Reading through this unit took me back to my sophomore year of high school when I covered slavery in my AP human geography class and ironically it was during black history month. I was disturbed at the mistreatment of these enslaved individuals and I had a series of questions. It wasn’t until soon after I came to understand that despite being confined in these cruel environments, “chained to shelf-like devices in which the shelves were either lying on their backs or in spoon fashion” (Ross-Nazzal and White 3) these slaves sustained civilization. When asked about slavery the first thing that usually comes to mind is “black people” “beatings” or “the British.” But, this unit informed me that even though slavery existed for ages Ross-Nazzal and White state that “England, or the British colonists in in colonial North America, did not invent slavery” (3). In fact, they came far after.
Slavery still exists today but because it’s done in secret, it’s almost like it gets swept under the rug until it pops up again and that’s when it gains attention. In the 1400-1700s, enslaved people were seen as property. “Ancient Egyptians owned slaves. Greeks owned slaves. Roman owned slaves. Every ethnic group was somehow complicit in slavery. Christians, Muslims, and Jews owned slaves.” (Ross-Nazzal and White 3) But, today, the act of owning people exists, it’s just rare. Exploiting is what’s most common, also known as human trafficking. As I reflected after the readings, the first thing I asked myself was what if slavery didn’t exist? First off, African Americans wouldn’t fall under a race of their own and a world with a vast majority of people from European descent would only influence a bias society. In the United States, there were a series of movements for equality, the Civil Rights movement being one, that wouldn’t be made possible without slavery.
“All black people love fried chicken.” is a common racial stereotype in today’s world. It’s almost as if you’re African American and you don’t like fried chicken people look at you strange. From time to time, I’ve thought about how that stereotype came about but I never took the initiative to research about it. I thought fried chicken was just an American food, but reading through the assigned unit showed me that it was actually derived from the slaves. “Africans also fried meat as a way of adding calories and flavor, such as fried chicken.” (Ross-Nazzal and White 5)
The contribution of the slaves in terms of making large scale plantation crops is why the inexperienced United States took off the way it did. According to Ross Nazzal and White, “Slave colonies produced 95% of all British exports between the establishments of Virginia to the American Revolution.” (6). In other words, they were bringing in tons of wealth and on top of that they had skill “West coast Africans knew how to grow and harvest sugar. Remember, sugar as not new to that part of the world. Sugar was brought into the Western Hemisphere from Africa” Due to the fact that the Africans were already used to working in agricultural conditions already “Second, equatorial Africa is hot, humid, and wet. Conditions that are prevalent in sugar plantations in the Western Hemisphere” and how easy it was to transport them “Africa was nearby to western Europe and thus a short boat ride south” (Ross-Nazzal and White 3) was the reason why it was inexpensive to have the Africans under a labor force and without that approach, sugar wouldn’t have become an extensive cash crop. With that said, a cheap labor force meant that industrial and social progress we're unavoidable, allowing society to run as it does today. For instance, there are quite a few African Americans in history who have contributed advances to different aspects of our everyday lives, shaping the way for growth. However, this isn’t a pleasing approach towards slavery, what I mentioned goes to show that slaves don’t get the credit they deserve when it comes to their influence on humanity