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The Concept of Race in Colonial America Essay

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Updated: May 10th, 2020

The general timeline of American colonization, which was sustained by England, encircles the timeline from the 15th to the 18th century. The Virginian colonization, which was launched in the 17th century, gave rise to slavery and developed the conception of race as a discriminative feature. The sign of race separation emerged in the last decades of the 17th century and stemmed from a range of laws that condemned legal links between “white” and “black” citizens. The incorporation of race-based signs, which prioritized some races over the others, in the community life was a result of the wide range of historical events.

In this essay, it is argued that the conception of race predetermined the evolvement of slavery, which was provoked by the extensive colonization of America and Britain that required an employment of free labor.

The demarcation of race signs, in the colonized America, is tightly connected with the notions of freedom and slavery. The starting point for slavery introduction was launched in the times when the Virginian economy started its development. Thus, in the 1620s, the colonists have first started an extensive cultivation of tobacco, which was imported by the Danes.¹

Tobacco business quickly became successful, which showed the Virginians that the product would bring them immediate enrichment. The plan of planting tobacco in the colonized countries was hindered by the threatening environment, which was created by natives. Moreover, the situation was aggravated by a serious lack of high-quality labor resources. The savior came with the extensive arrival of the African population in Virginia. The settlers were persuaded that the representatives of colored society possessed excellent health and physical abilities, which would enhance the chances for a safe tobacco cultivation.

Indeed, the promises of successful economy development increased with the arrival of Africans, who could manage plantation work quite quickly. Nevertheless, the accommodation of African citizens did not go well for the settlers since, shortly after the immigration, the colored workers started building resistance alliances with the native population. Despite African immigrants were supposed to serve to the Virginia government, at the beginning of the 17th century there were no legal grounds, which would allow keeping Africans from struggling for their freedom.

Therefore, the government of the colonized territories started passing law documents, which, in fact, legalized slavery. At this time, one can trace the first signs of race discrimination in America. Indeed, inequality symptoms were reflected in the legal documents. For instance, in 1640, the law about cutting the access of Africans to ammunition was issued: “All persons except negroes to be provided with arms and ammunition or be fined at pleasure of the Governor and Council.”²

The similar regulatory rules aimed not only in a complete enslaving of African citizens but in preventing any possible alliances between the colored population and English servants so that to avert rebellions and resistance: “Be it enacted That in case any English servant shall run away in company with any negroes who are incapable of making satisfaction by addition of time, be it enacted that the English so running away in company with them shall serve for the time of the said negroes absence as they are to do for their own by a former act.”³

Race discrimination, which started in the middle of the 17th century, was reflected in the negative attitude towards the colored citizens. Thus, in the new Virginia laws, the Africans were addressed only as “negroes,” which, currently, is considered to be politically incorrect. Inequality became the starting point of the extensive African slavery. In the 1660s, the settlers initiated frequent shipments with slaves. Moreover, the legislature initiated in-born conversion to slavery in the colonized America. Thus, it is stated that the new regulations claimed that every child, who was born from an African woman, had to become a slave.

The correlation of slavery downfall with the colonized America stemmed from religious alterations in the community. Thus, the experts claim that English settlers matched race discrimination to the strictness of Christianity. Indeed, the Virginian settlers have, originally, claimed their attachment to the catholic religion. The missionaries from England justified slavery and submission to the colonizers by Christian persuasions. However, the situation changed since the Puritan agenda found its strong revelation in the territories. The Puritans showed that the Anglican church was suppressing human rights and chasing material ideals. That is why, the main mission of

the Puritans was to cleanse the corrupted laws of the Christian religion. As a result, the members of the Puritan protests embarked the concept of human freedom as the essential sign of their activities. It was claimed that slavery could be seen as the central vice of Christianity since the representatives of the traditional Anglican church supported the idea of African discrimination and trading slaves. The official separation of the Puritans from the Christian religion became the first step to starting a struggle for freedom for the colonized slaves. Conclusively, the contradiction between the economic welfare and religion stability launched the decline of slavery.

Works Cited

Young, Jeffrey. The Dream of America, New York: Harper Perennial, 2016. Print.

Virginia Laws on Slavery 2015. Web.


  1. Statute from January, 1640, in the “Virginia Laws on Slavery,”. Web.
  2. Jeffrey Robert Young, The Dream of America (2016), Chapter 2, page 33.
  3. Statute from March, 1660, in the “Virginia Laws on Slavery,”. Web.
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