Slavery in Colonial America


Edmond Morgan views slavery as a significant aspect of the American society because it occurred at the period when there was an enhanced clamor for democracy, liberty, and the protection of the rights of the common man. Slavery played a key role in the early American society as it ensured the enhanced development of the political, economic, and legal systems. The slavery practice affected about a fifth of the population of the American society during the Revolution. Therefore, the population of the slaves in the early American society is too high to be ignored. The main paradox in the history of America is the simultaneous increase in slavery and the rise of social equity and liberty between the 17th and the 19th centuries (Morgan 24).

The opinion of Morgan regarding slavery and social equality in colonial Virginia is supported by other readings on the history of the United States. The challenging issue that the colonial historians should study and discuss is the desire for human dignity and freedom shown by the organizers of the American Revolution who maintained the slavery system that degraded a many people (Hardy 97). For example, in 1790 Virginia had 40% of the slave population in the United States. The slaves worked on the tobacco plantations (Hardy 99). However, the state produced effective leaders who supported the freedom of all men. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are some of the important leaders who supported the abolition of slavery. The blacks were important in developing the Virginia society despite the challenges that they experienced, for example, forced labor and limited human rights (Frentzos & Antonio 137).

The slavery topic should be analyzed together with the clamor for democracy and social rights. The rich plantation owners in colonial Virginia were the dominant players in politics and economy. Some of them were supporters of the abolition movement. However, they enabled the progress of slavery because the blacks worked in their plantations under forced conditions.

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  1. Frentzos, Christos G., and Antonio S. Thompson, eds. The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History: The Colonial Period to 1877. Routledge, 2014.
  2. Hardy, M. “The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover – 1709, 1710.” Readings in American Cultures, Thomson Publishing, pp. 97-112.
  3. Hardy, M. “The Present State of Virginia – 1724 – Hugh Jones.” Readings in American Cultures, Thomson. pp. 86-94.
  4. Morgan, Edmund S. “Slavery and freedom: The American paradox.” The Journal of American History 59.1 (1972): 5-29.
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