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African Women in Early America

Week 3.2
by

Leslie Schwalm

on 12 September 2016

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Transcript of African Women in Early America

Slavery's Origins:
The Chesapeake
The 18th Century Plantation Revolution: demographic, economic, legal indicators
Growing NUMBER and PROPORTION of enslaved Africans in the region

Demographic
Indicators
Cultural indicators: African and African American culture
Economic indicators: The Plantation System
concentration of wealth and land
significant exports
experience of plantation agriculture
Legal indicators: Separate Bodies of Laws
1705 slave code
1723 code
1748 code
The British and the Chesapeake colonies
Initial colonization: frontier society
First Africans: 1619
Tobacco cultivation and bound labor: English servants, Native Americans, Africans
Initial status of Africans in the region ambiguous
What ideas shaped English
interactions with Africans?
Color symbolism in British culture: dark-skinned people associated with hard, outdoors work, in contrast to light-skinned elites; darkness a metaphor for ignorance
Society’s lowest class of workers (serfs, peasants) associated with savagery
18th century enlightenment science focused on classifying species AND hierarchies within and between species; Europeans classify Africans as a separate inferior human race
1672-1698
What changes?
Tobacco becomes a staple crop
1640, 150 Africans; 1680, 3000
Less desirable and fewer English immigrants
Consolidation of land and wealth
Bacon's Rebellion (1676)
Incorporation of British slave-trading company (Royal African Company)
Transition from a Slave-owning Society to a Slave Society
• 1643 African women, like all men, become
subject to taxation as potential tobacco workers
• 1662 (VA) :Children born to African mothers
share the status of the mother
• 1660s: Strict punishment for interracial sex
between white women and black men
• 1664 (MD): Condition of slavery "Durante Vita"
(for life)
• 1667 (VA): Baptism irrelevant to status of slaves
• 1669 (VA): Slave owners exonerated from murder
charge if slave dies as a result of punishment
Law by Law: Creation of a
Legal Institution
Protect investment of capital
Service to the Empire
Reinforce & extend ethnocentrism
Control laborers and subordinate Africans, while elevating poorest whites
Extend slave owner power and authority
Emergence of a true slave society
Emergence of a fully developed plantation system
Distinctive characteristics in the New World
Slavery's Origins: The South Carolina Lowcountry
Thinking comparatively: does slavery's origins always follow the same path?
Overview--Key stages of slavery's early evolution in lowcountry South Carolina:
A colony of a colony: Barbados and SC
Enslaved African labor and the frontier economy
Transition from a frontier to a slave society
SC's rice revolution
The colony of a colony, 1627-1670
Beginning in Barbados
Anglo settlement: 1627
By 1670: wealthiest British colony, with most mature & prosperous sugar industry; slaves a majority of the population (30,000 of 50,000)
Decline in English population & exodus to SC
South Carolina: A frontier society
1670: 2nd, now successful colonization by Anglo-Barbadians
"Fundamental Constitutions" establish slavery
25-30% settler population were enslaved blacks
Supplying the Barbadian market: livestock, lumber products & naval stores
Export to Europe: deerskin trade
Staple crop:
Rice
Indigo
From a frontier economy to a
staple-crop economy
Rice Revolution:
The Mature Plantation System
Labor:
decline of white servitude; use of enslaved Native Americans (1708: 1/4 of slave force); skilled but enslaved African labor
Early Senegambia Rice farm
West African rice farmer
Indigo-dyed wool
Demographic change:
SC Slave Population: VA Slave Population:
1680: 200 (17%) 1680: 3000 (7%)
1700: 3,000 (44%) 1700: 16,390 (28%)
1720: 11,828 (64%) 1720: 26,550 (30%)
1750: 39,000 (61%) 1750: 107,100 (46%)
1770: 75,178 (61%) 1770: 187,600 (42%)
Increasingly African born
Plantation system:
Impact on slave labor
regimentation replaces frontier independence;
sexual division of labor transformed
LAWS:
1712 Slave Code:
A model for other slave holding colonies
Slavery's Origins:
The Mississippi Valley
Frontier Era
1700-1719
Slave Society
1719-1729
Society with Slaves
1730s-1780
French southward exploration down the Mississippi, 1680s
Settler expectations
Role of Empire
Frontier population: enslaved Indians and people of African descent; free creoles (people of African descent); European settlers (French, German)
Settlers demand French investment in slave trade
What are the consequences when a hastily-created slave regime meets resistance among Natchez and Bambara people?
1719: France charters a slave importation corporation to bring enslaved Africans to LA
By 1721: over 2000 enslaved Africans
By 1731: nearly 7000 enslaved Africans, largely Bambara people
Transition to staple-crop economy: tobacco, rice & indigo
1724: Code Noir
1729: Bambara-Natchez uprising
France severs LA connection with slave trade
Devolution from a slave society to a society with slaves
Devolution of plantation economy
1740, about 4000 slaves
1763-1780: Under Spanish control; ties to slave trade re-established; Siete Partidas slave code
1803, US purchase
Slavery in the Upper Mississippi Valley
Illinois
Iowa
Minnesota
Wisconsin
Northern Slavery and Urban Slavery
1770: Numbers are slave population; colors show slaves as proportion of population
1769 century bill of sale: Massachusetts
RI census, 1774
Delaware Slaves Petition for Freedom, 1783
Where were northern slaves held?
agriculturally-productive areas
northern industries
shipyards
urban areas
slave trading ports
Ft. George, built by
enslaved laborers
The African Burial Ground
One of the burial sites
The South and the History of Slavery
1607-1620s
1620s-1670
1676-1690s
Customs of Slave Ownership and Mastery
1670-1690
1690-1750
Terms to know:
Society with slaves
Slave society
Plantation Economy
North America and slavery
in the Atlantic world

What is a plantation?
large capital investment
regimented labor
staple crop produced for distant market
Profits individual & the state
First developed in 16th century Mediterranean sugar agriculture
Moves down the islands off west coast of African continent; discovery of existing African slave trade

European expansion to West Africa and New World:
strong state institutions,
merchant class with access to government support,
credit mechanisms for organizing large quantities of capital for investment;
European labor shortage

Atlantic Slave Trade most complex economic enterprise known to preindustrial world;
largest transoceanic migration up to that time;
knit together an "Atlantic World" marked by involuntary migration and high mortality for Africans, high profit level for European states and individuals
By 1680, enslaved people overtook indentured workers as the majority of unfree laborers in the region
“Africanization” of the Chesapeake:

*1690 to 1770: 100,000 black slaves--almost all directly from Africa--were brought into the Chesapeake.
*1700, newly-arrived Africans composed 90% of the slave population

Consequences of Changing Population?
Cultural impact
Demographic environment
1788 Tobacco Plantation
Ca. 1670 tobacco plantation
Six characteristics of the Atlantic plantation complex:

1) Most productive labor was forced labor; most laborers were slaves

2) Laboring population was not self-sustaining; required a steady supply of new slaves.

3) Agricultural enterprise was organized into large-scale capitalist plantations, with from 50 to several hundred workers.

4) Planters exercised economic control over the plantation, and legal jurisdiction over the land and the people who forced to work it.

5) Plantations served a distant market with a highly-specialized crop

6) Political control over the system lay in another continent, in a totally different kind of society.

*Advantages of purchasing and working enslaved Africans?
*Obstacles?
Unique Plantation Landscape
17th Century Illinois Country
Early 18th century European
claims in North America
Slavery was legal in Illinois through the 1840s
Which South? Whose South?
16th Century Spanish Ft. Augustine, FL
17th Century British Claims in the Chesapeake
18th Century New Orleans
TERMS TO KNOW:
SLAVE-OWNING vs SLAVE SOCIETY
TERM TO KNOW:
PLANTATION SOCIETY
Large-scale capitalist agriculture
Most laborers unfree
Focused on a single, "staple" crop
Intended for export
Control lays in a distant nation
Part of large international economic network
1650: African slaves 3% of the Chesapeake's population
1690: 15% of the population.
1720, 25% of the region's population was enslaved.
1740, Enslaved Africans and African Americans represent 40% of the region's population
The Atlantic Plantation Complex
In fiction and reality: a 200-year old institution
Antonio arrives in 1621 as a slave; Mary arrives in 1622 as a slave. By 1650s, they are married, free, major landowners, and slave owners
Women in West Africa
Africa is a continent, not a country
Division of labor





Family



Public life



Women & Slavery in Africa




lineage
domicile--household
conjugal family
Hierarchical structures included male household head, followed by temporarily dependent men/boys, followed by permanently dependent (adult women, male and female slaves)

West African wives were subordinate to their husbands, and showed deference to husbands, but it was less strict in practice than the European patriarchy

male-female pairs governed households and ruled over lineages in tandem

Extended families where being a sibling or a niece was as important as being a spouse

elders of both sexes held power

a high incidence of matrilineal descent, placing women at center of family life & structure

Dependents a source of wealth and power

For the children, grandparents and older aunts and uncles passed on family and clan history and traditional lore, and education was a group activity
Seated mother and child, from the Bamana people of Mali. The figure conveys the importance of motherhood. In this figure, the hat with amulets and the knife strapped to her left arm suggest a strong protector.
Before the Atlantic slave trade: extensive, highly-regulated
Implied and direct violence in reducing people to slavery
slaves were property; outsiders; coercion used against them; masters controlled productive and reproductive labor
settled vs. trade slaves: predominance of female settled slaves

Rigid sexual division of labor accompanied by complementarity of labor ("gender parallelism")

predominantly agricultural societies

half of those societies were female farming societies--men cleared land, herded cattle, with with timber resources; women farmed; manufactured implements & clothing; performed reproductive labor in communal setting.

Men controlled distribution of most resources, but women often controlled crop surplus

Women dominated local trade, men dominated long distance trade.
Women, esp. elders, contributed to social and political standing of household and kin group, but typically exercised indirect power
Women tended to govern other women and women's affairs
Women had their own trade and craft guilds
Women spoke on matters of taxation and public facilities (roads, wells, markets)
Women testified on own behalf in court
Enslavement
Transportation to the coast
Embarkation
Middle Passage
Disembarkation
We will never know how many African people were enslaved and sent to the coast
Enslaved Africans exported to the New World: ~14-21 million
Enslaved Africans who survive to disembark: ~10-15 million
Proportion of enslaved Africans brought to North America: 5-6% (about 600,000 people)
Over entire span of AST, unbalanced sex ratio: 66% male, remainder divided between children & adult women
Of 100 Angolans seized in Africa,
75 reached the marketplaces in the interior of their country
64 would reach the coast
57 would board ships
51 would live to step onto Brazilian soil
48 or 49 would live to see their first New World owner
28-30 would survive their first 3 or 4 years
African Women and Chesapeake Slavery:
Slavery in the Making
1620-1670s
1670s-1700: Creating Chesapeake Slavery
Slave-owning society:
small population of involuntary African immigrants
no access to Atlantic slave trade
no laws regulating or defining slavery
British and African social interactions less regulated; worked together in fields, lived together, even if status somewhat different
What ideas shaped English
interactions with Africans?
Color symbolism in British culture: dark-skinned people associated with hard, outdoors work, in contrast to light-skinned elites; darkness a metaphor for ignorance
Society’s lowest class of workers (serfs, peasants) associated with savagery
18th century enlightenment science focused on classifying species AND hierarchies within and between species; Europeans classify Africans as a separate inferior human race
civilization associated with English gender ideals: sexual division of labor, family structure, performance of duties and obligations
• 1643 (VA): African women, like all men but NO ENGLISH WOMEN, become subject to taxation as potential tobacco workers
• 1662 (VA): Children born to African mothers share the status of the mother
• 1664 (MD): Condition of slavery "Durante Vita" (for life)
• 1667 (VA): Baptism irrelevant to status of slaves
• 1669 (VA): Slave owners exonerated from murder charge if slave dies as a result of punishment
LAWS: codification of racial difference hinged on degrading African women
DECLINING BRITISH IMMIGRATION & LABOR SHORTAGE
INCORPORATION OF ROYAL AFRICAN COMPANY
Plantation labor becomes enslaved, African labor; women and men alike work the tobacco fields
*1690 to 1770: 100,000 black slaves--almost all directly from Africa--were brought into the Chesapeake.
*1700, newly-arrived Africans composed 90% of the slave population
*1650: African slaves 3% of population; by 1720, 25% of region's population enslaved.
African Women and Lowcountry Slavery:
An Imported Institution
A colony of a colony: Barbados and SC
Enslaved African labor and SC's frontier economy (1670-1690)
Transition from a frontier to a plantation-based slave society (1690-1708)
Gendered labor and SC's rice revolution
The practice, laws, and structure of slavery was imported from Barbados...
But the knowledge system associated with rice agriculture was imported with African women from West Africa
Only "nasty wenches" worked the tobacco fields
Conclusions?
Uneven sex ratio (66% male), trauma, new disease environment: New World slave population does not self-reproduce
Europeans did not know how to grow rice
Did African women's knowledge contribute to the unique organization of labor on rice plantations under the task system?
Slavery had diverse origins in North America. What were the implications for the experiences of enslaved women?
What familial, economic, and political ideas did involuntary African immigrant women (and men!) bring to the New World?
Were there ways in which gender shaped the experience of the Atlantic Slave Trade?
Severe demographic environment:
skewed sex ratio
High mortality: 1710-1718, +5% of Africans die before being sold to Chesapeake planter; 1 in 4 die during first winter; fewer than half live 10 years
Death rate exceeds birth rate
Between 1620 & 1700, Chesapeake evolves into a slave society (where slavery is at center of economy, social structure, and ideas about race)
African Women in Early America
The Atlantic Plantation Complex and Atlantic Slave Trade begin with SUGAR
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