Intro: During 18th century slavery, three regions of the country had slight to very different lifestyles as well as small to very common similarities. Slavery during the 18th century influenced how slavery went forth for the next century and a half. In this essay I will compare and contrast 18th century slavery in the Chesapeake, Low Country (South Carolina and Georgia), and the Northern colonies.
1. Chesapeake Region
a. The early years of slavery in the Chesapeake region were lax. There were few black slaves at first and there were only a few slaves in the labor force. The first set of slaves in Virginia and Maryland were more indentured servants than true slavery. Before the late 1600’s there was a very thin line between black slavery and white freedom. In the early 1600’s slaves that had “Christian” names such as Pedro or Isabella were considered Christians so they were considered indentured servants and allowed to work off the price that was paid for them and then freed. They worked alongside white indentured servants. As time went on the slave, population there grew through natural reproduction.
b. As some of the British planters became more successful and held more land in an effort of their own interest introduced the “Unthinking decision” (Chattel Slavery) which officially drew a line in the racial divide between Africans (Blacks) and Whites. The Chesapeake region was the first to have and enact “Slave codes” which would eventually carry across all regions partially and in its entirety. Bills of sale for slaves in regards to children of Black female slaves was instituted in the Chesapeake region saying that the children born to these women would be slaves for life because their mother was a slave. As the slave, codes kicked in slaves were deemed no more than livestock and inferior and could no longer become converts of Christianity taking away completely indentured servitude. It went on this way until slavery ended.
c. Tobacco was the main source of prosperity in the Chesapeake region slaves worked in gangs in the tobacco fields because the owners thought it made them work faster. d. The slaves in this region lived in log cabins.
2. Low Country (South Carolina and Georgia) e. Slavery in the low country was somewhat different in the aspect that the slaves that arrived there were already Chattel. The slaves in the low country were mainly Black and Indian slaves and eventually all black as time progressed. The slaves in low country grew through the constant new arrivals of slaves from Africa. Slaves in the low country had a very high mortality rate due to disease, overwork, and poor treatment. Slaves in the low country retained more of their African heritage because there were so many of them and always fresh Africans coming in the ports. By the 18th Century, the low country had almost a 70 percent ratio of black slaves compared to white slave owners. Charleston was North America’s leading port of entry for Africans. f. The main crops in the low country were rice and corn compared to the Chesapeake region. g. The slaves there developed their own broken languages called Geechie and Gullah.
h. Low Country showed a great deal of Creolization. This is the first sign of distinct classes between slaves. The creoles stayed in the same areas as whites because they were mixed race they had social and economic advantages over slaves that were on plantations but they were still watched all the time by whites. i. The slave houses in low country were made of tabby (a form of a concrete mortar mixture). j. In contrast to the slaves in the Chesapeake region, the slaves in low country had certain independence in their daily routines. Once they were done with their chores, their time was free to do what they chose without supervision. Although the slaves had this independence, the white people still had a “Negro Watch” to enforce curfew on the black people there.
3. Northern Colonies k. The Northern colony slaves were perhaps the least like slaves of the three regions. One of the main differences was organized religion. There was also the fact that during the 18th century there slave population in the Northern Colonies was a mere 4.5% compared to the 40% and higher in the south. Slavery was less oppressive due to the Puritan religious principles of the Northern region.
l. The slaves lived in the house with their master and his family. The slaves also worked along side the master, his family, and the other slaves on the small farms. Most had two slaves per household on the rare occasion there some estates that had 50 or 60. m. Slaves in the Northern colonies were allowed to become Artisans, Shopkeepers, Messengers, Domestic Servants, and General Laborers. New England slaves had a huge advantage over slaves in the other regions they could legally own, transfer, and inherit property. They also had the least opportunity to preserve their African heritage because of their easier conditions. They also had the highest amount of mulattoes.
4. The commonality between Chesapeake, Low Country, and the Northern Colonies is the fact that no matter what slaves were still deemed less than whites. They still had to abide by the “Slave Codes”. Miscegenation was banned and strictly enforced everywhere.
Conclusion: In comparing and contrasting the three regions there are more differences than commonalities when it comes to their areas. The commonalities are very strong in the fact that no matter how well or badly they were treated they were always deemed inferior to whites even the “mixed”, “Creoles”, or “Mulattoes”. In essence, slaves everywhere were under the same “Slave Codes” with the difference between the regions being how strictly they enforced.
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