Slaves for Labor


Slavery dates back to the Roman Empire. The collapse of the empirewas followed by the revival of the European long distance trade thattransported African slaves to Europe. In the 1560s, hostile Africancommunities started to attack the kingdom of Kongo, and thistriggered the Portuguese military to settle in the region as itsought to help the regime overcome the invasions (Klein,2011). During this time, African slaves provided mostlydomestic services to their European owners. However, Western Europeexperienced massive economic expansion in the 15th and16th century. Consequently, the majority of the Africanslaves were taken by the English and French island and mainlandcolonies towork in farms (Klein, 2011).

In America, the use of slaves for labor begun in 1619 when aDutchman captured a Spanish ship that was transporting Africancaptives whom he sold to English colonialists at Jamestown inexchange for supplies (Klein,2011). For many years, African slaves worked on thecotton plantations in the North. However, after the AmericanRevolution, the reliance on slave labor in the North started todecline. This also happened in the South as a result of the unstablenature of the tobacco prices. In 1793, Eli Whitney a Northerner,invented the cotton gin. This device enabled the Southerners to growthe type of cotton that was doing well in the North and this revivedthe use of slave labor in the South (Civil War Trust, 2014).

The practice of using unpaid African workers resulted in thedehumanization of the black people who worked in the plantations. Thetreatment of the African slaves was sadistic and cruel. Thepunishment inflicted on them by their owners included corporalpunishment. In 1857, the United States Supreme Court ruled thatslaves were to be treated as subhuman properties with no rightshence there was no way they could have protested against theirmistreatment (Civil War Trust, 2014).

Slave labor faced the problem of lack of motivation on the part ofthe unpaid workers. Instead of protesting for their rights, theslaves resorted to absconding duties by faking illness. Besides, someof them would run away only to return after some days. While some ofthem organized slowdowns, others sabotaged the machines in the farms.Some even went to the extent of killing their owners as well asburning the plantations where they worked in (Civil War Trust, 2014).

One of the unintended consequences of the use of slave labor is thatit resulted in the colonization of Africa. According to theSchaumburgCenter for Research in Black Culture (2011), thecollapse of slavery led to European imperialists to seek foralternative ways of sustaining their economy. They, therefore,diverted their attention to Africa as the new source of raw materialsfor their industries.

Besides, while the consequences of slave labor were mainly negative,the practice had a few positive results. First, some black peopleescaped slavery and acquired education which they used to campaignfor the eradication of slavery. For example, Fredrick Douglas was oneof the freed slaves who did not take lightly the Southerners’perception of slavery as a benevolent institution and therefore wroteimmensely against it.

Second, the use of slave labor gave birth to the civil rightsmovement in America. While working as slaves, black people wentthrough many challenges such as the denial of rights. The freedslaves also faced these challenges, and this provided the impetus forthe success of the civil rights movement in America.

In conclusion, many societies used slave labor, but the large scaleuse of unpaid workers dates back to the Roman Empire. Initially,slaves worked in European homes, but later found themselves in minesand plantations. Although the use of slave was dehumanizing on thepart of the slaves, some of them acquired quality education thathelped them campaign for the eradication of slavery in addition totaking part in the civil rights movement. On the negative side, theend of slavery triggered the European powers to seek alternativesources of raw materials for their industries, and this resulted inthe colonization of Africa.


Civil War Trust. (2014). “Slavery in the United States.” Accessedon September 15, 016.

Klein, H. S.(2011).&nbspTheAtlantic Slave Trade.Cambridge University Press.

SchaumburgCenter for Research in Black Culture. (2011). “The colonization ofAfrica.” Accessed on September 15, 2016.