How slavery came about

Essay by VkaszaHigh School, 11th grade February 2004

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Portuguese colonists started huge sugar plantations in Brazil. These Europeans enslaved thousands of Indians. But most of the Indians died from European diseases and harsh treatment. The Spaniards and the Portuguese then began to import blacks from West Africa as slaves. Other African blacks helped capture most of the enslaved Africans.

During the 1600's, France, England, and the Netherlands established colonies in the West Indies and greatly increased the African slave trade. Soon, the Europeans enslaved only blacks. Sugar became the main export of the European colonies, though the settlers also developed profitable coffee, cotton, and tobacco plantations.

The rising European demand for sugar helped create fierce competition for slaves and for new sugar colonies. From the 1500's to the mid-1800's, the Europeans shipped about 10 million black slaves from Africa to the Western Hemisphere. Nearly 2 million of these slaves died on the way. About 65 percent of the slaves were brought to Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Saint Domingue (now Haiti), and other sugar colonies.

Brazil alone received about 38 percent. About 5 percent were brought to what is now the United States.


Slavery flourished in the South, where large plantations grew cotton, tobacco, and other crops. The plantations required many laborers. But slavery was less profitable in the North, where economic activity centered on small farms and industries


By 1860, the slave states had about 4 million slaves. The slaves made up nearly a third of the South's population.

Views of slavery

During the 1700's, noted philosophers and religious leaders in Europe and North America began to condemn slavery. They declared that slavery violated human rights and God-given law.

Many Americans turned against slavery during the Revolutionary War in America (1775-1783). These Americans came to believe that slavery had no place...