Slavery & Emancipation

    Slave Trade  "A Tradition Of Human Misery"  1619 - 1865

Starting in 1619, slavery was a part of the life and growth of North America for 246 years before it was finally abolished in the United States in 1865. During the Revolution, more than 150 years after the first slaves were imported, slavery was practiced in all but one of the colonies.

Within 10 years of discovering the New World, Spain began transporting African slaves to work in its new possessions, and other European nations quickly followed suit. Great Britain became the leader; within 250 years it had transported twice as many slaves as the other countries put together. For 20 years starting in 1713, England brought 15,000 slaves annually to America. In 1786 the English brought more than 97,000 slaves over and had more than 800 slave ships operating out of Liverpool alone. Most of these Africans went to the West Indies to work in the sugarcane fields. There the slave ships would load up with molasses and continue on to New England, where that cargo would be exchanged for rum, which by 1750 was New England's chief manufacture. The ships would carry the rum back to to the Old World and exchange it for slaves; thus the profitable circle of trade fueled by human misery continued for generations.

The maritime states of New England soon joined in the slave trade. Massachusetts started in 1638, followed by Rhode Island, where the chief slave port in the American colonies was located, rivaling Liverpool in England. Slave trading and the export of rum became the basis of New England's economy. The Southern colonies were not a part of the trade, having neither ships nor molasses. In 1774, the importation of slaves was forbidden by the people of North and South Carolina. In 1718, the new U.S. Constitution forbade Congress from banning the importation of slaves for another 20 years.

Fascinating Fact:  In 1793, a young inventor named Eli Whitney applied for a patent on a device that easily and quickly separated cotton fiber from the cotton seeds, and made cotton production a profitable venture. Cotton grew best in the Southern colonies, and the rapid growth of the cotton economy of the South was accompanied by an equally rapid growth of slave labor.


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