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The Beginning of Slavery in the American Colonies

The growth of slavery in the American Colonies was encouraged by economics, geography, and social factors. In the 1600s the people of the American Colonies began enslaving blacks (Slavery in the United States, 504). In 1607 about 250,000 Africans were brought to Jamestown to be sold off as slaves (Antebellum Slavery: Economics and Development of Slavery, 2). Slave owners varied broadly on how they treated their slaves and how they were housed; they were given food and clothing but the quality was always different for different slaves(Slavery in the United States, 504). There were also different kinds of slaves; field slaves worked the longest normally from sunrise to sunset and house slaves worked fewer hours and were able to live in their masters home (Slavery in the United States, 504). Slaves were not granted many rights, for example, they were not allowed to have a formal education, own property, earn their freedom, marry, or testify in court (Slavery in the United States, 504). By 1708, the black population in Colonial America outnumbered the white population (Slavery in America, 1). In the American Colonies slaves were not treated fairly by most and were thought of to be lower in social standings than whites.

Economics played a large role in slavery and the development of the American Colonies. In the South the slaves were used to work on large plantations that usually produced products like rice, indigo, and tobacco (Slavery in the United States, 504). Slaves also helped to build canals, roads, and railroads which later became very important for America (Slavery in the United States, 504). Slaves were also used to clear woods for farmland (Slavery in the United States, 504). Slave economy grew very rapidly as they were used to pick cotton they provided most of the cotton cultivation that the Northern Colonies and European textile manufacturers needed (Slavery in the United States-MSN, 10). Slaves were not as common in the North and not because that’s where the abolitionists were, but because the South needed help with farming while the North became involved in manufacturing (Antebellum Slavery: Economics, 1). Most of the slaves in the North were not used in the manufacturing scene but were domestic servants (Slavery in the United States-MSN, 3). Slavery was actually a very good boost to Colonial America’s economy.

Geography was also a large factor in the development of Colonial America and the rise of slavery. Slavery grew the fastest in the Southern colonies due to the fact that there were large plantations where many slaves could work and were needed to work (Slavery in the United States, 504). These slaves grew staple crops in the South such as tobacco and rice (Slavery in the United States-MSN, 3). But slavery was different in the North where there were small farms and industries that were mainly about economic activity (Slavery in the United States, 504). Though slaves worked in New York where there were wheat producers and in Rhode Island where there were horse breeders but a bad climate and bad soil left these businesses to falter in the agricultural world (Slavery in the United States-MSN, 3). All in all geography and climate made it so that slavery was more common in the South on large plantations.

In the social layout at the time slaves were on the bottom rung of the ladder. Slaves were brought directly from Africa and were forced into labor for life (Maier, Smith, Keyssar, Kelves, 124). They did not have many rights and were forced to work in tough conditions (Maier, Smith, Keyssar, Kelves, 125). Slaves were denied the right to bear arms or engaging in trade (Maier, Smith, Keyssar, Kelves, 124). This change in servitude was necessary because of the decline in indentured servants from England (Maier, Smith, Keyssar, Kelves, 124). The slaves later became a need for plantation owners in the South.

Due to all these factors and ways of life for the slaves and Colonial people, slavery helped the economy of Colonial America greatly.


"Slavery in the United States." The World Book Encyclopedia. S-Sn ed. Vol. 17. New York: Degrolier Inc., 1990. 504-05. Print.

"Slavery in the United States - MSN Encarta." MSN Encarta : Online Encyclopedia, Dictionary, Atlas, and Homework. Web. 16 Sept. 2009. .

"Antebellum Slavery: Economics." Coral Gables Senior High School - Home of the Cavaliers. Web. 16 Sept. 2009.


Slavery in America. Web. 16 Sept. 2009. .

Maier, Pauline, Merritt Roe Smith, Alexander Keyssar, and Daniel J. Kevles. Inventing America. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. Print.

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