trade in the United States. However, the end of slavery was not beneficial to either the slaves or their masters. Studies have shown that life was very hard for the slaves following the conclusion of the American Civil War (Gardner 64). Some of the major problems they endured included starvation, high mortality rate, diseases, and unemployment.

The slaves were no longer recognized by the unions, they were working for during the American Civil War, thus left to lead a life of no food and dealing with a series of outbreaks such as smallpox. However, the Congress tried to help the slaves who managed to survive the horrific period that followed the conclusion of the civil war. The African Americans were demanding to be recognized as full American citizens by the Congress.

The first effort by the Congress was the introduction of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which stated that everyone was recognized and protected by the law as an American citizen regardless of their ethnicity (Gardner 81). The act was mainly focused on protecting the rights of freed slaves who had served the United States army during the war.

In addition, the Congress made further amendments to the act that ensured that all Americans enjoyed their democratic right of voting as provided for in the constitution. According to experts, these efforts by the Congress were successful because African Americans were involved in all democratic processes (Russell 160).


Slavery in the southern colonies contributed a lot to the long history of the United States towards democracy. Although the slave trade business was profitable to the colonial masters, it was a nightmare to the slaves who had to endure constant discrimination and hard labor.

However, the American Civil War rescued them from the selfish hands of their masters. The salves that were lucky to be freed had a hard time living in a society that looked down upon them and did not recognize them as human beings. This led to the emergence of the civil rights movement, which was long, torturous, and emotional for African Americans. The civil rights movement helped the African Americans to receive full recognition by the Congress as American citizens.

Works Cited

Gardner, Michael. Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage and Political Risks. New York: SIU Press, 2003. Print.

Morgan, Kenneth. Slavery and the British Empire: From Africa to America. London: oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

Russell, David. The American Revolution in the Southern Colonies. New York: McFarland, 2000. Print.

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