Introduction to Anthropology
December 5ht 2011
Slavery is defined as “The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household.”(Free Dictionary) People have been enslaved since the beginning of civilization. Generally, slavery is practiced by a stronger group against the weaker. Many believe that slavery occurs for reasons such as race or belief systems. History has shown that slaves have been used for numerous reasons against whites, blacks, and other races or cultures, going to show that skin color not often the cause of this crime against humanity. It has been used as a tool of both discrimination and profit. Although partly racial, the United States slave trade was also used for tremendous economic profit. The Nazi concentration camps, even though anti-Semitic reasoning was present, used Jews to increase production value instead of using their own men. Lastly, the feudal system in the middle ages, with no race issues whatsoever, used serfs as slaves in order to maintain the land of lords. Slavery has been used for both racial and economic reasons throughout many different societies.
The slave trade in North America is the most recognized in human history, slaves were used for both racist and profitable motives. It was by 1640 that, by law, the first African slave was labelled as property of a European colonist. Following this trend, ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean transported thousands of slaves from Africa. Blacks were considered less intelligent, and less developed than whites, therefore they were put to work, without choice or pay. Even though they had numbers, the idea of rebellion was unattainable due to the lack of knowledge of the environment and scarce resources. The slaves were used for two things; they belonged to a single master and would have to carry out chores that needed to be done, or slaves would be owned by a company, and were forced to work in the fields, cultivating sugar, cotton, and other supplies that was booming in the economy. Over 645000 slaves were brought over to the United States, this number is almost doubled if those transported to South America were included. The economy flourished in the New World, those in power had more workers then needed, leading to success in the trade system with little labour from whites. Because many of the slaves were owned by a single master or household, the treatment they received was often behind closed doors. (Franklin) Whether it was due to resistance, or proof of dominance, slaves were often whipped, shackled, beaten, raped and killed by their owners. Although two thirds of African slaves were young men, enslaved women were treated the worst. They were terribly victimized by sexual abuse, in a southern culture where women were already mistreated. Being black and female was possibly the worst situation one could find herself in during the era of the slave trade. To this day, the African slave trade it one of the most egregious examples where a human life was given a price due to race.
A more modern example of slavery is the Holocaust, which used concentration camps not only as extermination sites, but also for labour purposes. Between 1939-1945, the Nazi’s committed the biggest massacre of all time against Jews in Europe. Reasons behind these killings were not economic, but simply a movement against a group’s way of life and belief systems. The Nazis had a tactic for gathering Jews from all over Europe into the same areas. These sites were concentration camps; SS officers would invade towns and place all Jews, homosexuals, handicapped, and prisoners of war into freight cars where they would be transported to the camps. On the trains, people were given little or no water and food, causing many of them to die before arrival. The initial use of concentration camps was to organize all “undesirables” into groups for extermination. The Nazi’s quickly realized that they could