South American Slavery

The European colonies in the Americas were built upon the backs of the African slaves whose unpaid labor produced immense capital for Atlantic economies. Taken from their African homelands and thrust into the Americas, Black slaves labored under the hot Western sun to produce cash crops to add to the coffers of others. The slaves had no economic incentive to produce for their masters. To provide the necessary motivation, the slave masters relied above all on violence to coerce their slaves into labor. The slave trade and the production of cash crops created great wealth and was of great benefit to men on either side of the Atlantic, with the notable exception of the individuals who actually performed the labor. The history of Africans in the Americas is as much a history of slavery as it is a history of resistance to enslavement. From the moment they set foot on American soil, Africans plotted against their masters. Haiti and Brazil were two regions where slavery was as especially important as it was harsh. An African, upon touching Brazilian soil, had a life expectancy of sixteen yearseight years if he was sentenced carrying coffee. (Conrad 125) One third of all Haitian slaves died within several years. (Klubock) Both nations offer countless tales of Black resistance to White domination. Revolutionary action was often connected to religious practice, which slaves had to conduct in secret. African slaves also sought ways to maintain their African culture through secret dances and religious ceremonies, as well as the flight to mock African communities in the Americas to escape bondage. Manumission was also not uncommon as a relief from slavery. In Brazil, manumission was often purchased by a slave who had accumulated wealth on his own. Frequently these slaves were mulattos and more often than not women. In Haiti, children of the master, born of a slave concubine, were frequently manumitted. Haitian and Brazilian manumission cre…

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