A look into the lives of slaves reveals an existence of despair, in which pain and sorrow was a way of life. During the centuries that people used African slaves to obtain profit and wealth, simply being born the child of an African slave sentenced an individual to the life of bondage and hopelessness. Only by researching the treatment that these people were subjected to can one truly begin to understand the injustice of this practice.
America's first slaves arrived in 1619 on a Dutch vessel in Jamestown, Virginia, to be traded for food. The first shipload held only twenty slaves, but once the slave trade was started, it increased quite rapidly. The Africans were originally treated as indentured servants, people who would serve a master for a predetermined number of years in exchange for the transportation to America and room and board. After the years of serving were completed, the servants were freed.
However, in the mid 1600's the African indentured servants lost their rights to freedom, and were doomed to slavery indefinitely. In 1672, one of the largest slave trading companies, the Royal African Company, was chartered, and slave population dramatically increased (Sawyer 16). By the beginning of the American Revolution, the African slave population was equal to white population.
The African slaves received no respect, and were treated with less dignity than farm animals. They usually worked from dawn to dark, and were given meager food rations. A letter from a Virginia planter elaborates on the food a slave was generally given, saying that a slave would normally receive twelve quarts of Indian meal, seven
salted herrings, and two pounds of smoked bacon a week (Sawyer 18). Masters also provided their slaves with several pieces of clothing a year.
Codes written by state legislature...