Slave History Essay
American Slavery, American Freedom written by Edmund S. Morgan captures the history of Virginia while keeping focusing on the social and political elements that uplifted the way of slavery. With the focus on Virginia, the book also probes the central paradox of American history: “how a people could have developed the dedication to human liberty and dignity exhibited by the leaders of the American Revolution and at the same time have developed and maintained a system of labor that denied human liberty and dignity every hour of the day (pg.4-5)”. The key to the paradox is presented in Virginia, the nation’s largest slave state and primary source of the ideology and leadership. Also the source of conditions which made slavery and freedom possible was discovered through the state of Virginia by the political and social history being discovered.
According to Morgan’s preface, enslavement took more hold on the nation’s freedom than one may conclude. “Indeed the freedom of free, the growth of freedom experienced in the American Revolution, depended more than we like to admit on the enslavement of more the 20 percent of us at that time.” According to the book, “The rise of liberty and equality in America had been accompanied by the rise of slavery (pg.4)”. Throughout book one of American Slavery, American Freedom the author discusses the start of the poor relationship between the American Indians and the Virginia colonist, and the increase of tobacco as an important crop grown by the slaves of Virginia. “It was Virginia slave who grew most of tobacco that helped buy American independence (pg.5-6)”. The hostility began at the ill-fated Roanoke colony among the England colonist and Indians.
Unlike the founders of Roanoke, Virginia refuse to depend on the Indians for subsistence and when the king placed the Virginians in charge, they could not capture the thought of the Indians being a part of the colony as well as slaves, and therefore suffered a labor shortage. The poor character from the immigrants resulting in unwillingness to work contributed to Virginia’s failure to provide and care for itself. Therefore, Virginia decided to give the land away to planters in hope to promote a better style of productivity and working in the new world becomes the new motive. However, similar to Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom, Sowande Mustakeem article also tells of slavery in a New World.
“She must go overboard, and shall go overboard…” by Sowande Mustakeem takes its reader through the journey of the middle passage while discussing the conditions of the environment, the relationship between the slaves and crewmen, as well as disease. The article begins by stating its purpose of the story telling of human life and lost contributing to, and bringing together several fields of knowledge (Mustakeem 302). In the article the author uses a black woman, anonymously, as a key point towards the slave ship experience. The black woman is diseased with the small pox, which held an exception place throughout the early modern Atlantic World at sea and even more on land creating on intensively fearful climate and also lacked the answer of treatment (Mustakeem 303-304).
Due to her terrible illness the black woman was forced to be isolated from the rest of the ship. Already traumatized by the physical and emotional separation from her homeland the black woman was placed on the main top of the ship’s vessel where she then remained for two days alone. Her illness became worst and fear began to emerge. There were several ways today the black woman’s small pox diseases could have been cured; however, because of the lack of medical resources during the time being, there was little the captain and his crew men could do. It was either to keep the black woman aboard and endanger the captain’s crew and cargo or get rid of the woman and cease the spread of small pox. The risk of the woman’s health quickly became the centerpiece of the men’s conversation, and a decision had to be made. Wanting to save the cargo and crew, Captain D’Wolf came to the conclusion that there weren’t any alternatives and that the black woman was to be thrown overboard, whether dead or alive, into the sea. Some believe that many slave owners, traders, and anyone who participated in slave trading dehumanized slaves, although D’Wolf crew men seemed to have a heart towards the black woman, thus realizing she too was human and had feelings just like him. “Not everyone however, was completely convinced by D’Wolf’s argument. According to John Cranston, none of the sailors tried to overturn D’Wolf’s decision, but several indicated “that they would not have any Thing to do with it (Mustakeem 306-307).”” Strapped to a chair, while silenced and sightless by clothe the woman was lowered into the waters of the sea by the crewmen, forced to be a member of the unknown just like her disease.
When it comes to American Slavery, American Freedom Preface and Book I in relation to ”She must go overboard, and shall go overboard…” the two demonstrated that there is more than just slaves, slave owners, and slave traders. There is the origin of the slave trade, the founding father s, the state of Virginia, the strategies, methods, conditions and circumstance, and much more. There was also the connection of the unknown that frightened many. For instance, the Indians, Spaniards, tobacco, and unwillingness to work presented in Morgan’s reading. As well as the small pox disease presented in Mustakeem’s reading.
No one knew or quite understood what change and difference could do so many were closed minded. Another connection I noticed between the two is that everyone was trying to support and provide for their selves the best way they knew how in the New world, much similar to today’s society. Although we do not know if anyone had a family to provide and make a way for, but if so that could have been a motive towards their involvement in slavery. I know if I had a family and it was between to have to struggle or make a standard living from slave trading, I would have shifted towards slavery myself, although I would have a heart just like D’Wolf’s sailors, but that just a thought.
What I believe is a key comparison between the two readings is the unknown. The unknown is pretty scary. Questions linger and confused feelings com about. However, the unknown we must not be frightened by but instead intrigued because within the unknown the truth lies and may be known.