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Chapter Fifty. Slavery and anti-slavery

Sylvia R. Frey

Subject History

Place Northern America » United States of America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics American War of Independence, slavery

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405116749.2003.00053.x


New World slavery had its origin in the vast area located between the lapping waters of the Atlantic Ocean on the south and the looming Kong Mountains on the north, the Volta River on the west, and the Niger River in the Gulf of Benin on the east. For nearly four centuries the three powerful and highly complex African civilizations of Benin, Dahomey, and Yoruba supplied slave labor to the West Indies and the Americas. Slavery had, in one form or another, existed from antiquity: in Plato's Athens, in Caesar's Rome, and in Christian Europe. Although slavery had long since died out in most of Western Europe, it remained at least a marginal institution in Spain and Portugal, and it existed in Africa itself, albeit in a relatively mild form. Despite differences from area to area, and even from tribe to tribe, the African system of slavery was deeply rooted in the general social and political structure. The majority of domestic slaves were debtors, whose enslavement was often payment for a bad debt; prisoners taken in war or kidnapped from other tribes; or criminals enslaved for antisocial crimes, such as adultery or theft. Most African slaves were regarded as valuable and useful people. More often than not, they were recognized as members of their owners' households. They enjoyed certain social rights, including marriage and rights of inheritance for their children, as well as protection ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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