Strange New Land, offers a seemingly vast view of the presence of African Americans in present day North America. Mr. Wood describes the harsh and often brutal fate of African Americans during the colonization of America.
Exploring Chapter 1, allowed me to view the way different cultures took advantage of not only African Americans, but Native Americans as well. Native Americans were invaded by Spanish settlers, taken into slavery and forced to live with harsh living conditions. Settlers exposed them to a vast number of diseases, and tricked other Native Americans into agreements, in which they were starved, made to live in the cold, and which ultimately led to the death of many of them. Native Americans were resistant to being overtaken and fought back to protect their people and their land.
Spanish settlers needed more laborers to cultivate new land, and explore additional regions for settlement. Spanish Conquerors like Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon sent out to find laborers in Western Europe. During his search, he found that Europeans that practiced Christianity did not believe in exploiting its people. In return, the Catholic Church, did however, not mind the exploit of non-Christians to Spanish Settlers. As groups resisted fiercely, they looked to other options in which they could gain access to the slave trade.
African Americans to my surprise came as a third resort. Spanish settlers wanted to gain access to the dreams of gold and silver told to be lying within the American soil. However African Americans would prove to be more valuable than just for labor. Spanish Speaking Africans such as Gomez and Esteban were great explorers and go-between people when asked to settle what is now the state of New Mexico. Being intermediaries between the Native Americans and Spanish settlers, they showed the resourcefulness that Africans held during the colonization of America.
As I continue to discover how Africans came about to be in America, I was intrigued to learn that the basis of slavery were not limited to race at all. Religion played the most important role in colonization of America, as well as people becoming enslaved. If you were not of Christian belief system, then you were subject to being enslaved. From Mr. Woods accounts, he told of how even John Smith was enslaved for a period of time. And that the bases of slavery were defined upon much greater tools. Heredity was significant in the slavery system, because children of former slaves are said to have been born into slavery. The only thing I can account the Spanish settlers for, was that they didn’t enslave their people for life, as well as the Dutch. Many of their slaves lives the lives of settlers, they just were required to be laborers, because of their religion. At any time it shows within his text that they could have been released from slavery with the submission of their religion.
The earliest definitions of slavery presented a great amount of problems, which the slave-owners did not agree too. Rhode Island defined slavery as a period of 10 years, and not a lifetime commitment. Christian religious groups would allow other slaves to become converted to their religion to once again regain their freedom. The readily number of slaves were beginning to decline, so now new guidelines would be put in place to ensure that the slave-owners would keep laborers all the time. This part of the 17th century would mark the beginning of when race became the solemn factor of how Africans would become and remain enslaved. This is the shift in African history that everyone would feel and become a part of.
Africans held two surprisingly different fates. Those that were released to Latin America had better conditions than those located in North America. But life in North America for Africans would see a dramatic shift as the laws and rules progressed. Slave codes were laws that basically took away all rights of Africans living in North America. This would serve as a permanent handicap for Africans for almost two centuries. Then the colonist took a dramatic horrible step used in the states as well as the colonies. Dehumanizing. This would be the greatest contributor of racism in the United States. This Law passed in Virginia in 1705, would allow English Colonist to treat Africans as property, disregard their feelings or wellbeing, and deny them of basic human rights. And these practices would carry over well into the 20th century.