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Ja’Mya Wilburn

AFR 1000

Writing 1

23 May, 2022

Understanding Slavery

The topic of slavery elicits much emotion from individuals in the contemporary world. Many in the country have taken the approach that though slavery happened, it does not impact the present. The argument is that speaking and addressing issues concerning slavery puts blame on the white race, demonizing them for the actions of their ancestors. However, failing to acknowledge the dark history of slavery makes it possible for the repetition of history, which is why it is essential to discuss and understand more about slavery. Understanding the cultural and psychological impact of the Transatlantic trade on Africans who were captured into slavery, the treatment of slaves in North America, efforts that contributed to the ending of slavery, and the comparison between slavery and colonialism will be discussed in detail.

Cultural and Psychological Impacts of Transatlantic Trade on Africans

Transatlantic trade was responsible for transporting between 10 million and 12 million African slaves from Africa to the Americas. Slaves were traded as commodities and were picked from Africa in shackles and sent to the Caribbean and North America to work. The journey for the Africans was long and hard. Slaves were first forced to walk from inland Africa to the shores, which was a journey that could be as long as 300 miles (van Rossum & Fatah-Black, 2015). Two slaves were shackled at the ankles with a rope tied around their necks that connected all slaves. Roughly 10 to 15% of the captives failed to make it to the coast. For those that made it, the journey by water provided more challenges. Enslaved people were often bundled up in ships with poor sanitary and health conditions. They were exposed to heat and a lack of sunlight. At times, sexual abuse took place. Overall, the journey of a captured African slave was incredibly difficult. The journey had cultural and psychological impacts on the Africans (van Rossum & Fatah-Black, 2015).

One of the psychological and cultural impacts of the journey on Africans is that dehumanization destroyed the mental strength of the slaves (van Rossum & Fatah-Black, 2015). While on the ships, the enslaved people were treated as cargo and forced to live in horrible conditions. They were treated in conditions that were worse than animals. This broke the slaves’ spirit, and it was common for slaves to prefer death by jumping off board rather than continue to live as they did. The dehumanization also broke their sense of identity, and when they arrived at their destination, they were broken and had forgotten their identity.

One of the cultural effects that the slaves experienced on the journey of transatlantic trade was culture mixing (Dale & Merren, 2019). For slave traders, a black person was termed as black. They did not consider the different cultures in Africa and bundled the slaves together in the ships. This led to the mixing of cultures, and by the time the slaves got to the shore, they had become similar in cultures. In some instances, the slaves were linked together by their hardships, forming a new culture. An example of this is the mutiny led by slaves in the Amistad. Led by Joseph Cinque, the slaves managed to mutiny and take control of the ship (Dale & Merren, 2019). Despite being from different cultures, they managed to come together, showing that cultures mixed in the boat.

Treatment of African Slaves in North America

The treatment of slaves in North America was incredibly brutal. Once a slave was sold to a person in North America, they were treated as property (Azevedo, 2019). They were expected to conform fully to their masters and serve in whatever capacity they were given. Failure to comply with the masters brought about severe punishment. This punishment included shackling, beating, and hanging. In some cases, slaves were branded with the label of their owners to show that their masters owned them. In some cases, the punishment was given not out of disobedience but as a way of asserting dominance by the master (Azevedo, 2019). The most common form of punishment was the whip, with slaves, regardless of whether they were young or old, male or female, pregnant, or sickly, faced the wrath of their masters through the whip. Slaves were denied access to amenities such as education and medical care. Rape and sexual abuse by white masters were also very common (Azevedo, 2019).

Impact of Slavery on North America

Slavery contributed to a lot of growth in North America. The climate in North America favored the growth of cotton (Parish, 2018). Slaves were used as labor in cotton farms which led to an increase in cotton production. The commodity became America’s greatest exported item, which propelled America into one of the leading economies in the world. Southern cotton planters flourished due to the ownership of slaves. The only expenses that these farmers had were on equipment. Labor was free, meaning that they made massive profits. This led to the overall growth of the economy of the region (Parish, 2018).

Slavery had political impacts on North America as well. In the US, the debate on slavery brought about a huge debate between abolitionists and anti-abolitionists (Parish, 2018). Abolitionists labeled slavery as inhumane and advocated for its prohibition. On the other hand, anti-abolitionists profited from slavery and advocated for its continued existence. This disagreement was the core reason for the American Civil war.

Efforts that Contributed to Ending Slavery

Several efforts came together to begin the abolitionist movement. In its early stages, the Second Great Awakening supported the abolitionist movement. The Protestant revival urged on the fact that all men were created equal in God’s eyes, and they should be treated as such. Another factor contributing to the ending of slavery on a global scale was the Age of Enlightenment. Europe was experiencing enlightenment, where the continent was beginning to see the world in a different light. Due to printing presses, information on enlightenment spread throughout and reached America. This spurred the thoughts of people, which created a wave of abolitionists who were against slavery in North America (Azevedo, 2019).

The third and most important effort that contributed to the ending of slavery was the election of Abraham Lincoln as president (Azevedo, 2019). Lincoln was against slavery and was elected at a time when tensions between the North and the South concerning slavery were rife. This culminated with the civil war and eventually the passing of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, which essentially ended slavery in the country. Without Lincoln’s appointment and his opposition to slavery, many developments toward the abolition of slavery would not have happened.

Comparing Slavery and Colonization

Slavery and colonization have both similarities and differences. One of the similarities between slavery and colonization is the treatment of Africans in both cases. Both slavery and colonization directly affected Africans. In both cases, Africans were treated poorly. Colonialism featured rape, whipping, and other cruel acts. In Congo, for example, Belgium, who were the colonizers in the region, instituted a policy that led to the chopping of hands of those who failed to produce enough rubber. This level of brutality was also experienced in slavery (Anyanwu & Ani, 2020).

Another similarity between slavery and colonialism was that the motivation for both was economic development (Anyanwu & Ani, 2020). Slavery and colonialism were used as tools to ensure the advancement of their economic interests. Slavery was used to provide free labor for Western industries. Colonialism was used to expand the territories of big nations.

One of the differences between slavery and colonialism is what they were based on. Slavery was solely focused on human beings as slaves (Anyanwu & Ani, 2020). It had no concern with other elements of African culture and only treated Africans as a commodity. Colonialism was about colonies, which included culture and land. Colonialists made use of land and people to advance their agendas.

Another difference between slavery and colonialism is the cultural impact. The cultural impacts of slavery never reached Africa (Anyanwu & Ani, 2020). Only slaves felt the cultural shift concerning language and way of life. Colonialism helped spread the colonizers’ culture to Africa, with many African nations being formed that emulated their colonizer’s governments.


Slavery is a big part of the world’s history. It is important for people to properly understand and evaluate the various impacts that slavery had on society, and the people affected. It is also important for society to understand the efforts to stop slavery. Relating slavery to colonialism also helps to understand the impact of both on society further.


Anyanwu, T. C., & Ani, K. J. (2020). Slavery And Colonialism. World Affairs: The Journal of International Issues, 24(1), 132-141.

Azevedo, M. (2019). Africana Studies: A Survey of Africa and the African Diaspora, Fourth Edition (4th ed.). Carolina Academic Press.

Dale, S. K., & Merren, K. J. (2019). The Legacy of Slavery in Thoughts, Emotions, and Behaviors: Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Frame the Impact of Slavery on African Americans. In Racism and Psychiatry (pp. 21-34). Humana Press, Cham.

Parish, P. J. (2018). Slavery: history and historians. Routledge.

van Rossum, M., & Fatah-Black, K. (2015). Slavery in a ‘Slave Free Enclave’? Historical Links between the Dutch Republic, Empire and Slavery, 1580s-1860s. Werkstatt Geschichte, 66, 55-74.

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