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Locke 3

The Plantations

Slavery in the new world was rather different from slavery in Africa. For one thing, in Africa a slave might well be treated as part of the family of the person to whom they were enslaved. Their owner might work alongside of them and work just as hard as the slave. American slavery, varied greatly in time an place. At some times and in some places in America, slave owners and slaves worked together. But there was certainly a notable part of American slavery which one might call industrial slavery. Slave labor was need to produce labor intensive crops such as sugar cane, tobacco and later cotton. So slaves worked in gangs in the fields, with a white overseer with a whip to keep them working.

A Jamaica Sugar Plantation
Cutting Sugar Cane

So, slaves worked in the hot sun, with a white overseer, while the master of these slaves simply ran his establishment or lived in England as an absentee landholder. The extent and nature of racism varies with economic conditions. Plantation slavery represented the worst conditions. Plantation slavery tended to be what Ira Berlin in his fine book Many Thousands Gone has called a slave society, and not simply a society with slaves. Slaves and masters in a slave society were divided by endemic and widespread racism. Whites viewed blacks as inferior for a variety of reasons. You will learn about some of these reasons when you read Popkin's "The Philosophical Basis of Modern Racism" in the packet for this course.

 

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