Life of Slaves under the Imperial Slaver Economy
The Slave trade across the Sahara provided labor for sugar plantations in the Mediterranean, North Africa, Middle East, and the Iberian Peninsula. They were sought after in Madeira, Canary Islands, Brazil and Haiti, and spread to the Western Hemisphere. The European colonists in the Americas found vast lands without enough labor to make these lands productive. African slaves were then brought to the Americas to work on tobacco, rice and indigo, and cotton plantations.
Slaves were known to be the exploited and the cheapest source of labor. They were mostly deployed as field workers in the plantations. Some were engaged as domestics where they worked as butlers, maids, waiters, seamstresses and launderers. Some were assigned to the hostels, stables and carriages as drivers. There were also those who were used as artisans like carpenters, blacksmiths, coopers, spinners, millers, stone masons, and weavers. In addition to all those jobs, the slaves in cities, were also fishermen, draymen, sailors, bricklayers, bakers, tailors, peddlers, painters and porters. Either these slaves worked directly for their owners, or they were hired for certain projects because of their skills by governments, industries and plantation owners. There were some who sought outside employment and shared a percentage of their earnings with their owners.
Slaves not only served as the labor component of a political economy. They were also treated as a legal form of commodity or property, either singly or as a group. They were accepted as business collateral. Slaves were instruments of exchange like money where they were traded for goods or services. The investment value of slaveholders included the slaves in his possession and was used to determine and secure loans to buy lands and more slaves. Slaves were also used to as debt payments. To determine the value of estates, for taxation and other purposes, the value of the slaves was taken into account. Slaves were also a source of revenue for the government. Taxes were imposed on all slave transactions. In the United States, the political rights of the slaves were only 3/5 of a person. The Three-Fifth Compromise in its Constitution provided for the Southern States to count their slaves as 3/5 of a person for purposes of congressional representation to balance the power of slave-holder and non-slave holder states.
The slaves who were at one time in history treated like commodities to dispense with at their owners’ pleasure and were almost non-persons to a society that exploited and discriminated against them. In the final analysis, they will be judged as those who helped build the foundation of the world’s economy.
Dodson, Howard. “How Slavery Helped Build a World Economy.” 3 February 2003.
National Geographic News – Reporting Your World Daily. 21 July 2008