Slavery was the status of several thousand inhabitants of the Thirteen Colonies. Starting around 1680, more than 100,000 Africans were forcibly transported to these colonies to serve as manual labour. They formed about one-fifth of the workforce. In South Carolina, nearly half of the population lived in slavery.

Hundreds of slaves had been brought to New York, Boston and Rhode Island, but it was in the southern colonies where slavery was more deeply rooted. In Virginia and South Carolina, slaves worked on plantations that grew tobacco, rice and indigo (a plant used to make blue dye). These crops required a lot of labour over very long periods, and involved backbreaking work in unhygienic conditions. In 1745, cotton was not widely grown in the colonies. It would only flourish in the 19th century.

Not all slaves worked on plantations. Some cut and sawed wood in North Carolina. On many small farms in the South, farmers had only one slave who helped him work the land.

In this system, slaves lost their freedom and worked long, hard days. Slaves were considered a commodity, like a tool that could be bought and sold.

Author: Léon Robichaud

 See also – Traces of the past:

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