Colonial lives An African Slave essay


Coloniallives: An African Slave

The African slaves that made their way to colonial America throughships were influenced by numerous historical forces. The systems inthe US during that time were quite different from the systems inAfrica. The slave trade was thriving and these slaves providedeconomic benefit to their masters by working on their farms andtending to their cattle. The Africans, in their native land, wereused to providing manual labor to their farms but the restrictionsand lack of freedom placed on them invoked varied emotions. Culturaland economic forces were the strongest forces that shaped the life ofthe African slave. The difference in culture and economic variationbetween Colonial America and Africa shaped the life of the Africanslave. This essay will analyze how culture and economic forces shapedthe life of the African slave.

Culture incolonial America and its impact on the African slave

One of the majorcultural differences that is seen between the African slave and theAmericans is the difference in language. Africans had a number oflanguages in their lingo and could not speak English as the white mendid. It was thus difficult for the Africans to communicate with theirmasters. The language barrier further worsened the relationshipbetween the Whites and the Africans who depended on sign language totalk and communicate. The case of Attorney General v. [Symon]Overzee, which led to the death of an African, was largely due to theinability of these two parties to converse and iron out theirdifferences.

According toMaryland historical society (1941, p.64), ‘Mr. Overzee commanded anegro (commonly called Tony) formerly chained up for somemisdemeanors by the command of Mr.Overzee to be let loose, andordered him to go to work, but instead of going to work the saidnegro laid himself down and would not stir.’ This conflict mainlyarose due to the inability of the two parties to communicate andunderstand one another. A similar case is seen in Bluett (1734, p.69)when the author claims that ‘this very much disturbed Job, andadded to his other Misfortunes all which were increased by hisIgnorance of the English Language, which prevented his complaining ortelling his Case to any Person about him.’

Another culturaldifference between the Africans and the Americans was religion. InBluett (1734) we see that one of the main challenges that Job facedwas the mockery that he received from a white boy during his prayersession. Africans did not have a pre-defined religion such asChristianity and their religion varied depending on the society ofthe person. Job did not have the same religious affiliations as theWhite men and this was a source of mockery. Dressing was also a majorcultural difference. The whites and servants would be well dressedwhile the masters had no legal obligation to dress their slaves. Therules, according to Beverley (1705, p.66) stated that ‘Each Servantat his Freedom, receives of his Master fifteen Bushels of Corn andtwo new Suits of Cloths, both Linen and Woolen and then becomes asfree in all respects, and as much entitled to the Liberties andPrivileges of the Country, as any other of the Inhabitants or Nativesare.’

Economicforces in colonial America and its impact on the African slave

There weresignificant changes in the economic activities of the African uponreaching colonial America. While Africans had the right to holdproperty in their native lands, under the colonial rule they couldnot permanently possess the land. These Africans could thus make aliving from working and toiling in the field of the whites. However,they were not paid for the services that they provided to theAmericans. The Africans were at the forefront of wealth creation forthe Americans but did not have the economic rights to hold propertyor engage in trade. Hefty punishments including death penalty weregiven to Africans that stole property of food from the Americans. Thedisparity in economic capacity between the Americans and the Africanscondemned them to a life of poverty where they could only survive byworking for the whites. Further, this disparity denied the Africansthe chance to empower or advance their lives for instance, theylacked money and resources to get even basic education. According toCooper, Carolina and McCord (1841), the plantations and estates ofthe Americans could not prosper or be productive unless there wereslaves and servants to provide the labor necessary for cultivation.There were many statutes created to regulate the actions of Africa ina bid to ensure they will provide labor without complaining orseeking alternative options. The exploitation of these Africans was amajor factor that shaped the lives of African Americans.


In summary, thecultural and economic factors were some of the major factors thatshaped the lives of African slaves sent to work in the plantations ofAmericans. The lack of freedom ensured that these Africans did nothave alternative economic options apart from slavery and dedicatingtheir energy in the farms. Language barrier, differences in religion,and modes of dressing are some of the factors that created a strongcultural force between these two groups of people. In particular,language created an enormous barrier as far as communication wasconcerned between the whites and the Africans. In most cases, signlanguage was used to pass messages between the two groupsunfortunately, this led to misunderstanding and in some cases it ledto severe conflicts. Slavery, inability to own property, and lack ofpayment to the slaves were factors that led to a high economic force.African slaves lived in poverty since they could not own any piece ofland they could only work on the Whites’ farms without any pay.Undoubtedly, this explains why African took such a long time toentangle themselves from the hands of their slave masters.


Beverley, R, (1705), The History and Present State of Virginia.

Bluett, T, (1734) Some Memoirs of the Life of Job, the Son ofSolomon the High Priest of Boonda in Africa. London

Cooper, T, Carolina, S, &amp McCord, D. (1841). The Statutes atLarge of South Carolina (1836–1841). AS Johnston, 7:352–357.

Maryland Historical Society (1941) “At a Provincial Court Heldat St.Clement’s Manor December 2, 1658,”Provincial CourtProceedings, Archives of Maryland (Baltimore), 41:190–191.