Slavery, Our Place In It’s History

I have written several articles Racism and Slavery. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on Racism and Slavery.

Table of Contents


-World Slavery Timeline

-Slavery’s Roots: War and Economic Domination

-The Age of Abolition

-Abolition Spreads Worldwide

-Abolition in Recent Times

-Abolition in the 21st Century

-Abolition in the 21st Century

A Brief Discussion on the Origins of Slavery

-The Transatlantic Slave Trade

-The Triangular Trade

-Slavery and Abolition in America

-Sexual Exploitation in Slavery

-Prostitution and White Slavery in America



Ist Black American Medal of Honor Winner

A Brief American History Slavery Timeline From Civil War to Present

A visual update of the Impact of Slavery in the US

-Racism and Slavery Postings

-The Bible and Slavery


This is a story I have been considering doing since I started this blog. Considering the recent discussions of slave reparations, now seems like an opportune time to write the article. There has been a concerted effort recently to cloud the history of slavery, and basically call it a uniquely American Institution. It is my goal to dispel these misconceptions and to give the reader an accurate history of world slavery and the place and roll America took in its bleak history. The human race is capable of great kindness and also great cruelness. Our recorded history has been one of great accomplishments and achievements. We are capable of great creativity and have the ability produce works of unbelievable beauty. Our history is also full of great strife and unbelievable destruction. Of all the insidious and terrible things we as a people have done, slavery ranks among the worst.

Slavery or unpaid servitude has been with us since the dawn of man. Wherever there existed a disparity in power, there has been people in authority imposing there will on the weaker populace. It began with stronger tribes enslaving and forcing weaker tribes to do there bidding. This has been going on for thousands of years. The preponderance of slavery has waxed and waned throughout our world history. It has never died out, it has gone from being the norm and accepted in our culture to being vilified and only practiced in secret. Today, slavery is illegal throughout most of the world, though it still has a few strongholds where it is accepted and practiced out in the open. The illegal practice of slave trafficking exists throughout the world, even in the United States. It takes all forms, most revolving around the sex trade, however, the need for cheap and free labor also drives slavery. Many of our large manufacturers rely on this labor, to keep the price of their products down and their profits high.

So far, I have only been discussing the topic of slavery in vague generalities. If my goal was to treat this topic in this manner, I would have written it much earlier. If you want to discuss the subject of slavery in a learned manner, it becomes a more involved and difficult task. The first part of the task is basically to set up an outline for your topic, which I usually just do in my head. Then you need to find good resource material. Some of my previous topics, I was simply able to pull from previous experience and knowledge. Slavery is a very important topic, so I have done serious research. As usual I don’t provide footnotes, just the sources I used. I feel that I can do this for a number of reasons, first I am not trying to make any money from these articles, I am not publishing for profit. This gives me freedom to write in more free fashion. I also am not trying to get any advanced degree from my postings. Having said this, the reader can rest assured that I have done my best to insure that the material presented in my articles is both actual and factual. I put this little disclaimer on some of my longer blog articles, just to let people know what my basic goal is and how I work. My goal is to stimulate discussion and to disseminate accurate information on relevant subjects that affect our society. These postings are not meant to be the final word on a subject.

After reviewing my resources on slavery, it is quite evident that it was an accepted practice from the very beginnings of recorded history. It underpinned scores of cultures in the ancient world, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, North Africa and south of the Sahara. So it is safe to assume that it began much earlier than this, but this claim is only made by supposition. If one were to study human nature throughout our history, one thing becomes apparent, it remains very consistent. It is very opportunistic in nature, also the more sophisticated and advanced a culture becomes the further removed its citizens become from menial labor. This happened throughout our history. The trend was repetitive, tribes and cultures warred with each other, the victor took the spoils. Why else fight in these engagements, if there were no rewards. They fought for land, food, possessions, riches (gold, silver, silks, whatever commodities there were), women and children. The women were for sex and house servants, the children were taken because it was easier to mold them to their new tribe. Eventually these children grew up and and eventually became members of the tribe. Granted, this is rudimentary behavior at best, and doesn’t seem to match with our vision of slavery as seen in the Antebellum South, which was highly organized. So a good place to start would be with a comprehensive definition of slavery. “Slavery is any system in which principles of property law are applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals, as a de jure form of property. An enslaved person is unable to withdraw unilaterally from such an arrangement and works without remuneration.”

The history of slavery is extremely complicated and its analysis could and has taken multiple volumes. So the easiest way to show the history of slavery is in the form of a timeline. I found a comprehensive timeline on the website It is quite comprehensive, and I don’t see any reason to re-invent the wheel, so I copy and pasted it below. It starts with the earliest recorded city-state in Mesopotamia, like I mentioned previously.

World Slavery Timeline

Slavery’s Roots: War and Economic Domination

  • 6800 B.C. The world’s first city-state emerges in Mesopotamia. Land ownership and the early stages of technology bring war—in which enemies are captured and forced to work: slavery.
  • 2575 B.C. Temple art celebrates the capture of slaves in battle. Egyptians capture slaves by sending special expeditions up the Nile River.
  • 550 B.C. The city-state of Athens uses as many as 30,000 slaves in its silver mines.
  • 120 A.D. Roman military campaigns capture slaves by the thousands. Some estimate the population of Rome is more than half slave.
  • 500 Anglo-Saxons enslave the native Britons after invading England.
  • 1000 Slavery is a normal practice in England’s rural, agricultural economy, as destitute workers place themselves and their families in a form of debt bondage to landowners.
  • 1380 In the aftermath of the Black Plague, Europe’s slave trade thrives in response to a labor shortage. Slaves pour in from all over the continent, the Middle East, and North Africa.
  • 1444 Portuguese traders bring the first large cargo of slaves from West Africa to Europe by sea—establishing the Atlantic slave trade.
  • 1526 Spanish explorers bring the first African slaves to settlements in what would become the United States. These first African-Americans stage the first known slave revolt in the Americas.
  • 1550 Slaves are depicted as objects of conspicuous consumption in much Renaissance art.
  • 1641 Massachusetts becomes the first British colony to legalize slavery.

The Age of Abolition

  • 1781 Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II abolishes serfdom in the Austrian Habsburg dominions.
  • 1787 The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade is founded in Britain.
  • 1789 During the French Revolution, the National Assembly adopts the Declaration of the Rights of Man, one of the fundamental charters of human liberties. The first of 17 articles states: “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.”
  • 1803 Denmark-Norway becomes the first country in Europe to ban the African slave trade, forbidding trading in slaves and ending the importation of slaves into Danish dominions.
  • 1807 The British Parliament makes it illegal for British ships to transport slaves and for British colonies to import them. U.S. President Thomas Jefferson signs into law the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, forbidding the importation of African slaves into the United States.
  • 1811-1867 Operating off the Atlantic coast of Africa, the British Navy’s Anti-Slavery Squadron liberates 160,000 slaves.
  • 1813 Sweden, a nation that never authorized slave traffic, consents to ban the African slave trade.
  • 1814 The king of the Netherlands officially terminates Dutch participation in the African slave trade. At the Congress of Vienna, the assembled powers proclaim that the slave trade should be abolished as soon as possible but do not stipulate an actual effective date for abolition.
  • 1820 The government of Spain abolishes the slave trade south of the Equator—but it continues in Cuba until 1888.
  • 1833 The Factory Act in Britain establishes a working day in textile manufacture, provides for government inspection of working conditions, bans the employment of children under age 9, and limits the workday of children between 13 and 18 years of age to 12 hours.
  • 1834 The Abolition Act abolishes slavery throughout the British Empire, including British colonies in North America. The bill emancipates slaves in all British colonies and appropriates nearly $100 million in today’s money to compensate slave owners for their losses.
  • 1840 The new British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society calls the first World Anti-Slavery Convention in London to mobilize reformers and assist post-emancipation efforts throughout the world. A group of U.S. abolitionists attends, but Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, as well as several male supporters, leave the meeting in protest when women are excluded from seating on the convention floor.
  • 1845 The British Navy assigns 36 ships to its Anti-Slavery Squadron, making it one of the largest fleets in the world.
  • 1848 The government of France abolishes slavery in all French colonies.
  • 1850 The government of Brazil ends the country’s participation in the slave trade and declares slave traffic to be a form of piracy.
  • 1861 Alexander II emancipates all Russian serfs, numbering about 50 million. His decree begins the Great Reform in Russia and earns him the title “Czar Liberator.”
  • 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issues The Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all U.S. slaves in states that had seceded from the Union, except for those in Confederate areas already controlled by the Union army.
  • 1863 The government of the Netherlands takes official action to abolish slavery in all Dutch colonies.
  • 1865 Congress gives final passage to, and a sufficient number of states ratify, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to outlaw slavery. The amendment reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
  • 1888 The Lei Aurea, or Golden Law, ends slavery in South America when the legislature of Brazil frees the country’s 725,000 slaves.
  • 1865-1920 Following the American Civil War, hundreds of thousands of African Americans are re-enslaved in an abusive manipulation of the legal system called “peonage.” Across the Deep South, African-American men and women are falsely arrested and convicted of crimes, then “leased” to coal and iron mines, brick factories, plantations, and other dangerous workplaces. The formal peonage system slows down after World War I but doesn’t fully end until the 1940s. However, in recent years, activists have noted that the 13 Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not outlaw prison slavery, and that requiring inmates to work in prison industries today constitutes a continuing form of modern slavery. 

Abolition Spreads Worldwide

  • 1909 The Congo Reform Association, founded in Britain, ends forced labor in the Congo Free State, today the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After years of anti-slavery activism, the association’s Red Rubber Campaign stops the brutal system of Belgium’s King Leopold II, whose officials forced local people to produce rubber for sale in Europe and terrorized those who refused, cutting off their hands and burning down their houses.
  • 1910 The International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Trade, signed in Paris, is the first of its kind, obligating parties to punish anyone who recruits a woman or girl under age into prostitution, even if she consents.
  • 1913 After a public outcry galvanized by media reports and subsequent peoples’ petition, the British Parliament shuts down the Peruvian Amazon Company, a British entity that was torturing and exploiting indigenous Indians in Peru.
  • 1915 The colonial government of Malaya officially abolishes slavery.
  • 1918 The British governor of Hong Kong estimates that the majority of households that could afford it keep a young child as a household slave.
  • 1919 The International Labor Organization (ILO) is founded to establish a code of global labor standards. Headquartered in Geneva, the ILO unites government, labor, and management to make recommendations concerning pay, working conditions, trade union rights, safety, woman and child labor, and social security.
  • 1923 The British colonial government in Hong Kong bans the selling of little girls as domestic slaves.
  • 1926 The League of Nations approves the Slavery Convention, which defines slavery as “status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.” More than 30 governments sign the document, which charges all member nations to work to suppress all forms of slavery.
  • 1926 Burma abolishes legal slavery.
  • 1927 Slavery is legally abolished in Sierra Leone, a country founded as a colony by the British in the 18th century to serve as a homeland for freed slaves.
  • 1930 The U.S. Tariff Act prohibits the importation of products made with “forced or indentured labor.” (In 1997, the Sanders Amendment clarified that this applies to products made with “forced or indentured child labor.”)
  • 1936 The King of Saudi Arabia issues a decree that ends the importation of new slaves, regulates the conditions of existing slaves, and provides for manumission—the act of slave owners freeing their slaves—under some conditions.
  • 1938 The Japanese military establishes “comfort stations”—actually brothels—for Japanese troops. Thousands of Korean and Chinese women are forced into sex slavery during World War II as military “comfort women.”
  • 1939-1945 The German Nazi government uses widespread slave labor in farming and industry. Up to nine million people are forced to work to absolute exhaustion—then they are sent to concentration camps.
  • 1941 The Adoption of Children Ordinance Law in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, requires the registration of all children who are adopted and regular inspections to prevent adopted children from working as slaves.
  • 1948 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, created by the United Nations, provides: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”
  • 1949 The Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others prohibits any person from procuring, enticing, or leading away another person for the purposes of prostitution, even with the other person’s consent. This forms the legal basis for international protections against traffic in people still used today.

Abolition in Recent Times

  • 1950-1989 International anti-slavery work slows during the Cold War, as the Soviet Block argues that slavery can only exist in capitalist societies, and the Western Block argues that all people living under communism are slaves. Both new and traditional forms of slavery in the developing world receive little attention.
  • 1954 China passes the State Regulation on Reform through Labor, allowing prisoners to be used for labor in the laogai prison camps.
  • 1956 The Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery regulates practices involving serfdom, debt bondage, the sale of wives, and child servitude.
  • 1962 Slavery is abolished in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
  • 1964 The sixth World Muslim Congress, the world’s oldest Muslim organization, pledges global support for all anti-slavery movements.
  • 1973 The U.N. General Assembly adopts the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, which outlaws a number of inhuman acts, including forced labor, committed for the purposes of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group over another.
  • 1974 Mauritania’s emancipated slaves form the El Hor (“freedom”) movement to oppose slavery, which continues to this day. El Hor leaders insist that emancipation is impossible without realistic means of enforcing anti-slavery laws and giving former slaves the means of achieving economic independence. El Hor demands land reform and encourages the formation of agricultural cooperatives.
  • 1975 The U.N. Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery is founded to collect information and make recommendations on slavery and slavery-like practices around the world.
  • 1976 India passes a law banning bonded labor.
  • 1980 Slavery is abolished for the fourth time in the Islamic republic of Mauritania, but the situation is not fundamentally changed. Although the law decrees that “slavery” no longer exists, the ban does not address how masters are to be compensated or how slaves are to gain property.
  • 1989 The National Islamic Front takes over the government of Sudan and begins to arm Baggara tribesmen to fight the Dinka and Nuer tribes in the south. These new militias raid villages, capturing and enslaving  inhabitants.
  • 1989 The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child promotes basic health care, education, and protection for the young from abuse, exploitation, or neglect at home, at work, and in armed conflicts. All countries ratify it except Somalia and the United States.
  • 1990 After adoption by 54 countries in the 1980s, the 19th Conference of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference formally adopts the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, which states that “human beings are born free, and no one has the right to enslave, humiliate, oppress, or exploit them.”
  • 1992 The Pakistan National Assembly enacts the Bonded Labor Act, which abolishes indentured servitude and the peshgi, or bonded money, system. However, the government fails to provide for the implementation and enforcement of the law’s provisions.
  • 1995 The U.S. government issues the Model Business Principles, which urges all businesses to adopt and implement voluntary codes of conduct, including the avoidance of child and forced labor, as well as discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, or religious beliefs.
  • 1995 Christian Solidarity International, a Swiss-based charity, begins to liberate slaves in Southern Sudan by buying them back. The policy ignites widespread controversy—many international agencies argue that buying back slaves supports the market in human beings and feeds resources to slaveholders.
  • 1996 The RugMark campaign is established in Germany to ensure that handwoven rugs are not made with slave or child labor. In 2010, RugMark changes its name to GoodWeave.
  • 1996 The World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children is held.
  • 1997 The U.N. establishes a commission of inquiry to investigate reports of the widespread enslavement of people by the Burmese government.
  • 1997 The United States bans imported goods made by child-bonded labor.
  • 1998 The Global March against Child Labor is established to coordinate worldwide demonstrations against child labor and to call for a U.N. Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.
  • 1999 Despite being barred from entering Burma, the U.N. collects sufficient evidence to publicly condemn government-sponsored slavery, including unpaid forced labor and a brutal political system built on the use of force and intimidation to deny democracy and the rule of law.
  • 1999 The ILO passes the Convention Against the Worst Forms of Child Labor, which establishes widely recognized international standards protecting children against forced or indentured labor, child prostitution and pornography, their use in drug trafficking, and other harmful work.
  • 1999 The first global analysis of modern slavery and its role in the global economy, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, estimates that there are 27 million people in slavery worldwide.

Abolition in the 21st Century

  • 2000 Free the Slaves is formed, originally as the sister organization of Anti-Slavery International in the U.K. Today Free the Slaves is an independent organization.
  • 2000 The government of Nepal bans all forms of debt bondage after a lengthy campaign by human rights organizations and freed laborers.
  • 2000 The U.S. Congress passes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to combat the trafficking of persons as a form of modern slavery. The legislation increases penalties for traffickers, provides social services for trafficking victims, and helps victims remain in the country.
  • 2000 The U.N. passes the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons as part of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The trafficking protocol is the first global legally binding instrument with an internationally agreed-upon definition on trafficking in persons.
  • 2001 Slavery: A Global Investigation—the first major documentary film about modern slavery—is released in the U.S. and Europe. The film tells the story of slavery and forced child labor in the cocoa and chocolate industry and wins a Peabody Award and two Emmy Awards.
  • 2002 The countries of the Economic Community of Western African States agree on an action plan to confront slavery and human trafficking in the region.
  • 2002 The International Cocoa Initiative is established as a joint effort of anti-slavery groups and major chocolate companies—marking the first time an entire industry has banded together to address slavery in its supply chain.
  • 2004 Brazil launches the National Pact for the Eradication of Slave Labor, which combines the efforts of civil organizations, businesses, and the government to get companies to commit to the prevention and eradication of forced labor within their supply chains, as well as to be monitored and placed on a “dirty list” if the products they sell are tainted by slavery.
  • 2004 The U.N. appoints a Special Rapporteur (Reporter) on Human Trafficking.
  • 2005 The U.N. International Labor Organization’s first Global Report on Forced Labor puts the number of slaves worldwide at 12.3 million. The organization’s 2012 update increases the number to 20.9 million people.
  • 2007 Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves is published. Written by Free the Slaves co-founder Kevin Bales, it is the first plan for the global eradication of modern slavery, estimating the total cost of worldwide abolition at $10.8 billion over 25 years. President Bill Clinton highlights the plan at the Clinton Global Initiative. The book receives the 2011 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.
  • 2008 The Special Court for Sierra Leone judges forced marriage “a crime against humanity” and convicts three officers in the Revolutionary United Front of forced marriage—the first convictions of their kind within an international criminal tribunal.
  • 2008 The U.N. International Labor Organization estimates that annual profits generated from trafficking in human beings are as high as $32 billion. In 2014 the organization increases that estimate to $150 billion in the report Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labor.
  • 2010 Free the Slaves publishes Slavery, featuring images of slaves and survivors taken by humanitarian photographer Lisa Kristine and a foreword by South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Kristine receives a 2013 Humanitarian Photographer of the Year Award from the Lucie foundation based in large part on her work with Free the Slaves.
  • 2011 California enacts the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, requiring major manufacturing and retail firms to publicly disclose what efforts, if any, they are taking to eliminate forced labor and human trafficking from their product supply chains.
  • 2012 The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission passes the Conflict Minerals Rule, requiring major publicly-held corporations to disclose if their products contain certain metals mined in the eastern Congo or an adjoining country and if payment for these minerals supports armed conflict in the region. The rule was required as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Free the Slaves has documented that slavery is widespread at mining sites covered by this corporate disclosure requirement.
  • 2013 The first Walk Free Global Slavery Index is released with country-by-country estimates for slavery worldwide. The research team estimates that 29.8 million people are enslaved today. The 2014 index increases that estimate to 35.8 million. The 2016 index increases that estimate to 45.8 million.
  • 2015 Free the Slaves marks its 15th birthday by announcing that the organization has reached a historic benchmark—liberating more than 10,000 people from slavery.
  • 2015 The U.N. adopts 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with 169 targets that include an end to slavery: “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms.”
  • 2017 A research consortium including the U.N. International Labor Organization, the group Walk Free, and the U.N. International Organization for Migration release a combined global study indicating that 40 million people are trapped in modern forms of slavery worldwide: 50 percent in forced labor in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, mining, fishing and other physical-labor industries; 12.5 percent in sex slavery, and 37.5 percent in forced marriage slavery.

A Brief Discussion on the Origins of Slavery

As you can see from this timeline, slavery has been quite pervasive throughout our history. So now the reader has a clearer picture of how the use of slave labor progressed through our history. However, to discuss the history of slavery in every culture that occurred in is beyond the scope of this blog. Besides I don’t think my readers would wade through the tomes it would require to do it justice. So, what I am going to do is basically cherry pick some examples of slavery. I will spend the most time discussing slavery in the South, because that seems to be on everybody’s minds right now.

The Egyptians, were the dominant power in the middle east and they enslaved the Jews and many other peoples to build their cities and religious temples. The Greeks and Romans conquered many lands and used the healthy people from these conquered countries to build up their cities. The Roman’s used many of the likely males from these conquered civilizations to fight as gladiators in the arena. Some of the more successful gladiators attained freedom and became quite rich. Some of these people were white and some where not. The use of slave labor arose in cultures anytime their was either a labor shortage brought on by disease, or war and by an increase in demand, by say a new leader’s aggressive expansion policy. The English used press gangs to capture drunk sailors in coastal towns to man their war ships. Germans, used Jews and Polish people and basically any culture considered to be inferior for labor in their concentration camps and manufacturing plants. The German population was not that large as compared to their enemies, but the use of forced labor allowed them to basically fight above their weight, to coin a boxing phrase. Many modern cultures use prisoners convicted of crimes for labor, while it is true they do receive some recompense for their labor, it borders on slavery, usually only a dollar a day. The south in the early 1900’s used chain gangs for road work, and to clear swamp land. I know I am jumping around a bit, here. But there are so many examples of people of all races and cultures being used for forced labor, some deservedly so, but most not so, that it is hard not to.

I am going to jump to modern times for a while to show what form slavery as taken today. I will then finish up this article with an analysis of American slavery. Currently slavery today is called the white slave trade. This should tell you that the argument being made the this institution is uniquely American is erroneous. Anybody reading this article should already know that. Throughout our history there has been a disparity between the relative wealth’s of countries. There has always been countries that had greater resources, wealth and freedom and were therefore places people wanted to go to. The problem was that world travel was not common and was quite expensive. Only the ruling and wealthy classes could pursue these activities. There has always been a demand for able bodied and attractive people in our cultures. Blonde and blue eyed women are attractive in many cultures, because of their rarity. In some cultures women with olive colored skin are considered to be exotic and are also in large demand. But I digress, there are many unscrupulous people in this world. They prey on the dreams of people, especially young people. They make promises to young attractive women from the Baltic countries about how they can come to America, England and other enticing locations. Where they will work as seamstresses and house maids for the wealthy, only to be sold into brothels, where they are used up by their early 20’s and then discarded, many die from diseases and drug overdoses. This is one form modern slavery has taken. Another form, is to simply dispense with all the niceties and simply kidnap these young people. They can be of all ages from adolescents to teenagers, male or female, wherever the current demand in depravity lies. They are sold to rich individuals from all over the world, many to the middle east. These cultures tend to be very strict, so a little slavery on the side helps to take away some of the sexual tension. If you have wealth and power, it doesn’t matter what the justifications are for these activities, they simply are wrong and immoral. Another form of slave labor is based on the need for cheap labor. Over the last 30 to 40 years there has been a mass migration of large industries to poorer and subsequently under-developed countries. What do these countries have, plenty of cheap labor. Many of these people work for a few dollars a day. This may actually be big money for them, especially when they are starving and living in squalid conditions. Many of these countries are actually offering incredible incentives to these companies. They are trying to reduce their high unemployment numbers. Nike is one of the companies reputed to use this cheap labor. It costs them pennies to make shoes that they sell for hundreds of dollars in developed countries. How else do you think they can afford to pay athletes hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsements. So, all of these athletes professing to be for the people are actually living off virtual slave labor. Even, our beloved Michael Jordan made much of his money this way. Did he ever ask where the money was coming from, and how it was possible that a company selling sneakers could afford to pay so much money for his endorsement. I don’t think so. So, spare me your moral outrage when you bring money by the wheelbarrow to the bank for deposits. China, is one of these countries that entices companies into its borders, they offer not only a pool of inexhaustible and cheap labor, they offer the world’s largest market for their products. How can you blame these companies?

Now, I will discuss the history of American slavery. There has been much discussion about when the first slaves actually arrived in America. The date 1619 is mentioned frequently as the date slavery was introduced into America. “After having been kidnapped from their villages in what is present-day Angola, forced onto a Portuguese slave ship bound for what Europeans called the New World and stolen from that ship by English pirates in a confrontation off the coast of Mexico, “some 20. and odd Negroes” landed at Point Comfort in 1619, in the English settlement that would become Virginia.” Now we can say that white/black slaves came first in the form of indentured servants. Initially in Virginia there were no slave laws in Virginia, so the black Africans were treated as indentured servants just like the countless white Europeans before them. The typical term for payment of passage to the new world was seven years. The system did not provide for wages, only food and shelter and basic medical care. They enjoyed little personal freedom. Some contracts allowed landowners to extend the work period for servants who were accused of behavior that was deemed improper. Skilled laborers were usually indentured for fewer years because their labor was more valuable and therefore could pay off the cost of the passage quicker (typically 4-5 years). Approximately 300,000 European workers immigrated to the American colonies in the 1600’s as indentured servants and continued into the early 1700’s. There was a great demand for labor in the new world and a large labor surplus in the old world. However, the surplus eventually dried up, but the need for labor did not. With this decline in labor, the system of indentured servitude no longer was able to meet the needs of the colonies. Servitude in Virginia’s tobacco fields approached closer to slavery than anything known at the time in England. By 1705, Virginia passed “An Act concerning Servants and Slavery,” which essentially ended the perception of indentured servitude. This document did more than any previous document to establish slavery in the US, so I have included some major excerpts below. Most of the southern states followed suit. The northern states, required less labor and was able to support their needs with immigration.

Transcription from Original

Virginia Document


Be it enacted, by the governor, council, and burgesses, of this present general assembly, and it is hereby enacted, by the authority of the same, That all servants brought into this country without indenture, if the said servants be christians, and of christian parentage, and above nineteen years of age, ’till they shall become twenty-four years of age, and no longer.


Provided always, That every such servant be carried to the county court, within six months after his or her arrival into this colony, to have his or her age adjudged by the court, otherwise shall be a servant no longer than the accustomary five years, although much under the age of nineteen years; and the age of such servant being adjudged by the court, within the limitation aforesaid shall be entered upon the records of the said court, and be accounted, deemed, and taken, for the true age of the said servant, in relation to the time of service aforesaid.


And also be in enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That when any servant sold for the custom, shall pretend to have indentures, the master or owner of such servant, for discovery of the truth thereof, may bring the said servant before a justice of the peace; and if the said servant cannot produce the indenture then, but shall still pretend to have one, the said justice shall assign two months time for the doing thereof; in which time, if the said servant shall not produce his or her indenture, it shall be taken for granted that there never was one, and shall be a bar to his or her claim of making use of one afterwards, or taking any advantage by one.


And also be in enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That all servants imported and brought into this country, by sea or land, who were not christians in their native country, (except Turks and Moors in amity with her majesty, and others that can make due proof of their being free in England, or any other christian country, before they

were shipped, in order to transportation hither) shall be accounted and be slaves, and such be here bought and sold notwithstanding a conversion to christianity afterward.


And be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That if any person or persons shall hereafter import into this colony, and here sell as a slave, any person or persons that shall have been a freeman in any christian country, island, or plantation, such importer or seller as aforesaid, shall forfeit and pay, to the party from whom the said freeman shall recover his freedom, double the sum for which the said freeman was sold. To be recovered, in any court of record within this colony, according to the course of the common law, wherein the defendant shall not be admitted to plead in bar, any act or statute for limitation of actions.


Provided always, That a slave’s being in England, shall not be sufficient to discharge him of his slavery, without other proof of his being manumitted there.


And also be in enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That all masters and owners of servants, shall find and provide for their servants, wholesome and competent diet, clothing, and lodging, by the discretion of the county court; and shall not, at any time, give immoderate correction; neither shall, at any time, whip a christian white servant naked, without an order from a justice of the peace: And if any, notwithstanding this act, shall presume to whip a christian white servant naked, without such order, the person so offending, shall forfeit and pay for the same, forty shillings sterling to the party injured: To be recovered, with costs, upon petition, without the formal process of an action, as in and by this act is provided for servants complaints to be heard; provided complaint be made within six months after such whipping.


And also be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That all servants, (not being slaves,) whether imported, or become servants of their own accord here, or bound by any court or church-wardens, shall have their complaints received by a justice of the peace, who, if he find cause, shall

bind the master over to answer the complaint at court; and it shall be there determined: And all complaints of servants, shall and may, by virtue hereof, be received at any time, upon petition, in the court of the county wherein they reside, without the formal process of an action; and also full power and authority is hereby given to the said court, by their discretion, (having first summoned the masters or owners to justify themselves, if they think fit,) to adjudge, order, and appoint what shall be necessary, as to diet, lodging, clothing, and correction: And if any master or owner shall not thereupon comply with the said court’s order, the said court is hereby authorised and impowered, upon a second just complaint, to order such servant to be immediately sold at an outcry, by the sheriff, and after charges deducted, the remainder of what the said servant shall be sold for, to be paid and satisfied to such owner.


Provided always, and be it enacted, That if such servant be so sick and lame, or otherwise rendered so uncapable, that he or she cannot be sold for such value, at least, as shall satisfy the fees, and other incident charges accrued, the said court shall then order the church-wardens of the parish to take care of and provide for the said servant, until such servant’s time, due by law to the said master, or owner, shall be expired, or until such servant, shall be so recovered, as to be sold for defraying the said fees and charges: And further, the said court, from time to time, shall order the charges of keeping the said servant, to be levied upon the goods and chattels of the master or owner of the said servant, by distress.


And be it also enacted, That all servants, whether, by importation, indenture, or hire here, as well feme coverts, as others, shall, in like manner, as is provided, upon complaints of misusage, have their petitions received in court, for their wages and freedom, without the formal process of an action; and proceedings, and judgment, shall, in like manner, also, be had thereupon.


And for a further christian care and usage of all christian servants, Be it also enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That no negros, mulattos, or Indians, although christians, or Jews, Moors,

Mahometans, or other infidels, shall, at any time, purchase any christian servant, nor any other, except of their own complexion, or such as are declared slaves by this act: And if any negro, mulatto, or Indian, Jew, Moor, Mahometan, or other infidel, or such as are declared slaves by this act, shall, notwithstanding, purchase any christian white servant, the said servant shall, ipso facto, become free and acquit from any service then due, and shall be so held, deemed, and taken: And if any person, having such christian servant, shall intermarry with any such negro, mulatto, or Indian, Jew, Moor, Mahometan, or other infidel, every christian white servant of every such person so intermarrying, shall, ipso facto, become free and acquit from any service then due to such master or mistress so intermarrying, as aforesaid.


And also be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That no person whatsoever shall, buy, sell, or receive of, to, or from, any servant, or slave, any coin or commodity whatsoever, without the leave, licence, or consent of the master or owner of the said servant, or slave: And if any person shall, contrary hereunto, without the leave or licence aforesaid, deal with any servant, or slave, he or she so offending, shall be imprisoned one calender month, without bail or main-prize; and then, also continue in prison, until he or she shall find good security, in the sum of ten pounds current money of Virginia, for the good behaviour for one year following; wherein, a second offence shall be a breach of the bond; and moreover shall forfeit and pay four times the value of thethings so bought, sold, or received, to the master or owner of such servant, or slave: To be recovered, with costs, by action upon the case, in any court of record in this her majesty’s colony and dominion, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law, or other than one imparlance, shall be allowed.


Provided always, and be it enacted, That when any person or persons convict for dealing with a servant, or slave, contrary to this act, shall not immediately give good and sufficient security for his or her good behaviour, as aforesaid: then in such case, the court shall order thirty-nine lashes, well laid on, upon the bare back of such offender, at the common whipping-post of the county, and the said offender to be thence discharged of giving such bond and security.


And if any woman servant shall have a bastard child by a negro, or mulatto, over and above the years service due to her master or owner, she shall immediately, upon the expiration of her time to her then present master or owner, pay down to the church-wardens of the parish wherein such child shall be born, for the use of the said parish, fifteen pounds current money of Virginia, or be by them sold for five years, to the use aforesaid: And if a free christian white woman shall have such bastard child, by a negro, or mulatto, for every such offence, she shall, within one month after her delivery of such bastard child, pay to the church-wardens for the time being, of the parish wherein such child shall be born, for the use of the said parish fifteen pounds current money of Virginia, or be by them sold for five years to the use aforesaid: And in both the said cases, the church-wardens shall bind the said child to be a servant, until it shall be of thirty one years of age.


And for a further prevention of that abominable mixture and spurious issue, which hereafter may increase in this her majesty’s colony and dominion, as well by English, and other white men and women intermarrying with negroes or mulattos, as by their unlawful coition with them, Be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That whatsoever English, or other white man or woman, being free,

shall intermarry with a negro or mulatto man or woman, bond or free, shall, by judgment of the county court, be committed to prison, and there remain, during the space of six months, without bail or mainprize; and shall forfeit and pay ten pounds current money of Virginia, to the use of the parish, as aforesaid.


And be it further enacted, That no minister of the church of England, or other minister, or person whatsoever, within this colony and dominion, shall hereafter wittingly presume to marry a white man with a negro or mulatto woman; or to marry a white woman with a negro or mulatto man, upon pain of forfeiting and paying, for every such marriage the sum of ten thousand pounds of tobacco; one half to our sovereign lady the Queen, her heirs and successors, for and towards the support of the government, and the contingent charges thereof; and the other half to the informer; To be recovered, with costs, by action of debt, bill, plaint, or information, in any court of record within this her majesty’s colony and dominion, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law, shall be allowed.


And for encouragement of all persons to take up runaways, Be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That for the taking up of

every servant, or slave, if ten miles, or above, from the house or quarter where such servant, or slave was kept, there shall be allowed by the public, as a reward to the taker-up, two hundred pounds of tobacco; and if above five miles, and under ten, one hundred pounds of tobacco: Which said several rewards of two hundred, and one hundred pounds of tobacco, shall also be paid in the county where such taker-up shall reside, and shall be again levied by the public upon the master or owner of such runaway, for re-imbursement of the same to the public. And for the greater certainty in paying the said rewards and re-imbursement of the public, every justice of the peace before whom such runaway shall be brought, upon the taking up, shall mention the proper-name and sur-name of the taker-up, and the county of his or her residence, together with the time and place of taking up the said runaway; and shall also mention the name of the said runaway, and the proper-name and sur-name of the master or owner of such runaway, and the county of his or her residence, together with the distance of miles, in the said justice’s judgment, from the place of taking up the said runaway, to the house or quarter where such runaway was kept.


Provided, That when any negro, or other runaway, that doth not speak English, and cannot, or through obstinacy will not, declare the name of his or her masters or owner, that then it shall be sufficient for the said justice to certify the same, instead of the name of such runaway, and the proper name and sur-name of his or her master or owner, and the county of his or her residence and distance of miles, as aforesaid; and in such case, shall, by his warrant, order the said runaway to be conveyed to the public gaol, of this country, there to be continued prisoner until the master or owner shall be known; who, upon paying the charges of the imprisonment, or giving caution to the prison-keeper for the same, together with the reward of two hundred or one hundred pounds of tobacco, as the case shall be, shall have the said runaway restored.


And further, the said justice of the peace, when such runaway shall be brought before him, shall, by his warrant commit the said runaway to the next constable, and therein also order him to give the said runaway so many lashes as the said justice shall think

fit, not exceeding the number of thirty-nine; and then to be conveyed from constable to constable, until the said runaway shall be carried home, or to the country gaol, as aforesaid, every constable through whose hands the said runaway shall pass, giving a receipt at the delivery; and every constable failing to execute such warrant according to the tenor thereof, or refusing to give such receipt, shall forefeit and pay two hundred pounds of tobacco to the church-wardens of the parish wherein such failure shall be, for the use of the poor of the said parish: To be recovered, with costs, by action of debt, in any court of record in this her majesty’s colony and dominion, wherein no essoin, protection or wager of law, shall be allowed. And such corporal punishment shall not deprive the master or owner of such runaway of the other satisfaction here in this act appointed to be made upon such servant’s running away.


And be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That if any constable, or sheriff, into whose hands a runaway servant or slave shall be committed, by virtue of this act, shall suffer such runaway to escape, the said constable or sheriff shall be liable to the action of the party agrieved, for recovery of his damages, at the common law with costs.


And also be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That no master, mistress, or overseer of a family, shall knowingly permit any slave, not belonging to him or her, to be and

remain upon his or her plantation, above four hours at any one time, without the leave of such slave’s master, mistress, or overseer, on penalty of one hundred and fifty pounds of tobacco to the informer; cognizable by a justice of the peace of the county wherein such offence shall be committed.


And if any slave resist his master, or owner, or other person, by his or her order, correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction, it shall not be accounted felony; but the master, owner, and every such other person so giving correction, shall be free and acquit of all punishment and accusation for the same, as if such incident had never happened: And also, if any negro, mulatto, or Indian, bond or free, shall at any time, lift his or her hand, in opposition against any christian, not being negro, mulatto, or Indian, he or she so offending shall, for every such offence, proved by the oath of the party, receive on his or her bare back, thirty lashes, well laid on; cognizable by a justice of the peace for that county wherein such offence shall be committed.


And also be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That no slave go armed with gun, sword, club, staff, or other weapon, nor go from off the plantation and seat of land where such slave shall be appointed to live, without a certificate of leave in writing, for so doing, from his or her master, mistress, or overseer: And if any slave shall be found offending herein, it shall be lawful for any person or persons to apprehend and deliver such slave to the next constable or head-borough, who is hereby enjoined and required, without further order or warrant, to give such slave twenty lashes on his or her bare back, well laid on, and so send him or her home: And all horses, cattle, and hogs, now belonging, or that hereafter shall be-

long to any slave, or of any slaves mark in this her majesty’s colony and dominion, shall be seised and sold by the church-wardens of the parish, wherein such horses, cattle, or hogs shall be, and the profit thereof applied to the use of the poor of the said parish: And also, if any damage shall be hereafter committed by any slave living at a quarter where there is no christian overseer, the master or owner of such slave shall be liable to action for the trespass and damage, as if the same had been done by him or herself.


And also it is hereby enacted and declared, That baptism of slaves doth not exempt them from bondage; and that all children shall be bond or free, according to the condition of their mothers, and the particular direction of this act.


And whereas, many times, slaves run away and lie out, hid or lurking in swamps, woods, and other obscure places, killing hogs, and committing other injuries to the inhabitants of this her majesty’s colony and dominion, Be it therefore enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That in all such cases, upon intelligence given of any slaves lying out, as aforesaid, any two justices (Quorum unus) of the peace of the county wherein such slave is supposed to lurk or do mischief, shall be and are impowered and required to issue proclamation against all such slaves, reciting their names, and owners names, if they are known, and thereby requiring them, and every of them, forthwith to surrender themselves; and also impowering the sheriff of the said county, to take such power with him, as he shall think fit and necessary, for the effectual apprehending such out-lying slave or slaves, and go in search of them: Which proclamation shall be published on a Sabbath day, at the door of every church and chapel, in the said county, by the parish clerk, or reader, of the church, immediately after divine worship: And in case any slave, against whom proclamation hath been thus issued, and once published at any church or chapel, as aforesaid, stay out, and do not immediately return home, it shall be lawful for any person or persons whatsoever, to kill and destroy such slaves by such ways and means as he, she, or they shall think fit, without accusation or impeachment of any crime for the same: And if any slave, that hath run a-

way and lain out as aforesaid, shall be apprehended by the sheriff, or any other person, upon the application of the owner of the said slave, it shall and may be lawful for the county court, to order such punishment to the said slave, either by dismembering, or any other way, not touching his life, as they in their discretion shall think fit, for the reclaiming any such incorrigible slave, and terrifying others from the like practices.


Provided always, and it is further enacted, That for every slave killed, in pursuance of this act, or put to death by law, the master or owner of such slave shall be paid by the public:


And to the end, the true value of every slave killed, or put to death, as aforesaid, may be the better known; and by that means, the assembly the better enabled to make a suitable allowance thereupon, Be it enacted, That upon application of the master or owner of any such slave, to the court appointed for proof of public claims, the said court shall value the slave in money, and the clerk of the court shall return a certificate thereof to the assembly, with the rest of the public claims.


And for the better putting this act in due execution, and that no servants or slaves may have pretense of ignorance hereof, Be it also enacted, That the church-wardens of each parish in this her majesty’s colony and dominion, at the charge of the parish, shall provide a true copy of this act, and cause entry thereof to be made in the register book of each parish respectively; and that the parish clerk, or reader of each parish, shall, on the first sermon Sundays in September and March, annually, after sermon or divine service is ended, at the door of every church and chapel in their parish, publish the same; and the sheriff of each county shall, at the next court held for the county, after the last day of February, yearly, publish this act, at the door of the court-house: And every sheriff making default herein, shall forfeit and pay six hundred pounds of tobacco; one half to her majesty, her heirs, and successors, for and towards the support of the government; and the other half to the informer. And every parish clerk, or reader, making default herein, shall, for each time so offending, forfeit and pay six hundred

pounds of tobacco; one half whereof to be to the informer; and the other half to the poor of the parish, wherein such omission shall be : To be recovered, with costs, by action of debt, bill, plaint, or information, in any court of record in this her majesty’s colony and dominion, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law, shall be allowed.


And be it further enacted, That all and every other act and acts, and every clause and article thereof, heretofore made, for so much thereof as relates to servants and slaves, or to any other matter or thing whatsoever, within the purview of this act, is and are hereby repealed, and made void, to all intents and purposes, as if the same had never been made.

So the argument that slavery began for the African in 1619 is argumentative at best. Do we accept the argument that Indentured servitude was indeed a form of slavery? According to the definition it does not meet the criteria, because there was a finite time for servitude. Were they treated like slaves? Yes, many were treated harshly, and many of the women serving as house servants were nothing but concubines. While others were treated quite civilly and were trained in marketable skills. However, there is no denying the fact that slavery truly began in 1705. I have included a couple of maps below to show some of the numbers involved in the African slave trade.

The slave trade became quite elaborate and involved three continents. I have included screen shot from a web page, that explains the Triangular Trade quite well.

The Triangular Trade

The Transatlantic Slave Trade had three stages: 


  • Slave ships from Britain left ports like London, Liverpool and Bristol for West Africa carrying goods such as cloth, guns, ironware and drink that had been made in Britain.
  • Later, on the West African coast, these goods would be traded for men, women and children who had been captured by slave traders or bought from African chiefs.


  • African dealers kidnapped people from villages up to hundreds of miles inland. One of these people was Quobna Ottabah Cugoano who described in the autobiography how the slavers attacked with pistols and threatened to kill those who did not obey. They marched the captives to the coast where they would be traded for goods. The prisoners would be forced to march long distances, as Major Galan describes, with their hands tied behind their backs and their necks connected by wooden yokes.
  • On the African coast, European traders bought enslaved peoples from travelling African dealers or nearby African chiefs. Families were separated.
  • The traders held the enslaved Africans until a ship appeared, and then sold them to a European or African captain. It often took a long time for a captain to fill his ship. He rarely filled his ship in one spot. Instead he would spend three to four months sailing along the coast, looking for the fittest and cheapest slaves.
  • Ships would sail up and down the coast filling their holds with enslaved Africans. On the brutal ‘Middle Passage‘, enslaved Africans were densely packed onto ships that would carry them to the West Indies.
  • There were many cases of violent resistance by Africans against slave ships and their crews. These included attacks from the shore by  ‘free’ Africans against ships or longboats and many cases of shipboard revolt by slaves.


  • In the West Indies enslaved Africans would be sold to the highest bidder at slave auctions.
  • Once they had been bought, enslaved Africans worked for nothing on plantations.
  • They belonged to the plantation owner, like any other possession, and had no rights at all. The enslaved Africans were often punished very harshly.
  • Enslaved Africans resisted against their enslavement in many ways, from revolution to silent, personal resistance. Some refused to be enslaved and took their own lives. Sometimes pregnant women preferred abortion to bringing a child into slavery.
  • On the plantations, many enslaved Africans tried to slow down the pace of work by pretending to be ill, causing fires or ‘accidentally’ breaking tools. Whenever possible, enslaved Africans ran away. Some escaped to South America, England or North America. Also there were hundreds of slave revolts.
  • Two thirds of the enslaved Africans, taken to the Americas, ended up on sugar plantations. Sugar was used to sweeten another crop harvested by enslaved Africans in the West Indies – coffee.
  • With the money made from the sale of enslaved Africans, goods such as sugar, coffee and tobacco were bought and carried back to Britain for sale. The ships were loaded with produce from the plantations for the voyage home.

Slavery and Abolition in America

In 1780 Pennsylvania became the first state to begin banning slavery. In 1787 the Constitutional Convention passed the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person when determining a state’s representation in Congress but gave those slaves no rights. Slaves were property to be bought, sold, and worked until they died–and all of their children were born into slavery.

Prior to 1794, cotton farming was an incredibly labor intensive endeavor. Cotton was prohibitively expensive. With invention of the Cotton Gin by Eli Whitney, cotton soon became king over the previous king crop of tobacco. Southern plantation owners became insanely rich. The south was soon exporting cotton all over Europe. England became so dependent on this cotton that they almost interceded on the side of the south in the Civil War. If not for the northern blockade and the victory at Gettysburg, they might have done so. Our history might have been totally different if this had occurred.

While New England’s textile industry had once depended on slave labor, the Northern states had mostly abolished slavery in 1804–although in some cases the statutes remained legally in force. In 1808 Congress outlawed the importation of slaves from Africa, but the domestic slave trade, the exchange of existing slaves and their families, continued to flourish in the South.

The slave trade was abolished on January 1st, 1808. The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves was enacted on March 2, 1807. This legislation was promoted by Thomas Jefferson. He had been promoting the idea since 1770’s. While it did not end slavery, it ended probably the most inhumane part of slavery. Thousands of Africans died every year in the voyage to America. So in the sense, slavery became a little more humane. But it was a hollow victory at best, slavery still continued. The south reasoned that the trade was now unnecessary, since they were able to replenish the slave market with internal reproduction. It also helped to drive the price up for the slaves and reduced the competition from smaller less profitable farms. These smaller farms simply simply could not afford to buy slaves.

The Missouri Compromise, passed in 1820, a tenuous peace between pro- and antislavery interests, by dividing the twenty-two states equally into slave and free states. The abolitionist movement created the Underground Railroad, a vast network of way stations consisting of hiding places in caves and in cellars, beneath church floors and in barn lofts, through which “conductors” guided escaping slaves trying to make their way north to freedom. Harriet Tubman was one of these “conductors”. On August 1831, a fugitive slave Nat Turner led a rebellion of enslaved black people that took place in Southampton County, Virginia. Fugitive enslaved people killed from 55 to 65 people, at least 51 being white. Though the rebellion was quelled in 2 days, it was two months before Nat Turner was captured. Once captured he was quickly sentenced to be hung. His body was skinned and ripped apart and then burned, several of his followers were decapitated. In 1845 a recently escaped slave, re-named Frederick Douglas became famous after writing his autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave.” He to prevent retribution by the south fled to Europe. He toured the country giving speeches discussing the plight of the American slave. It is believed that his speeches in England were in part responsible for the reticence of the English Parliament to support the South in the bid for secession.

In 1850 the Fugitive Slave Act made it a federal crime to assist escaping slaves and included large fines and possible imprisonment for offenders. In 1851, Harriet Beecher Stowe began writing a serial for the antislavery magazine the National Era. A year later her 40 plus installments was published as the two-volume book Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

 In 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise, allowing individual states and territories to decide for themselves whether to allow slavery. The law provoked violent opposition in Kansas and Illinois, and it gave rise to the Republican Party.  In 1857, the Supreme Court issued its controversial Dred Scott decision, declaring African Americans were not citizens and had no inherent rights. Though Lincoln felt African Americans were not equal to whites, he believed America’s founders intended that all men were created with certain inalienable rights. In 1859, John Brown, an abolitionist led a group of sixteen white men, four free black men, and one fugitive slave across the Potomac River into Virginia, where they captured the armory at Harper’s Ferry. A company of marines led by Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee, quelled the rebellion. Ten of Brown’s followers and one marine were killed. The wounded Brown was tried by the state of Virginia for treason and murder, and he was found guilty on November 2. The 59-year-old abolitionist went to the gallows on December 2, 1859. In addition six members of his provisional army were hung. Before his execution, he handed his guard a slip of paper that read, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” It was a prophetic statement. Although the raid failed, it inflamed sectional tensions and raised the stakes for the 1860 presidential election. Brown’s raid helped make any further accommodation between North and South nearly impossible and thus became an important impetus of the Civil War.

The Confederate States of America was a collection of 11 states that seceded from the United States in 1860 following the election of President Abraham Lincoln. By 1860, Southern politics was dominated by the idea of states’ rights in the context of slavery to support the South’s agricultural economy, and slave-heavy, cotton-producing agricultural states embraced secession as the solution. The election of Abraham Lincoln was labeled an act of war by some Southern politicians, who predicted armies would come to seize slaves and force white women to marry black men. Former secretary of war, military man and then-Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis was elected Confederate president. Ex-Georgia governor, congressman and former anti-secessionist Alexander H. Stephens became vice-president of the Confederate States of America.

On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” *This act caused a mass exodus of slaves out of the south, many of whom joined the Union Army in the fight against the South. Well, we know the outcome of the war, the south lost and slavery was ended. Three constitutional amendments soon followed.

Constitutional Amendments Concerning Slavery


Passed by Congress on 31 January 1865; Ratified 6 December 1865 

Section 1 

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. 


Passed by Congress 13 June 1866; Ratified 9 July 1868 

Section 1 

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws… 


Passed by Congress 26 February 1869; Ratified 3 February 1870 

Section 1 

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude…

However, the hope for a smooth transition for the south back into the Union was dashed by the assassination Of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Of all dates in history this is probably the most important one for the Black people. They have been paying the price ever since. Some inroads were made with Civil Rights Legislation in the 1960’s and there was great hope that racism was finally behind us when Barack Obama was elected as our first black president. But this proved to be a pipe dream, because he was unable to put the people of this country before his own personal agenda. He ended up driving a bigger wedge between blacks and whites instead of healing the country. Of all the disappointments I have experienced in my life, he was probably the biggest disappointment. And to quote radio icon Paul Harvey, “And now you know the rest of the story”.

Sexual Exploitation in Slavery

I briefly mentioned slavery for sexual exploitation earlier in this article, I will discuss it more in depth now. African-American slaves were systematically raped or forced to breed with other slaves. Early American colonists were largely male, and some men resorted to force to procure wives. Native American women were often captured to be traded, sold, or taken as wives.  Plaçage, a formalized system of concubinage among slave women or free people of color, developed in Louisiana and particularly New Orleans by the 18th century. Currently, under federal law, a prostitute is considered a victim of human trafficking if he or she is either under 18 or is being controlled through force, fraud or coercion. However, this is not fully implemented, and in many states, prostitutes who are considered victims under federal law are still arrested and prosecuted under state law.

The plaçage system developed from the predominance of white men among early colonial populations, who took women as consorts from Native Americans and enslaved Africans. In this period there was a shortage of European women, as the colonies were dominated in the early day by male explorers and colonists. Given the harsh conditions in Louisiana, persuading women to follow the men was not easy. France sent females convicted along with their debtor husbands, and in 1719, deported 209 women felons “who were of a character to be sent to the French settlement in Louisiana.”

Prostitution and White Slavery in America

By the 19th century, most of America’s cities had a designated, legally protected area of prostitution. Increased urbanization and young women entering the workforce led to greater flexibility in courtship without supervision. It is in this changing social sphere that the panic over “white slavery” began. This term referred to women being coerced, lured, or kidnapped for the purposes of prostitution.

Act 18 U.S.C. § 1591, or the Commercial Sex Act, the US makes it illegal to recruit, entice, obtain, provide, move or harbor a person or to benefit from such activities knowing that the person will be caused to engage in commercial sex acts where the person is under 18 or where force, fraud or coercion exists. Before President Bush took office, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). The TVPA strengthened services to victims of violence, law enforcements ability to reduce violence against women and children, and education against human trafficking. Also specified in the TVPA was a mandate to collect funds for the treatment of sex trafficking victims that provided them with shelter, food, education, and financial grants. Internationally, the TVPA set standards that governments of other countries must follow in order to receive aid from the U.S. to fight human trafficking. Once George W. Bush took office in 2001, restricting sex trafficking became one of his primary humanitarian efforts. The Attorney General under President Bush, John Ashcroft, strongly enforced the TVPA. The Act was subsequently renewed in 2004, 2006, and 2008. It established two stipulations an applicant has to meet in order to receive the benefits of a T-Visa. First, a trafficked victim must prove/admit to being trafficked and second must submit to prosecution of his or her trafficker. In 2011, Congress failed to re-authorize the Act. The State Department publishes an annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which examines the progress that the U.S. and other countries have made in destroying human trafficking businesses, arresting the kingpins, and rescuing the victims.


The Routledge History of Slavery, edited by Gad Heuman and Trevor Burnard; Slavery A world History by Milton Meltzer; History of Slavery by Susanne Everett and a few public domain internet articles: White Women and the Economy of Slavery by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers; Slavery was Never Abolished…. By Catherine Armstrong; New Slavery: A Reference Handbook by Kevin Bales; 1619: 400 Years Ago, A Ship Arrived in Virginia Bearing Human Cargo by E.R. Ship; and The Abolition Project., “The Bible and Slavery.” By Wikipedia Editors;


Ist Black American Medal of Honor Winner

*William Harvey Carney (February 29, 1840 – December 9, 1908) was an American soldier during the American Civil War. Born as a slave, he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1900 for his gallantry in saving the regimental colors (American flag) during the Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863. The action for which he received the Medal of Honor preceded any other African American Medal of Honor recipient; however, his medal was actually one of the very last to be awarded for Civil War service. It is a shame it took so long for his actions and bravery to be finally recognized.

A Brief American History Slavery Timeline From Civil War to Present

To assist in the study of slavery and racism in the US I have included a timeline below. Some of the material is posted above. This was from by Dr. Wilfred Reilly:

+We had a Civil War that began in 1861. Over 800,000 casualties. That would be the equivalent today of over eight million casualties. And over half of those were soldiers and others fighting for the North, to keep the union together and to end slavery. No nation on the face of the Earth has ever undertaken such an effort.

+In 1863, we have the Emancipation Proclamation. President Lincoln freeing the slaves throughout the country, particularly the south. We had 1865, the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. The states ratified the 13th Amendment.

+We had the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and 1871. The Enforcement Act of 1870. The Force Act of 1871 — all intended to advance the cause of integration. With the KKK Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1875.

+In 1868, the 14th Amendment was ratified by the states. It abolishes, not only did it abolish slavery, it guarantees due process and equal protection of all citizens, especially freed African slaves. In 1870, the 15th Amendment guarantees the right to vote for all citizens.

+Now, the implementation of this became problematic because of the Democratic Party and racist elements, not just in the south and in the north that didn’t believe in reconstruction after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and after Ulysses S. Grant left office, and so there have been many efforts since then, including by our courts, our national legislatures and our state legislature.

+You have in 1954, the Brown versus Board of Education decision, nine to zero, reversing parts of Plessy versus Ferguson. It ended legal racial segregation in schools. In 1962, Bailey versus Patterson ends desegregation and transportation.

+In the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed by the overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate and majorities of the Democrats in both prohibits discrimination in voting, public accommodations, public facilities, public education, Federal assistance programs and employment and established the EEOC or the 1965 Voting Rights Act that prohibited denial or restriction of the right to vote. It forbids discriminatory voting practices nationwide.

+In 1967, you had the Loving versus Virginia Act declaring state laws prohibiting interracial marriage to be unconstitutional.

+Going back, in 1953, Dwight Eisenhower instituted rules that eliminated discrimination in government contracting. He desegregated Federal government in the nation’s capital. In 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, it created the Civil Rights Commission. It created the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

+In 1957 and 1959, Eisenhower ordered desegregation of the Washington, D.C. public schools.

+We have the Insurrection Act that was amended in 1871 to allow the use of military to enforce among other things, Civil Rights and desegregation. In 1871, Ulysses S. Grant sent a thousand soldiers to hunt down Klansmen in South Carolina and they captured 600 of them.

+In 1957, Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to protect nine black students entering Little Rock Central High School against the order of the Governor at the time, Orville Faubus, one of Bill Clinton’s mentors, by the way.

+In 1962, John Kennedy federalized the National Guard to allow a black student to enroll in classes at the University of Mississippi-Oxford.

+In 1965, LBJ federalized the National Guard to protect Civil Rights marches headed for Selma to Montgomery

A visual update of the Impact of Slavery in the US

(Update 7/13/2021)

There are more slaves right now than there ever were in the US. Worldwide, there are 25+ million slaves. To put this in perspective, the world population is now ~7.5 Billion and slave population is ~3o Million. The slave population in 1850 in the US alone was ~0.3% of the world population, while the total slave population today is around 0.4% of the population. Right now, there are slaves in the US and Canada. There are sex slaves working in Vancouver, today. There are child slaves overseas harvesting shrimp, pineapple, tea, coffee, and chocolate. Odds are very high that you have used something made by a child slave today.

(Update 7/31/2023)

The Bible and Slavery

If you hold with the premise that the bible is not only a theological work but also an historical one as well, than it becomes necessary to include the study of it in our analysis of historical slavery. Slavery of one form or another is mentioned on numerous occasions so its inclusion is definitely germane to this work. I got the idea of including it here when I was doing background reading for my most recent book, which is a work of fiction, that also includes a lot of historical references. I do not hold with the author’s analysis, however that the bible is pro slavery. I think that the authors were simply impartial at best. They included a discussion on the various tpes and aspects of slavery mainly because it was so prevalent throughout our history and therefore played pivotal roles throughout it.

The Bible contains many references to slavery, which was a common practice in antiquity. Biblical texts outline sources and the legal status of slaves, economic roles of slavery, types of slavery, and debt slavery, which thoroughly explain the institution of slavery in Israel in antiquity. The Bible stipulates the treatment of slaves, especially in the Old Testament. There are also references to slavery in the New Testament. Many of the patriarchs portrayed in the Bible were from the upper echelons of society, owned slaves, enslaved those in debt to them, bought their fellow citizens’ daughters as concubines, and consistently enslaved foreign men to work on their fields. Masters were men, and it is not evident that women were able to own slaves until the Elephantine papyri in the 400s BC. Other than these instances, it is unclear whether or not state-instituted slavery was an accepted practice.It was necessary for those who owned slaves, especially in large numbers, to be wealthy because the masters had to pay taxes for Jewish and non-Jewish slaves because they were considered part of the family unit. Slaves were seen as an important part of the family’s reputation, especially in Hellenistic and Roman times, and slave companions for a woman were seen as a manifestation and protection of a woman’s honor. As time progressed, domestic slavery became more prominent, and domestic slaves, usually working as an assistant to the wife of the patriarch, allowed larger houses to run more smoothly and efficiently. In the 19th century United States, abolitionists and defenders of slavery debated the Bible’s message on the topic. Abolitionists used texts from both the Old and New Testaments to argue for the manumission of slaves, and against kidnapping or “stealing men” to own or sell them as slaves.

Slavery in antiquity

Main article: Slavery in antiquitySlaves performed a variety of tasks. To determine what a slave’s task was, many scholars look at repetitive descriptions which are contained in texts that were written around the same time and they also look at well-documented reports about other cultures which were written by authors who were raised in the Greco-Roman culture. One of the main functions of slaves was to serve as status symbols for the upper members of society, especially when it came to the acquisition of dowries for their daughters. These slaves could be sold or given away as needed, and they also showed that the family was capable of providing generous amounts of money to their daughters when they were married off. They also catered to the needs of the temple and they performed more domestic tasks such as keeping up the household, raising farm animals and growing small amounts of crops. Masters frequently took advantage of their slaves who were at their beck and call by requiring them to perform duties in public that the master had the ability to do himself. This showed a level of luxury which extended from the private sphere to the public sphere. In addition to showing luxury, the possession of slaves was necessary for a good family background, and many wealthy men viewed their colleagues who only possessed a few slaves as the type of individual who needed to be pitied.

Old Testament

War captives

The Israelites did not generally get involved in distant or large-scale wars, and apparently capture was not a significant source of slaves. The taking of female captives is encouraged by Moses in Numbers 31. After being instructed by Yahweh to take vengeance upon the MidianitesMoses tells the Israelites to kill the male children and nonvirgin females but take the young virgins for themselves. Ken Brown at Whitworth University claims that since the army did not receive a direct instruction by Yahweh to take the virgin girls captive, this cannot be justified as the obeying of a divine order; rather the Israelites enslaved the virgin women of their own initiative.[14]In the Deuteronomic Code, enemy nations that surrendered to the Israelites were to serve as tributaries. However, if they decided to war against Israel, all the men were to be killed and all the women and children were to be considered spoils of war.If the soldier desired to marry a captured foreigner he was to take her home to his house, shave her head, pare her nails, and discard her captive’s garb. She would remain in his house a full month, mourning for her father and mother, after that he could go in to her and be her husband, and she be his wife. If he later wished to end the relationship, he could not sell her into slavery. Harold C. Washington of the Saint Paul School of Theology cites Deuteronomy 21:10–14 as an example of how the Bible condones sexual violence committed by Israelites; they were taking advantage of women who, as war captives, had no recourse or means of self defense.M. I. Rey at the Graduate Institute of Religious Studies at Boston University argues that the passage is an endorsement of not only sexual slavery but genocidal rape, as the capture of these women is justified on the grounds of their not being Hebrew. Rey further argues that these women were not viewed as equals to Hebrew women, but rather as war trophies, and thus their captors had no qualms in engaging in sexual violence. However, the biblical command never specifies that the war in question is against non-Hebrews, but rather against generic “enemies”, a term used in reference to Israelites as well as foreigners, and several wars between Israelite armies are recorded in the Bible. According to many Jewish commentators, the laws of the captive woman are not intended to encourage capture and forced marriage of women, but rather view it as inevitable in wartime and seek to minimize its occurrence and brutality. By this view, the laws of Deuteronomy 21:12–13 (that the captive woman must shave her head, spend a month in mourning, etc. before marriage) are intended “to remove [the captor’s] desire for her, so that he not take her as wife”.

Fugitive slaves

The Deuteronomic Code forbids the Israelites from handing over fugitive slaves to their masters or oppressing them, and instructs that these fugitives should be allowed to reside where they wish. Although a literal reading would indicate that this applies to slaves of all nationalities and locations, the Mishnah and many commentators consider the rule to have the much narrower application, to just those slaves who flee from outside Israelite territory into it.

Blood slavery

It was also possible to be born into slavery. If a male Israelite slave had been given a wife by his owner, then the wife and any children which had resulted from the union would remain the property of his owner, according to the Covenant Code. Although no nationality is specified, 18th-century theologians John Gill (1697–1771) and Adam Clarke suggested this referred only to Canaanite concubines.

Debt slavery

Debt slaves were one of the two categories of slaves in ancient Jewish society. As the name implies, these individuals sold themselves into slavery in order to pay off debts they may have accrued. These individuals were not permanently in this situation and were usually released after six to seven years. Chattel slaves, on the other hand, were less common and were usually prisoners of war who retained no individual right of redemption. These chattel slaves engaged in full-time menial labor, often in a domestic capacity. Like the rest of the Ancient Near East, the legal systems of the Israelites divided slaves into different categories: “In determining who should benefit from their intervention, the legal systems drew two important distinctions: between debt and chattel slaves, and between native and foreign slaves. The authorities intervened first and foremost to protect the former category of each–citizens who had fallen on hard times and had been forced into slavery by debt or famine.” Poverty, and more generally a lack of economic security, compelled some people to enter debt bondage. In the Ancient Near East, wives and (non-adult) children were dependents of the head of household and were sometimes sold into slavery by the husband or father for financial reasons. Evidence of this viewpoint is found in the Code of Hammurabi, which permits debtors to sell their wives and children into temporary slavery, lasting a maximum of three years. The book of Leviticus also exhibits this, allowing foreign residents to sell their own children and families to Israelites, although no limitation is placed on the duration of such slavery. Biblical authors repeatedly criticize debt slavery, which could be attributed to high taxation, monopoly of resources, high-interest loans, and collapse of higher kinship groups.The earlier Covenant Code instructs that, if a thief is caught after sunrise and is unable to make restitution for the theft, then the thief should be enslaved.

Sexual and conjugal slavery

Tapestry depicting RachelDan and BilhahJacob was Rachel’s husband, and Bilhah was Rachel’s handmaid; Rachel “gives” Bilhah to her husband and he has two sons by Bilhah: Dan and Naphtali.

There were two words used for female slaves, which were amah (אָמָה) and shifhah (שִׁפְחָה). Based upon the uses in different texts, the words appear to have the same connotations and are used synonymously, namely that of being a sexual object, though the words themselves appear to be from different ethnic origins. Men assigned their female slaves the same level of dependence as they would a wife. Close levels of relationships could occur given the amount of dependence placed upon these women. These slaves had two specific roles: a sexual use and companionship. Their reproductive capacities were valued within their roles within the family. Marriage with these slaves was not unheard of or prohibited. In fact, it was a man’s concubine that was seen as the “other” and shunned from the family structure. These female slaves were treated more like women than slaves which may have resulted, according to some scholars, due to their sexual role, which was particularly to “breed” more slaves. Sexual slavery, or being sold to be a wife was common in the ancient world. Throughout the Old Testament, the taking of multiple wives is recorded many times. An Israelite father could sell his unmarried daughters into servitude, with the expectation or understanding that the master or his son could eventually marry her (as in Exodus 21:7–11.) It is understood by Jewish and Christian commentators that this referred to the sale of a daughter, who “is not arrived to the age of twelve years and a day, and this through poverty.”

And if a man sells his daughter to be a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.

The code also instructs that the woman was to be allowed to be redeemed if the man broke his betrothal to her. If a female slave was betrothed to the master’s son, then she had to be treated as a normal daughter. If he took another wife, then he was required to continue supplying the same amounts of food, clothing, and conjugal rights to her. The code states that failure to comply with these regulations would automatically grant free manumission to the enslaved woman, while all Israelite slaves were to be treated as hired servants.[45]The betrothal clause seems to have provided an exception to the law of release in Deuteronomy 15:12 (cf. Jeremiah 34:14), in which both male and female Israelite servants were to be given release in the seventh year.The penalty if an Israelite engaged in sexual activity with an unredeemed female slave who was betrothed was that of scourging, with Jewish tradition seeing this as only referring to the slave, (versus Deuteronomy 22:22, where both parties were stoned, being free persons), as well as the man confessing his guilt and the priest making atonement for his sin.

Permanent enslavement

As for Israelite slaves, the Covenant Code allows them to voluntarily renounce their seventh-year manumission and become permanent slaves (literally being slaves forever). The Law require that the slaves confirmed this desire “before God”, a phrase which has been understood to mean at either a religious sanctuary, before judges, or in the presence of household gods. Having done this, slaves were then to have an awl driven through their ear into a doorpost by their master. This ritual was common throughout the Ancient Near East, being practiced by MesopotamiansLydians, and Arabs; in the Semitic world, the ear symbolised obedience (much as the heart symbolises emotion, in the modern western world), and a pierced earlobe signified servitude.

Slave trade

The Holiness code of Leviticus explicitly allows participation in the slave trade, with non-Israelite residents who had been sold into slavery being regarded as a type of property that could be inherited.

Working conditions

The Ten Commandments make clear that honouring the Shabbat was expected of slaves, not just their masters.[56] The later book of Deuteronomy, having repeated the Shabbat requirement, also instructs that slaves should be allowed to celebrate the Sukkot festival. Leviticus instructs that during the Sabbatical Year, slaves and their masters should eat food which the land yields, without being farmed. This commandment not to work the land is directed at the landowner and does not mention slaves, but other verses imply that no produce is sown by anyone in this year, and command that the land must “lie fallow”. It is not mentioned whether slaves receive rest from non-agricultural work during this year.Unlike the other books, Leviticus does not mention the freeing of Israelite slaves after six years, instead simply giving the vague instruction that Israelite slaves should not to be compelled to work with rigour; Maimonides argues that this was to be interpreted as forbidding open-ended work (such as keep doing that until I come back), and that disciplinary action was not to include instructing the slave to perform otherwise pointless work. A special case is that of the debtor who sells himself as a slave to his creditor; Leviticus instructs that in this situation, the debtor must not be made to do the work of slaves, but must instead be treated the same as a hired servant. In Jewish tradition, this was taken to mean that the debtor should not be instructed to do humiliating work – which only slaves would do – and that the debtor should be asked to perform the craft(s) which they usually did before they had been enslaved, if it is realistic to do so.

Injury and compensation

The earlier Covenant Code provides a potentially more valuable and direct form of relief, namely a degree of protection for the slave’s person (their body and its health) itself. This codification extends the basic lex talionis (….eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth…), to compel that when slaves are significantly injured by their masters, manumission is to be the compensation given; the canonical examples mentioned are the knocking out of an eye or a tooth. This resembles the earlier Code of Hammurabi, which instructs that when an injury is done to a social inferior, monetary compensation should be made, instead of carrying out the basic lex talionis; Josephus indicates that by his time it was acceptable for a fine to be paid to the slave, instead of manumitting them, if the slave agreed. Nachmanides argued that it was a biblically commanded duty to liberate a slave who had been harmed in this way. The Hittite laws and the Code of Hammurabi both insist that if a slave is harmed by a third party, the third party must financially compensate the owner. In the Covenant Code, if an ox gores a slave, the ox owner must pay the servant’s master a 30 shekel fine. The murder of slaves by owners was prohibited in the Law covenant. The Covenant Code clearly institutes the death penalty for beating a free man to death; in contrast, beating a slave to death was to be avenged only if the slave does not survive for one or two days after the beating. Abraham ben Nathan of Lunel, a 12th-century Provençal scholarTargum, and Maimonides argue that avenged implies the death penalty, but more recent scholars view it as probably describing a lesser punishment. A number of modern Protestant Bible versions (such as the New Living TranslationNew International Version and New Century Version) translate the survival for one or two days as referring to a full and speedy recovery, rather than to a lingering death, as favoured by other recent versions (such as the New Revised Standard Version, and New American Bible).


In a parallel with the shmita system the Covenant Code prescribes automatic manumission of male Israelite slaves after they have worked for six years this excludes non-Israelite slaves, and specifically excludes Israelite daughters, who were sold into slavery by their fathers, from such automatic seventh-year manumission. Such were bought to be betrothed to the owner, or his son, and if that had not been done, they were to be allowed to be redeemed. If the marriage took place, they were to be set free if her husband was negligent in his basic marital obligations. The late Deuteronomic Code is seen by some to contradict elements of this instruction, in extending automatic seventh year manumission to both sexes. The Deuteronomic Code also extends the seventh-year manumission rule by instructing that Israelite slaves freed in this way should be given livestock, grain, and wine as a parting gift; the literal meaning of the verb used, at this point in the text, for giving this gift seems to be hang round the neck. The Gift is described in The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia as representing a gift of produce rather than of money or clothing; many Jewish scholars estimated that the value of the three listed products was about 30 shekels, so the gift gradually came to be standardised as produce worth this fixed value. The Bible states that one should not regret freeing the Slave, for slaves were worth Twice the Hired hand to The Master; Nachmanides enumerates this as a command rather than merely as a piece of advice. According to Jeremiah 34:8–24Jeremiah also demanded that King Zedekiahmanumit (free) all Israelite slaves (Jeremiah 34:9). Leviticus does not mention seventh-year manumission; instead it only instructs that debt-slaves, and Israelite slaves owned by foreign residents, should be freed during the national Jubilee (occurring either every 49 or every 50 years, depending on interpretation). While many commentators see the Holiness Code regulations as supplementing the prior legislation mandating manumission in the seventh year,  the otherwise potentially long wait until the Jubilee was somewhat alleviated by the Holiness Code, with the instruction that slaves should be allowed to buy their freedom by paying an amount equal to the total wages of a hired servant over the entire period remaining until the next Jubilee (this could be up to 49 years-worth of wages). Blood relatives of the slave were also allowed to buy the slave’s freedom, and this became regarded as a duty to be carried out by the next of kin (Hebrew: Go’el).In the Old Testament, the differences between male and female enslavement were vast. Deuteronomic code applied mostly to men, while women were able to be subjected to a much different type of slavery. This change in status would require a female debt slave to become a permanent fixture of the household by way of marrying the father or the father’s son. Deuteronomy 21:9 states that the female slave must be treated as a daughter if such permanent status is to be established.

Abolition of slavery

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the slavery of Israelites was abolished by the prophets after the destruction of the Temple of Solomon. The prophet Nehemiah rebuked the wealthy Israelites of his day for continuing to own Israelite slaves.

New Testament

Slavery is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament.


The Bible says that Jesushealed the ill slave of a centurion and restored the cut off ear of the high priest’s slave. In his parables, Jesus referenced slavery: the prodigal son, ten gold coins,unforgiving tenant, and tenant farmers. Jesus’ teaching on slavery include mentions of spiritual slavery, a slave having two masters (God and mammon), slavery to God acting as a slave toward others, and the greatest among his disciples being the least of them. Jesus also taught that he would give burdened and weary laborers rest. The Passion narratives are interpreted by the Catholic Church as a fulfillment of the Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah. When questioned about the hierarchy of his followers, Jesus responds that “whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Matthew 20:27).


In Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, Paul motivates early Christian servants to remain loyal and obedient to their masters like they are to Christ. Ephesians 6:5–8 Paul states, “Servants, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ” which is Paul instructing slaves to obey their master. Similar statements regarding obedient slaves can be found in Colossians 3:22–24, 1 Timothy 6:1–2, and Titus 2:9–10. In Col 4:1 Paul advises members of the church, who are slave masters, to “treat your slaves justly and fairly, realizing that you too have a Master in heaven.” Adding to Paul’s advice to masters and slaves, he uses slavery as a metaphor. In Romans 1:1 Paul calls himself “a slave of Christ Jesus” and later in Romans 6:18 Paul writes “You have been set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness.” Also in Galatians, Paul writes on the nature of slavery within the kingdom of God. Galatians 3:28 states: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We find similar patterns of speech and understanding about slavery in Peter’s epistles. In 1 Peter 2:18, Saint Peter writes “Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse.” In 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul condemns enslavers with the sexually immoral, abusers of themselves with mankind, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.


The Epistle to Philemon has become an important text in regard to slavery; it was used by pro-slavery advocates as well as by abolitionists. In the epistle, Saint Paul writes to Saint Philemon that he is returning Saint Onesimus, a fugitive slave, back to him; however, Paul also entreats Philemon to regard Onesimus, who he says he views as a son, not as a slave but as a beloved brother in Christ. Philemon is requested to treat Onesimus as he would treat Paul. According to Catholic tradition, Philemon freed Onesimus.


The prospect of manumission is an idea prevalent within the New Testament. In contrast to the Old Testament, the New Testament’s criteria for manumission encompasses Roman laws on slavery as opposed to the shmita system. Manumission within the Roman system largely depends on the mode of enslavement: slaves were often foreigners, prisoners of war, or those heavily indebted. For foreign-born individuals, manumission was increasingly amorphous; however, if subject to debt slavery, manumission was much more concrete: freedom was granted once the debt was paid. Children were often offered to creditors as a form of payment and their manumission was determined ab initio (at the outset) with the pater (family head).[82] This manicipia (enslavement) of children by the pater did not exclude the selling of children into sexual slavery. If sold into sex slavery, the prospect of complete manumission became much less likely under the stipulations of Roman Law. Being sold into sexual slavery meant greater chance of perpetual servitude, by way of explicit enslavement or forced marriage.One of the first discussions of manumission in the New Testament can be seen in Paul’s interaction with Philemon’s slave Onesimus. Onesimus was held captive with Paul, as he was a fugitive, run-away slave. Paul proceeds to baptize the slave Onesimus, and then writes to his owner, Philemon, telling him that he will pay whatever fee Onesimus owes for his fugitive status. Paul does not explicitly ask Philemon for Onesimus’s manumission; however, the offer to pay a “fee” for Onesimus’s escape has been discussed as a possible latent form of manumission. Paul’s treatment of Onesimus additionally brings into question of Roman slavery as a “closed” or “open” slave system. Open slave systems allow for incorporation of freed slaves into society after manumission, while closed systems manumitted slaves still lack social agency or social integration. Roman slavery exhibited characteristics of both, open and closed, systems which further complicates the letter from Paul to Philemon regarding the slave Onesimus.In the time of the New Testament, there were three modes in which a slave could be manumitted by his or her master: a will could include a formal permission of manumission, a slave could be declared free during a census, or a slave and master could go before a provincial official. These modes of manumission lend evidence to suggest that manumission was an everyday occurrence, and thus complicates New Testament texts encouraging manumission. In 1 Corinthians 7:21, Paul encourages enslaved peoples to pursue manumission; however, this manumission could be connoted in the boundaries of a closed slave system in which manumission does not equate to complete freedom. Modes of manumission, in the New Testament, are once again disputed in a letter from Paul to Galatians in which Paul writes “For freedom Christ has set us free”.

1 Peter

In 1 Peter 2:18-20, slaves are ordered to “in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.”

Book of Revelation

Revelation 18 lists enslaved people as one of the “excessive luxuries” of “Babylon the Great” which it says will fall when God judges its “sins” and “crimes”.

Historical reception

In the debate over slavery in England and the United States in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, both supporters of slavery and abolitionists cited the Bible as support for their views. The Curse of Ham (Genesis 9:18–27) was a passage particularly used by Christian slave owners to justify their enslavement of black people. This justification has been criticised extensively as a misinterpretation The Epistle to Philemon was also used as evidence by both sides of the debate. It has been noted that the slavery in the Old Testament differs greatly from Roman and modern slavery.

Racism and Slavery Postings