Slavery in the New World
(Week 10, November 19 , 2013)
Slavery in the New World:
Slaves as property.
Organization of plantation labour.
“Rights” of slaves.
Since 1430’s, Portuguese had been trading in BlackAfrican slaves.
When New World colonies could no longer rely on Native slavery for labour needs
because of brutal death rates turned toAfrican slaves.
Brazil was the single largest importer accounting for 5 million slaves.
Caribbean colonies were next largest, bringing in approximately 4.5 millionAfrican
Conversely,American colonies only imported approximately 500,000 slaves.
Brazil (Portuguese) started with 5 million slaves, had 3 million 250 years later, slaves are
being worked to death.
U.S. has the most slaves on the eve of the Civil War, here they are small players in the
trans-Atlantic slave trade (based on slaves reproducing, slave society growing).
Brazil and Caribbean very similar.
In all three areas, tobacco was the first major staple crop.
Brazil relied upon Native society into late 17 century, whereas Caribbean andAmerican
colonies turned to White indentured servants before settling onAfrican slaves late in
the 17 century.
Eventually sugar became the principle crop grown in Brazil and the Caribbean.
After the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, cotton becomes the leadingAmerican
Tobacco (<50 labourers) -> Sugar (500+ labourers) = Cotton (cotton gin, switch to
Slaves as Property:
Upon arriving to the New World, slaves were inspected before being put on the auction
block (often inspected naked leading to sexual abuse, physical humiliation).
Slaves were seen as property (bought, sold, traded, gambled, passed on as inheritance).
Slavery was inherited (children inherited status of their mother).
Was not a crime to murder or rape your slaves.
Slaves could not physically resist their masters, could not testify in courts, could not
verbally or physically assault their masters.
Barbados put forward laws of slaves (Barbados Slave Code). The Plantation System:
All three locations relied upon the plantation system as basis of staple crop production.
Sugar plantations in Brazil and the Caribbean routinely had 500 or more slaves working.
OnAmerican tobacco plantations the number was usually closer to 50 and most cotton
plantations had fewer than 100 slaves.
Most plantations owners in the Caribbean lived in Europe and never stepped foot on their
property in the New World.
Brazilian plantation owners were more likely to live in the New World but most resided
in the cities and visited their estates rarely.
In America, slave owners lived on their plantations and experienced slavery first hand.
Organization of Plantation Labour:
Master (White men) were responsible for choosing when to plant and harvest crops,
keeps financial records, provides food, clothing and shelter for slaves.
The Mistress (White wife) oversees house servants and cooking staff, and looks after the
plantation in husbands absence.
The Overseer (White labourer) is responsible for slave punishments, makes sure slaves
meet their daily picking quotas.
In Brazil and Caribbean Overseers were often free Blacks.
Plantation labour was highly organized and resembled a primitive factory with job
House servants (looked after cooking, cleaning, rearing White children) tended to be
disproportionately female and often very young or very old (least likely to be sold
Field hands (majority of slaves were responsible for agricultural production done in gang
labour, worked from sunup to sundown in blazing heat doing back-breaking labour).
Artisans (built barrels, fences, wagons, barns).
Slaves were brutally punished is master or overseer was not satisfied with their work.
In Brazil and Caribbean most artisans were free Blacks.