Friday, June 24, 2011

Slavery Paper

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Since long ago, the institution of slavery has been very common amongst many countries. The institution of slavery began with the need for hard labor workers in the southern plantations and the solution for that was to bring Africans to America and make them slaves. Some historians believe that the institution of slavery was a harmless but helpful institution to our society. Contrary to that, Kenneth Stampp believes that slavery greatly impacted the physical and psychological lives of slaves and their descendants. Through the separation from family and friends, the daily backbreaking labor, and the merciless punishments, slaves’ lives were damaged, both physically and psychologically.

The separation of slave families impacted the slaves heavily. As Brinkley writes, “…slave families were often divided, with husbands and fathers frequently living on neighboring plantations (or...sold to plantation owners far away), black women often found themselves acting in effect as single parents” (Brinkley 17). Not only was there separation of loved ones on plantations, but in Africa many slaves were kidnapped and brought to America to be sold as slaves. One example would include Venture Smith who was, “Kidnapped at the age of six, [he was] sold to the stewart on a slave ship and brought to Connecticut” (Smith 1). For these reasons, slavery was detrimental to the lives of the slaves and their descendents as well.

The long backbreaking labor that slaves endured daily was physically torturing to them. One historian, Brinkley, states that “Slaves worked hard beginning with light tasks as children…Slave women labored in the fields with the men and assumed as well the crucial chores traditionally reserved for women” (Brinkley 17). The long, hard labor was also a contributing factor toward, “… the slaves [being] much less healthier than southern white people…The slower increase in the black population was…[from] a high death rate” (Brinkley 17). Consequently, many slaves were scarred physically and mentally, even to the extremes of dying at times.

The brutal punishment was another reason why the foundation was just the opposite of harmless. Brinkley states that, “The slave codes … forbade slaves to hold property, to leave their masters’ premises without permission…, or to strike a white person even in self-defense” (Brinkley 16). The punishments for the violation of such laws were decided by that particular slave owner. One of the most famous slaves, Frederick Douglass writes that, “[Slave owners] wielded the lash without any sense of responsibility. They could cripple or kill without fear of consequences” (Douglass ). Frederick Douglass also writes, “The poor girl… traveled twelve miles, bare-footed, bare-necked, and bare-headed… [with] a horrible gash and left her face literally covered with blood. He sternly [rejected her]” (Douglass ). Clearly, it is easy to see that the establishment of slavery to a great extent marred a slave’s physical and mental abilities.

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Some historians such as Ulrich B. Philips claim that slavery was an “essentially benign institution” (WHD WS). That statement could not be more wrong since African slaves were separated from their support community, forced to work long hard hours, and cruelly punished for disobeying an unjust law or sometimes for committing no wrong-doings at all. This “benign institution” of Philips was nothing more than an inhumane way for one race of people to treat another.

In conclusion, Stampp’s belief of the brutality of slavery is most accurate. Causes for the physical and mental damages inflicted upon African slaves due to slavery include separation from family and friends, extensive, strenuous field labor, and ruthless punishments given by many slave owners. Slavery was an institution of brutality which halted with an amendment in the Constitution because of the great amounts of damage it inflicted upon the African slaves.

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