Slavery in the North and South essay


Slaveryin the North and South


CourseHistory 221

May21, 2016

Slaveryin America began in 1619 after the African slaves were shipped to theNorth American colony located at James Town, Virginia. The slaveswere intended to provide labor for enhancing production of lucrativecash crops such as tobacco. The trade took place during theseventeenth and eighteenth century and the primary intention was tobuild the economy of the new nation. The business entailed capturingand shipping of an estimated 10 to 17 million Africans to the newworld. Besides, a substantial number of slaves, 1.5 million, died enroute. One-third of the slaves, who survived the journey, ended up inBrazil while a majority, 70%, in the sugar colonies of the Caribbean.Only 6% of slaves arrived in the current United States territory. Bythe year 1860, two-thirds of the slaves lived in Southern America1.The objective of this essay is to prove that the northerners heldsimilar sentiments to the southerners that the whites were superiorto the black people and slave labor was destined for building theeconomy, but they advocated for humane treatment of the slaves.

Slaveryin the South was more harsh and cruel than in the North. The CatholicChurch and Quakers in the north insisted that slaves should bemarried, seek relief from cruel masters and have the ability topurchase freedom. The northerners were friendlier than thesoutherners were because they were less affected by racial prejudice.Although the north was more subject to the pressures of acapitalistic economy, neither the church nor the court systemsprovided substantial protection for the slaves. The masters offeredmore freedom by freeing the elderly, the sick, the injured and theunneeded slaves as a way of avoiding financial responsibilities2.

Thedeath rate of slaves located in the South was a third higher thanthat in the North. Besides, most of the slaves from South Americacommitted suicide due to inhumane treatment from their masters. Incontrast to the slaves in the North, the Southern slaves were toproduce their food during their free time as well as care for thesick and the elderly. The fundamental difference between the slavesin the north and the south was demographic. Slaves in the south weremostly men with lower proportions of women. The birth rate was low,hence, a high importation rate from Africa was necessary tosupplement the dead captives. In contrast, there was an equalproportion of men and women in the North, which further led to a highbirth rate among the slaves. The slavery in North America wasdistinct due to the ability of the slaves to increase theirpopulation through natural reproduction. In contrast, the death ratesof slaves in South America exceeded the birth rate consequently,they had to increase their numbers through importations2.

Theaverage number of children born to slaves in the north was nine –twice the number born in the south. Consequently, the slaves born inthe north ranged between 80 and 90 percent of the population. On thecontrary, only a third of the slave population in the South was bornin America. The size of the plantations between the north and thesouth differed widely. The southerners detained slaves in large unitsthat could hold above 150 captives. Conversely, slave owners in theNorthern United States held as many as thousands of slaves. A half ofthe slaves in the United States worked in units that involved twentyor even fewer slaves. The demographic differences between the northand the south resulted in important social implications. Forinstance, in the south, the slave owners lived on their plantationsconsequently, the masters were frequently in direct contactwith the workers. In Northern U.S, there was absentee ownership sincethe owners depended on their managers and a particular class of freeblacks, as well as, mulattos to serve as the intermediaries with theslave population. Additionally, a majority of the slaveholdersdelegated the responsibility of purchasing and supervision of slavelabor on the hands of Asian managers and freed blacks. Consequently,two-thirds of the slaves in North America worked under thesurveillance of the blacks3.

Therewas a difference in the conception of the race between the North andSouth America. In South America, there emerged an intricate system ofracial classification. The Portuguese and Spanish were more tolerantto racial mixing compared to their British and French counterparts inNorth America. The southern culture was encouraged by a shortage ofEuropean women and the wide range of racial gradations, whichincluded, the quadroon, octoroon, mestizo, and the blacks. In theNorth, there was a single-category system of racial classification -anyone who had a black mother was categorized as black4.

Regardinganti-slavery revolts in the south, African Americans resisted slaveryin a variety of passive and active ways. There was day-to-dayresistance where the slaves broke working tools, staged slowdowns,feigned illnesses, and committed actions of sabotage and arson. Theyalso ran away from their masters as a way of withholding their labor.The resistance was a form of bargaining for improved workingconditions with their masters. The slaves bargained over the pace ofwork, monetary rewards, free time, access to gardens or plots,freedom to practice marriages and burials as well as religiousceremonies that were free from the oversight of the whites. Someslaves attempted to escape in the north or to cities and naturalrefuges like swamps5.The escapees were mostly privileged slaves that had served as eitherboat river men or coachmen since they were familiar with most of theoutside world. The slaves formed runaway communities referred to asMaroon colonies. They were located in mountains, swamps, or in easyto defend frontier regions. They resisted capture for severaldecades. On the contrary, slaves in the north could buy their freedomor reach an agreement with their masters regarding their workconditions6.

Theeighteenth century witnessed slave uprisings in the Long Island andNew York City. Slaves from the southern area – South Carolina,conducted several insurrections that led to the Stono rebellion inthe year 19407.The slaves killed whites, seized arms and burned houses. There wereconspiracies uncovered in Charleston and New York in the year1740 and1741. The Maroons fled their homes and conducted guerilla warfare. InNorth America, Bob Ferebee led a band of other fugitive slaves inguerilla warfare in Virginia. During the 19th century, furtherrevolts occurred in Virginia, Richmond, Barbados, Louisiana, SouthCarolina, Charleston, Demerara, and South Hampton County8.

Slaverevolts took place when the captives outnumbered the whites or whenthe masters were absent. They also occurred when there was a splitwithin the elite or during the times of economic distress. Inaddition, they also occurred whenever a large number of Africansgathered. Mass executions of slaves also caused the uprisings. Forexample, several slaves were slain after a conspiracy revolt wasuncovered in the New York City. Consequently, 18 slaves were hangedwhile 13 were burned alive. The authorities in Charleston also hanged37 blacks after they discovered Denmark Vesey’s conspiracy. Thelocal militia killed 100 blacks and 20 slaves after Nat Turner’sinsurrection. In the south, there were no sufficient preconditionsfor successful rebellions. Specifically, rebellions tended to beassociated with more suffering and repression of the captivecommunities9.

SouthernAmerica experienced rare rebellions compared to North America due tothe small proportions of blacks within the southern population. Themajority died because of the harsh work environment. In addition,there was a low percentage of new slaves and a largepopulation of whites committed to suppressing the rebellions. The newimmigrants from Africa were more likely to start an uprising comparedto the slaves born in the new world. Newly arrived captives wereprimarily involved in rebellions since they had combat experiencebefore enslavement and they did not have any family ties that wouldinhibit violent insurrection10.

Justlike other slave societies, the southern cities were small comparedto urban centers in the north. For example, ‘Richmond’ wasVirginia’s largest city and had a population of 15,274 in 185011. A majority of the cities had an average of 8,000 inhabitants. Thesmall size of the cities was due to failure to develop diversifiedeconomies12.Consequently, the southern cities failed to become centers ofcommerce, processing or finance. Besides, they did not engage in anyform of international trade13.

However,there lacks adequate proof for justifying that slavery was doomed foreconomic purposes. It was adaptable to various occupations fromagriculture, mining to the factory. During the civil war, cottongrown by slaves accounted for more than half of all exports from theUnited States. The south produced most the cotton used in thenorthern textile industries, as well as, in the British mills. By theend of 19th century, slavery became an exception in the new world. Itwas only confined to Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and some smallcolonies in the Dutch14.


“Slaveryin the United States: A brief history.” CivilWar Trust.Lastmodified May 22, 2016,

“TheSouth`s Economy.” DigitalHistory.Last modified May 22, 2016,

Burton,Orville Vernon.&nbspSlaveryin America.Detroit: Gale, 2008.

Davis,David Brion.&nbspInhumanBondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World.Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Headley,Amy, and Victoria Smith.&nbspSlaveryin America.Glendale,AZ: Splash!Publications, 2009.

Smith,Mark M.&nbspSlaveryin North America: From the Colonial Period to Emancipation.London: Pickering &ampChatto, 2009.

1Smith, Mark M.&nbspSlavery in North America: From the Colonial Period to Emancipation. (London: Pickering &ampChatto, 2009), 51.


Smith, Mark M.&nbspSlavery in North America: From the Colonial Period to Emancipation.(London: Pickering &ampChatto, 2009), 64.

3Burton, Orville Vernon.&nbspSlavery in America.(Detroit: Gale, 2008), 45.

4Burton, Orville Vernon.&nbspSlavery in America.(Detroit: Gale, 2008), 45.

5 “Slavery in the United States: A brief history.” Civil War Trust. last modified May 22, 2016,

6 “Slavery in the United States: A brief history.” Civil War Trust. last modified May 22, 2016,

7Smith, Mark M.&nbspSlavery in North America: From the Colonial Period to Emancipation.(London: Pickering &ampChatto, 2009), 63.


8Burton, Orville Vernon.&nbspSlavery in America.(Detroit: Gale, 2008), 43.


9Smith, Mark M.&nbspSlavery in North America: From the Colonial Period to Emancipation.(London: Pickering &ampChatto, 2009), 65.

10Smith, Mark M.&nbspSlavery in North America: From the Colonial Period to Emancipation.(London: Pickering &ampChatto, 2009), 68.

11 “The South`s Economy.” Digital History. Last modified May 22, 2016,

12 “The South`s Economy.” Digital History. Last modified May 22, 2016,

13Headley, Amy, and Victoria Smith.&nbspSlavery in America.Glendale, AZ: (Splash!Publications, 2009), 34.

14Smith, Mark M.&nbspSlavery in North America: From the Colonial Period to Emancipation.( London: Pickering &ampChatto, 2009), 71.