In the early days of the colony at Jamestown, Virginia, surviving was very difficult. During the starving time of 1609 to 1610, 500 were reduced to 60. They had trouble growing food but did learn to grow tobacco. They sent their first profitable cargo to England in 1617, but needed more labor than the white indentured servants could provide. They couldn't enslave the indigenous people because there were too many of them.

The answer to their problem was slaves from Africa. A million blacks had already been delivered to Portuguese and Spanish colonies in South America and the Caribbean. In 1619, the first cargo of 20 slaves was delivered to Jamestown. Some of these black people had been captured in the interior of the continent and marched to the coast, shackled about the neck, and under whip and gun. Two out of five died along the way. Survivors were caged, inspected for quality, branded as to owner, and awaited shipment to American. One out of three didn't survive the crossing. Even with such losses, slavery was very profitable, and by 1800 10 million to 15 million black people had been transported to America as slaves.

There was nothing new about slavery, but American slavery was the most cruel for two reasons: The insatiable capitalist drive for profit and the reduction of the slave person to subhuman status.

Frederick Douglass in 1852 said, "Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotism of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, American reigns without a rival..."

Bruce Dunn


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