Dark-skinned America is 400 years old: how slavery influenced world economy

The first Africans were brought to the land discovered by Columbus on 20 August 1619

Dark-skinned America is 400 years old: how slavery influenced world economy Photo: wikipedia.org (E. Crow, Slaves Waiting for Sale,1861)

According to historians, a Dutch ship delivered the first Africans who had been sold into slavery to residents of Jamestown Colony in America exactly on 20 August 1619. By the declaration of independence of the USA in 1776, the country had already had about three million slaves. Read in Realnoe Vremya’s report how this occurrence began, how it was defeated and how it influenced the modern world.

“Why precisely Americans?”

The story of dark-skinned slavery on the American continent dates exactly 400 years back — from the delivery of the first Africans to America by a Dutch ship. As Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor, head of the Department of World History at KFU’s Institute of International Relations Eduard Rung says, the necessity to use slave labour was linked with the development of plantations. The case is that huge territories were formed after the expulsion of Native Americans in reservation, which then were divided among landlords. Such a picture is especially characteristic of southern states where plantations were big enough. Cultivation of territories required a big amount of labour force, and precisely slaves had to meet this necessity.

“Why precisely Africans? It has to do with Western powers’ colonial politics, first of all, the British who initially supported slavery distribution in their American colonies,” Eduard Rung explains.

About 12 million Africans were brought in American countries in general from the 16th to 19th centuries. Cruel laws were adopted, including those that allowed hunting fugitive slaves in those states where slavery had been cancelled. It should be noted that as time went by, this occurrence caused a serious split in American society, which became one of the major prerequisites of civil war and final refusal of slave trade and slavery further on. But first things first.

Mississippi ratified the amendment on slavery cancellation only in 2013

A trial between Somerset and Stewart in 1772 became one of the milestones in the history of the fight against slavery. Somerset was a slave, and Stewart was one of the British subjects who brought the African to England to use him as labour force. Somerset escaped, was caught and sent to prison. However, a real political campaign was run to protect him. As a result, there was a Royal Court hearing, and Somerset was released.

“After that, there was no slavery distribution in Britain. Slavery in America went on, but when the slaves were delivered from there to England, they automatically obtained freedom. The second option when a slave was granted freedom was if the slave adopted Christianity. And in 1807 the British Parliament makes a decision to ban the slave trade. So England, which gave birth to this occurrence, refused it,” Eduard Rung says.

Congress made a decision to cancel slavery on the territory of the USA on 31 January 1865. Photo: wikipedia.org

The next stage of the fight against slavery, firstly, is linked with the civil war in America and, secondly, with the distribution of abolitionism — all this brought to a decision to cancel slavery on the territory of the USA by Congress on 31 January 1865. The majority of states ratified the so-called 13th amendment to the US Constitution then.

By the way, it is noteworthy that the last state — Mississippi — ratified it literally in 2013, however, it is an exceptionally formal moment. It should also be noted that the adoption of the 13th amendment didn’t solve the problem instantaneously — the process of a complete cancellation of slavery was long and uneasy.

“Slavery formed the modern lifestyle”

It is obvious that 400 years of the legalised slave trade couldn’t help but do damage to the USA — this occurrence formed American society, politics and economy. At the same time, as famous Russian political expert and sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky noted, slavery affected all of us.

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“Slavery formed not only American society but also influenced the world economy, global labour division and capitalism as such. Precisely the presence of slave labour in America provided a flow of relatively cheap and mass goods from overseas to Europe. Particularly it is such goods as cotton, tobacco, sugar and so on — they all were provided by slavery. In this respect, slavery formed the modern lifestyle. The worst thing is that slavery in combination with peasantry in Russia and Poland became foundation of that modern social order we have today around the world,” the expert thinks.

By Lina Sarimova