A Bold Look At The History Of Slavery in U.S.
(above: Harriet Tubman with rescued slaves- Auburn, NY, circa 1887.)
Slavery began with civilization. Western slavery goes back 10,000 years to Mesopotamia, today’s Iraq, where a male slave was worth an orchard of date palms. Female slaves were called on for sexual services, gaining freedom only when their masters died.
Slavery in America began when the first African slaves were brought to the North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, to aid in the production of such lucrative crops as tobacco.
Slavery was practiced throughout the American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries, and African-American slaves helped build the economic foundations of the new nation. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 solidified the central importance of slavery to the South’s economy.
By the mid-19th century, America’s westward expansion, along with a growing abolition movement in the North, would provoke a great debate over slavery that would tear the nation apart in the bloody American Civil War (1861-65).
Though the Union victory freed the nation’s 4 million slaves, the legacy of slavery continued to influence American history, from the tumultuous years of Reconstruction (1865-77) to the civil rights movement that emerged in the 1960s, a century after emancipation.
Slavery is no longer legal anywhere in the world, though human trafficking remains an international problem. An estimated 29.8 million persons are living in illegal slavery today.