Slavery

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Slave branding in the United States.
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Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.
Abraham Lincoln's speech to the 14th Indiana regiment, 1865.[1]
Slavery did not end with abolition in the 19th century. Instead, it changed its forms and continues to harm people in every country in the world.
—Anti-Slavery International.[2]

Slavery is a social institution in which some group of human beings are treated as the property of another group of human beings, usually for the purposes of the "economic enrichment" of the owners through the forced labour of the enslaved. The term slavery may also be more generally applied to any situation in which someone is forced to work against their will. This is also often referred to as "forced labor".

Slavery has a long and ignoble history, predating written records; said to be rare in hunter-gatherer societies, slavery is thought to have first become feasible 11,000 years ago during the neolithic revolution due to the invention of agriculture and food-surplus storage.[3] The growth of warfare raised the issue of what to do with captive enemies - and enslavement in such cases may seem morally and economically preferable to massacre.[4] David Forsythe writes that by the time Denmark–Norway became the first nation to ban slavery (1792/1803) "at the beginning of the nineteenth century an estimated three-quarters of all people alive were trapped in bondage against their will either in some form of slavery or serfdom".[5] Unfortunately, widespread abolitionism has not completely eliminated slavery. According to the Global Slavery Index, as of 2016, about 40.3 million people are still held in slavery, 71% of whom are female, and 15.4 million people are held in forced marriage arrangements.[6]

History[edit]

Beating a slave in Ancient Egypt.
A slave owner is not a man but a master. By denying the humanity of his slaves he also abrogates his own humanity.
—Mikhail Bakunin, 1871.[7]

Early slavery[edit]

Evidence indicates that slavery existed all around the world and even before the advent of writing.[8] Slavery existed in China as early as the Shang dynasty (18th–12th century BCE), in India as early as the 1st century BCE, among Amerindians such as Inca and the Creek, in the early Middle East as recorded by Hammurabi's Code in 1750 BCE, in Ancient Egypt, and in Africa for almost all of its known history.[8] Slavery tended not to happen in hunter-gatherer societies due to their mobility and low populations.[3] The advent of agriculture allowed slavery to flourish due to increased populations and the need for labor.

In the Bible[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Slavery in the Bible
Slavery was established by decree of Almighty God. It is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation. It has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.
—Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, head stuck firmly up his ass

Slavery is an excellent example of a social institution that is regarded as normal and acceptable in the Bible, but which is regarded today as an abomination. In fact, it was an essential part of their lives, and was treated as such in the scriptures. Exodus 21:7-11 shows that Hebrew women could be sold into slavery by their fathers, and with far fewer limitations than men would face. Exodus 21:2-5 shows that Hebrew men could sell themselves into slavery as a means of dealing with excessive debt. According to Leviticus 25:44, non-Hebrews were subjected to slavery in the more commonly-understood sense. The Hebrews also practiced hereditary slavery in the Bible, as Exodus 21:4 states that children borne to slaves and women married to slaves were themselves slaves. Hebrews could apparently even beat their slaves and kill them so long as the slave didn't die instantly (Exodus 21:20-21).

There appears to be some disagreement among Christian Dominionists as to whether their theocracy would re-institute slavery.[9]

Some interesting examples of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic moral relativism, eh?

Atlantic slave trade[edit]

Branding a slave in the Caribbean.

The most infamous incarnation of this practice was the Atlantic slave trade, in which Africans sold other Africans (often people captured in war, or stuck in debt peonage) to Europeans, who transported said people to work plantations in the Americas. The Atlantic Slave Trade era was unique within humanity's history of slavery for three reasons:[10]

  • Its duration of approximately four centuries.
  • Slaves were chosen due to their race.
  • White civilizations enthusiastically adopted racism and racialism to justify slavery of Africans.

Colonization of the New World made slavery increasingly necessary for Europeans. Spain's colonies in the Caribbean enslaved the indigenous populations to harvest sugarcane, and when those indigenous were exterminated through harsh treatment Spain and Portugal turned to Africa in search of more slaves.[11] Haiti is a good example of this phenomenon. The Spanish drove Hispaniola's native Taino population into extinction in '25 years (!) and imported enslaved Africans; Haiti is to this day 95% black.[12]

Portugal formed the first relationship with Africa that would define Europe's method of obtaining slaves. In 1483, Portugal converted the African Kingdom of the Kongo to Catholicism and then struck an agreement in 1512 granting them access to Kongo's prisoners to be sold as slaves.[13] From that point onwards African empires such as Kongo, Dahomey, Yoruba, Benin, and Ashanti raced with each other to capture more prisoners to sell as slaves to the Europeans. The slave trade had an incalculable impact on Africa and its people. Kingdoms that participated in the slave trade used European weapons and became unrelentingly militaristic to conquer their neighbors and sell more and more captives into the lucrative European markets.[14]

It's estimated that about 17 million people became human cargo shipped away from Africa to the New World.[10] They became part of what's known as the "Triangle Trade": ships would leave Europe and go to Africa to buy slaves, then go to the New World to sell those slaves, then traveled back to Europe to sell the goods they obtained from the New World.[10] Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, England, and France all participated in the Triangle Trade.

The Atlantic slave trade was finally outlawed by the British in 1807, and the practice of slavery tapered out across the Americas over the next several decades. The last country in the Western Hemisphere to emancipate its slaves was Brazil in 1888. The last country to abolish slavery was Mauritania, which de jure abolished it in 1981, but as no laws were created to enforce the ban, only de facto abolished it in 2007. Despite this, up to 18% of the population of the country remain enslaved[15] One of the advantages of capitalism is that it requires the participation of free labor. In 1945, the Trinidadian historian Eric Williams argued that the European abolition of slavery in the 19th century was undertaken not in the name of compassion for the enslaved, but in order to meet the demands of new capitalist economies.[16]

Indian Ocean slave trade[edit]

Slave punishment in Zanzibar, 1890.

Although it's usually called the Arab slave trade, this is a historical misnomer since myriad ethnic groups were involved in trade relations.[17].

Slavery in the Arab world was a natural outgrowth of the vital role slavery had played in Mediterranean economies since antiquity, and Arab slave traders tapped into existing slave trade networks that had been established by warring ethnic groups such as the Yao, Makua and Marava.[18] Africans sold into slavery in the Middle East became field workers, administrative servants, or even harem guards.[18] This latter role is why castration of African slaves was so common. Islamic religious law, however, forbade the sale of African Muslims into slavery.[18]

The Indian Ocean slave trade accelerated between 1600 and 1800 peaked during the 19th Century.[19] This acceleration happened in response to the establishment of clove plantations in Zanzibar, Brazil's need to find a new source of slaves after the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, and the world's increasing demand for ivory.[20] Trade in slaves wasn't abolished in Zanzibar (the Indian Ocean slave trade's main hub) until 1876 under strong British pressure, and slavery itself remained legal until 1897.[21]

In the United States[edit]

Plantation slaves in South Carolina.
I consider the labor of a breeding woman as no object, and a child raised every 2 years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man [...] providence has made our interests & duties coincide perfectly.
Thomas Jefferson, regarding constantly impregnating slaves to maximise profits.[22]

Slavery in the United States started out as indentured servants, primarily of Irish descent.[23] As crop yields increased, so did the demand for labor. Anthony Johnson, a former indentured servant of African descent, filed a lawsuit to keep his indentured servant for the remainder of the servant's life, officially legalizing slavery in the Virginia Colony. Soon, many Europeans bought and sold Africans across the Atlantic to keep up with demand. Although the then non-Christian religion of the (African) slaves enabled their permanent and official enslavement through kidnapping as opposed to temporary de facto enslavement ("indentured servitude") through becoming indebted or criminals, their treatment was little different until Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia, 1676. Afterward sharply divergent treatment of British and African forced laborers was employed so that the former could be used to police and repress the latter, and both groups would be less likely to unite in rebellion in future. Virginian society transformed from a two-tiered class hierarchy to a three-tiered class-race one. [24]

The three-fifths clause in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3) was about congressional representation as legally black slaves were regarded as having 0% rights, not even 60%. Southern states initially advocated that their slaves be counted as a full person so that they would have more representation in Congress while the North did not want them to count at all, as they were not legal citizens and could not vote. So they could settle and form a nation, the North suggested slaves count as half a person while the South wanted them to be 3/4ths; they settled on 3/5ths.[25]

Areas in the United States where slavery was most common have unusually strong levels of race-based economic disparity, implying a direct heritage of modern economic problems among American Blacks due to slavery.[26]

In Brazil[edit]

Beating a slave in Brazil.

Slavery in Brazil lasted some 300 years, and the region imported about 4 million slaves during that time.[27] Brazil thus imported more slaves than any other country.[28] Africans who died during the passage across the Atlantic were carried to trash dumps where their corpses would be piled alongside household refuse.[29] Just like with the Spanish colonies, the Portuguese had treated the native populations in Brazil so harshly that they were exterminated.[30] This trend continued in Brazil, and it's estimated that Brazilian slave-owners treated their African slaves so horrendously that they only survived an average of seven years after arriving in Brazil.[31] Infant mortality rates were also staggering. This is why Brazil ended up importing so many slaves; they died there at a greater rate than elsewhere.

Brazil used slaves to harvest and process sugarcane and also started using them in mines after the discovery of gold and diamonds.[32] Urban demand for slaves also existed, and they were used for household tasks. Slavery was so widespread in Brazil that the country failed to develop an abolitionist movement even while the US struggled to limit slavery and the European powers outlawed it.[33] Abolitionism did not become a serious movement until after the American Civil War, and it only started in law schools and colleges. Even then, most of the public didn't get behind it until industrialization made it increasingly clear that slaves were economically noncompetitive in the new capitalist world.[31] Brazil abolished slavery in 1888, the last Western country to do so.

In Nazi Germany[edit]

Liberated women, still with their Nazi slave badges.

Nazi Germany relied heavily on slave labor during World War Two. After the commencement of Operation Barbarossa, the Germans abducted millions of people from occupied Poland and the Soviet Union to serve as slaves for German industry.[34] By 1944, the Germans were enslaving people as young as 16.[35] People worked under the threat of death in abominable conditions, often with beatings and hunger as companions.

Slavery was not limited to factory work and camps. Despite the Nazi ideals of racial purity, it seems that they weren't above rapeing slave women or forcing hundreds of thousands of them into prostitution.[36] So many pregnancies occurred due to rape that Germany had to create "birthing centers" to dispose of the unwanted children, in which about 90% of the handled infants died due to neglect.[37] Women also served as nannies, of all things, in order to encourage German women to have more children. Slave nannies worked closely with German families and in German households, so the Nazi government required that they be suitable for "Germanization".[38] In a manner reminiscent of the US Antebellum South, Nazi farms also used slaves for harvests and were ordered by the government to treat them as subhuman.[39]

Private firms in Germany also heavily utilized slave labor, and they even built their own slave camps to house them.[40] The famous Reimann family, which has stakes in brands around the world, recently admitted that it profited from wartime slavery and allowed women to be beaten and sexually abused in its facilities.[41] Hundreds of German firms are known to have committed similar acts, although many of them are now voluntary members of Germany's slave labor compensation fund.[42]

Few of those slave laborers survived the war, and many were the cadavers exposed at Allied liberation of labor camps. For his role in procuring slaves from occupied countries, Nazi politician Fritz Sauckel was found guilty at the main Nuremberg Trial and put to death by hanging.[43]

Slavery today[edit]

Contemporary slavery is largely concentrated in South Asia, Africa and the former Soviet Union.

It is estimated that there are still upwards of 27 million people enslaved today.[44] This number is higher than at any previous time in history, but abolitionists hope the practise can be wiped out in 30 years.[45] This depends on the definition of slave, as some often count sex workers as slaves, particularly if they are immigrants that have been forced into the work to pay off debts to their contacts that helped them move country. In contrast to Rome or the US pre-13th Amendment, slavery today is less about ownership than about being able to control people and force them to work, whether by physical restraint or other forms of coercion (threats, debt bondage, society viewing certain forms of servitude as normal). It may be done by criminals and against the law, or with state involvement, or in areas where the state has little or no power and rule of law is weak. Related practices such as child marriage and child soldiers can also be considered slavery.[46]

In the 21st Century, Quasi-State Legalised Slavery has returned in DAESH-held territory, where female captives, all non-Muslim minorities who have refused to convert to Islam, have been sold and distributed as sexual slaves[47]. For the DAESH-aligned group Boko Haram, things are quite literally being done by the same book — the repeated kidnapping of women for use as sex slaves counts among their many noble deeds.[48]

In the US, penal labor has been commonly used as forced labor.[49] This has been allowed due to a loophole in the Thirteenth Amendment which allows forced labor to be used as a punishment for prisoners. Many Southern states turned many minor crimes into felonies in order to arrest African Americans and use them as a form of cheap labor.[50] Modern corporations have greatly benefited from prisoners being used as low-cost labor.[51]

Child laborers in Nepal.

Involuntary servitude has usually been seen as a form of slavery but this belief has commonly been abused by cranks. In 1916, the Supreme Court ruled in the case Butler v. Perry that involuntary servitude could be permitted if it is a service to the state (like jury duty or military service);[52] this case, though, dealt with a Florida law that forced citizens, many of them African Americans, to be forced to build roadways and likely went against the intent of the Thirteenth Amendment.[53] Many anti-war activists and civil libertarians have contended that conscription is a form involuntary servitude and forces someone to kill, violating that person's rights of conscience. Various libertarians, conservatives, and moonbatty liberals have stated that compulsory schooling is a form of involuntary servitude and would prefer homeschooling or unschooling. Anti-vaxxers believe that mandatory vaccination violates their rights and forces them to vaccinate their children, which is against their beliefs. Tax protesters have called the income tax a form of slavery.

It is commonly claimed by those on the far right that Islam is largely responsible for modern slavery, and that Islam is a particularly pro-slavery religion.[54][55] As discussed in this article, no religion or ethnic group has a monopoly on slavery. Some majority-Muslim countries certainly have a problem with modern slavery, including Qatar, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Mauritania, Sudan, and Bangladesh, but so do majority-Christian countries like Haiti, DR Congo, and the Central African Republic, as well as India, Cambodia, China, North Korea, and others.[56][57]

Countries which formerly participated in the transatlantic slave trade, primarily those in the west, have apologized for said participation, although nations like Nigeria and Ghana have also apologized. From the Nigerian Civil Rights Congress: "We cannot continue to blame the white men, as Africans, particularly the traditional rulers, are not blameless. In view of the fact that the Americans and Europe have accepted the cruelty of their roles and have forcefully apologized, it would be logical, reasonable and humbling if African traditional rulers ... [can] accept blame and formally apologize to the descendants of the victims of their collaborative and exploitative slave trade."[58]

In nature[edit]

Slave-making ants practice a form of brood parasitism, abducting the young of other ants during raids, to increase the worker force of their own colony. It has been suggested the term be renamed pirate ants, which attempts to suggest impressment is somehow not just a specific type of slavery limited to the enslavement of sailors to serve on an enemy vessel.

In BDSM and psychology[edit]

Master slave relationshipsWikipedia's W.svg are common in consensual BDSM, though the use of this terminology can be quite offensive and be seen as trivializing or glorifying slavery. The practice of race play is also controversial and can cross over into detailed historical reenactment of punishments inflicted on slaves within a certain society that leave more accurate injuries than modern day civil war reenactments. [59]

Apologism and pseudohistory[edit]

As slavery is both a historical fact and widely considered a crime against humanity, various parties generate a large amount of woo as a post hoc justification to push their own agendas. This includes rightwing cranks, religious apologetics, extreme nationalists and 'cultural relativists' attempting to defend it, as well as various historical revisionists downplaying its horribleness, or downplaying or even occasionally - on the left-wing side - overplaying its role in history.

Of the religious form, the Bible and Koran both allow for slavery. So how are these books "Good" when they clearly allow for something "Bad"? Well obviously the version in the book wasn't actually "slavery" at all, of course! Of course, the King James version doesn't mention slaves, only "servants"...never mind that that's one of many euphemisms that translation used when it touched on anything potentially sensitive.

An example of the historical revision form of woo is Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, which argues that Saint Patrick was the first abolitionist, and that as a result of his Christian mission Ireland became the first country on Earth to abolish slavery. In reality, scholars are very skeptical that St. Patrick ever existed, and they are even more skeptical that he ended slavery, given the numerous references to slaves in medieval Gaelic Irish law.

The left-wing historian Edward Baptist has claimed that slavery was essential to the industrial revolution - a claim which feeds into the wider narrative in some parts of the left that America would not be so rich today if it were not for slavery. However, Baptist's research has come under severe criticism from multiple people. For example, Baptist's research didn't even get the basic economic concept of GDP right.[60]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Lincoln: Thoughts on Slavery. National Park Service.
  2. What is modern slavery?. Anti-Slavery International.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Compare: "Slavery". Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/slavery-sociology. "Slavery existed in a large number of past societies whose general characteristics are well known. It was rare among primitive peoples, such as the hunter-gatherer societies, because for slavery to flourish, social differentiation or stratification was essential. Also essential was an economic surplus, for slaves were often consumption goods who themselves had to be maintained rather than productive assets who generated income for their owner. Surplus was also essential in slave systems where the owners expected economic gain from slave ownership." 
  4. Pinker, Steven (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes (reprint ed.). Penguin UK. ISBN 9780141959740. https://books.google.com/books?id=c3cWa-GnsfMC. Retrieved 2018-07-01. "For most of the history of civilization, the practice of slavery was the rule rather than the exception. It was upheld in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, and was justified by Plato and Aristotle as a natural institution that was essential to civilized sociery. [...] Slaves have always been a major booty in wartime, and stateless people of all races were vulnerable to capture. [...] For captives in war, slavery was often a better fate than the alternative, massacre [...]." 
  5. "David P. Forsythe". The Globalist. http://www.theglobalist.com/contributors/david-p-forsythe/. 
  6. 2018 Findings: Highlights. Global Slavery Index.
  7. Man, Society, and Freedom. Mikhail Bakunin, 1871.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Historical survey: Slave-owning societies". Britannica.
  9. Christian Reconstructionism etc.: Beliefs and practices. Religious Tolerance.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Transatlantic Slave Trade. UNESCO.
  11. See the Wikipedia article on Slavery in the Spanish New World colonies.
  12. CIA World Factbook: Haiti. CIA.
  13. 400 years ago, enslaved Africans first arrived in Virginia. National Geographic.
  14. The Transatlantic Slave Trade. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  15. Anti-Slavery International [1]
  16. Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, UNC Press Books, 1944.
  17. Rodneyʼ, Walter (1972). How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications. p. 211. ISBN 9781906387945.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 East Africa's forgotten slave trade. Deutsche Welle.
  19. Recalling Africa’s harrowing tale of its first slavers – The Arabs – as UK Slave Trade Abolition is commemorated. New African Magazine.
  20. The East African Slave Trade. BBC.
  21. See the Wikipedia article on History of Zanzibar.
  22. Isenberg, Nancy, White Trash - The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (London, 2016) p.100
  23. http://www.ushistory.org/us/5b.asp
  24. Dan Hicks. "Ethnicity, Race and the Archaeology of the Atlantic Slave Trade".
  25. http://hauensteincenter.org/slaveholding/
  26. 2013 Heather A. O'Connell http://sf.oxfordjournals.org/content/90/3/713.abstract
  27. Photos Reveal Harsh Detail Of Brazil's History With Slavery. NPR.
  28. "Transatlantic Slave Trade". Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. New York: Basic Civitas Books. ISBN 978-0-465-00071-5.
  29. https://www.dw.com/en/in-brazil-the-wounds-of-slavery-will-not-heal/a-43754519 In Brazil the wounds of slavery will not heal. Deutsche Welle.
  30. Mattoso, Katia M.; Schwartz, Stuart B. (1986). To Be a Slave in Brazil: 1550–1888. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press. ISBN 0-8135-1154-2.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Slavery in Brazil. GlobalSecurity.
  32. Sweet, James H. Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2003. Print.
  33. https://exoduscry.com/blog/general/history-of-slavery-and-abolition-in-brazil/ History of Slavery and Abolition in Brazil. Exodus Cry.
  34. Alexander von Plato, Almut Leh, Christoph Thonfeld (2010). Hitler's Slaves: Life Stories of Forced Labourers in Nazi-Occupied Europe. Berghahn Books. ISBN 1845459903.
  35. Hannes Heer; Klaus Naumann; Heer Naumann (2004). War of Extermination: The German Military in World War II. Berghahn Books. p. 139. ISBN 1571814930.
  36. Sexual slaves of the Third Reich. Wprost 24. Archived.
  37. See the Wikipedia article on Nazi birthing centres for foreign workers.
  38. Lynn H. Nicholas, Cruel World, p. 256, ISBN 0-679-77663-X.
  39. Richard Grunberger, The 12-Year Reich, p 165, ISBN 0-03-076435-1
  40. Ulrich Herbert (1997), Hitler's Foreign Workers, Enforced Foreign Labor In Germany Under The Third Reich. Cambridge University Press, pp. 269, 324-325. ISBN 0521470005.
  41. Reimann family firm reveals Nazi slave past in Germany. BBC News.
  42. Holocaust Restitution: German Firms that Used Slave Labor During Nazi Era. Jewish Virtual Library.
  43. Fritz Sauckel. Britannica.
  44. "Modern-Day Slavery", The New York Times. 2000 September 9.
  45. A tipping point in the fight against slavery?
  46. Modern Slavery, Anti-Slavery International, 2019
  47. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-08-03/sex-slaves-sold-by-islamic-state-the-younger-the-better
  48. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-22538888%7CBoko Haram timeline: From preachers to slave raiders ]
  49. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/09/prison-labor-in-america/406177/
  50. http://www.newsweek.com/slavery-still-legal-united-states-365547
  51. http://www.alternet.org/story/151732/21st-century_slaves%3A_how_corporations_exploit_prison_labor
  52. http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/ButlervPerry.html
  53. http://volokh.com/posts/1190700994.shtml
  54. Clarion Project
  55. The truth about Muslims and sex slavery - according to the Koran, rather than Isis or Islamophobes, The Independent
  56. See the Wikipedia article on Global Slavery Index.
  57. Global Slavery Index findings
  58. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/nov/18/africans-apologise-slave-trade
  59. "Playing with Race", Daisy Hernandez, Color Lines, Dec 21, 2004
  60. Slavery and Capitalism, Phillipe Lemoine