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John W. Pulis and David Simonelli

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the Caribbean from 1492 through 1895 The first article discusses the Caribbean slave trade the transmission of cultural identities and the Caribbean s influence on North America while the second article discusses the 1834 emancipation of slaves in the Caribbean and annual ...


Alonford James Robinson

In 1966 black author James Baldwin wrote “To be born in a free society and not be born free is to be born into a lie.” Written a century after the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin's words conveyed the pain and the passion that characterized the lives of free blacks in America between 1619 and 1860. Many scholars suggest that during this period free blacks in America were “more black than free.” As historian Leonard Curry explains, “their educational attainment was limited, their social development was thwarted, occupations were closed to them, housing was denied to them, personal safety eluded them, and basic human dignity was begrudged them. Curry added that, “Because they were black, freedom was always and everywhere for them cruelly incomplete.”

These free Negroes as they were called at that time were scattered throughout three distinct regions the North the Upper South and the Lower South Each ...



Paul Finkelman, Lois Kerschen and William Pencak

[This entry contains two subentries providing an overview of the Jewish presence in colonial and early national America through the nineteenth century The first article discusses Jewish involvement in the slave trade and cultural interactions between Jews and African Americans while the second article discusses Jewish political participation and ...


The first known Africans to set foot in North America arrived in the summer of 1526, when five hundred Spaniards brought along one hundred black slaves as they tried to establish a town in the Carolinas, perhaps near the mouth of the Pee Dee River. That November the slaves rebelled, killed some of their former owners, and fled to join the Native Americans. Only 150 Spaniards survived; they retreated to Santo Domingo. Like many later incidents, this event is noted little if at all on the African American history landscape, but an ever-increasing array of markers, monuments, and museum exhibits tell of African Americans in the colonial world and the first half century of American national existence.


Slaves have existed on every populated continent since well before the opening up of the Western Hemisphere to European colonization. In fact the modern word “slave” comes from the identification of slaves with Slavic peoples in the Muslim societies of the Middle East. There were still Muslim, Christian, and Jewish slaves in Europe and the Middle East in 1492. Most of these slaves were tied to their masters' households and did not produce the basic food or manufactured products in these societies. This was usually done by free urban and peasant labor. In a few societies, however, slaves did make up the primary labor force in agriculture and industry. This type of slavery, sometimes referred to as “industrial slavery,” was developed in classical Greece and Rome, and it would become the type of slavery adopted in most of the American colonies.


Peter Kolchin

Slavery has appeared in many forms throughout its long history. Slaves have served in capacities as diverse as concubines, warriors, servants, craftsmen, tutors, and victims of ritual sacrifice. In the New World (the Americas), however, slavery emerged as a system of forced labor designed to facilitate the production of staple crops. Depending on location, these crops included Sugar, tobacco, coffee, and cotton; in the Southern United States, by far the most important staples were tobacco and cotton. A stark racial component distinguished this modern Western slavery from the slavery that existed in other times and places: the vast majority of slaves consisted of Africans and their descendants, whereas the vast majority of masters consisted of Europeans and their descendants.

Slavery has played a central role in the history of the United States It existed in all the English mainland colonies and came to dominate productive relations from Maryland south ...