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date: 02 April 2020

Slavery in the United Stateslocked

Discussion of the origins, history, and practices of slavery in the United States.
  • 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 ...

A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.

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