AP US History, P.2
3 December 2014
LEQ 2.1.I.B: Comparison
Question: Compare and contrast the time period prior to the development of the Atlantic slave trade and the time period right after its introduction and assess the impact of its emergence. To what extent did African slavery change American society? You may want to consider social, economic, and geographical.
Prior to the Atlantic slave trade, the arable land along the South Atlantic seaboard were owned by wealth landowners and farmed primarily by either Native American slaves or white indentured servants. Beginning in the late 16th century and becoming ever more prominent in the 17th, the Atlantic slave trade was an inhumane trading system which transported large amounts of Africans to the Americas for slavery. These captives were brought along the horrifying “Middle Passage”, a gruesome trip in confining ships with little attention to sanitation and a predicted one-third chance for dying along the way. Surviving the trip, however, is not much better. African slaves were heavily mistreated by their masters and faced harsh, back-breaking labor underneath the blazing suns of the South. Thus, it is clear the Atlantic slave trade led to an array of abuses, yet it still grew to hold incredible influence over the years. The characteristic social and economic aspects of the eras before African slavery and after it show us the large impact of the Atlantic slave trade.
The need for a larger workforce in the South was primarily due to the geography of the region, and this need remained the same both before and after African slavery. In the fertile soils of colonies like Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, agriculture provided the basis for society to function. The vast regions of land allowed the domination of large plantations, which in turn allowed plantation owners to profit through the selling of cash crops, such as tobacco. Because many of these states were along the ocean, trading was also made much easier. However, not all aspects of the South were positive. The swamps which covered settlements such as Virginia were inhabited with mosquitoes, and disease in the New World was rampant. The African slaves’ inherent resistance to malaria made them last longer in harsh conditions. In addition, farming under the hot Southern sun was tiresome labor and not too many were able to work for a long time. Both of these negative aspects of the Southern colonies led to a constant need for a dependable workforce. While this was initially supplied by the Native Americans and the indentured servants, their numbers proved to be limited. African slave were much better suited to the environment and physical strains.
One major economic impact that African slavery had was to make agriculture much more profitable. First, indentured servants were released from servitude once they had worked off their debt. Second, Native Americans were familiar with the layout of the land and often ran away from slavery. This shows a growing need for a stable workforce, a workforce that African slaves later provide. African slavery also made economic sense because the Atlantic slave trade was such a large, developed system. The slave ships came to the nearby shores very often and slave auctions were common as well. In addition, the “tight-packing” method of slave shipping was ever popular. Slave ships would, without concern for the African slaves’ well-being, load on such an unnecessary amount of human cargo so that slaves were shoulder to shoulder and chained to the ship in a collection of human waste. As inhumane as these methods sound, they allowed slave traders to transport even more slaves and make slavery even more profitable.
Lastly, American society was also heavily impacted by the introduction of African slavery. The indentured servants prior to African slaves were not wealthy by any means, but they were still treated with a decent amount of...
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