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Blog Post #2

While reading the second chapter of The People’s History of the United States, I learned many things about slavery that was not taught to me before. One of the most interesting things that Zinn talks about in this chapter is how Europeans justified their own slave trade by noticing how different African states had slavery themselves. I appreciated the contrast that Zinn made throughout this chapter between the two different forms of slavery.  Zinn does a good job bringing African slavery and how it was “better” than slavery in the Americas, but makes sure to mention that, “African slavery is hardly to be praised.” He continues to make examples of why American slavery was “the most cruel”, limitless profit from agriculture and the act of dehumanizing slaves.

The other interesting part of this chapter that really drew my eye was that slavery came from a desperate need for labor. I was always under the impression that slaves were a way for the rich to stay richer, but this chapter explains how “the Virginians of 1619 were desperate for labor, to grow enough food to stay alive.” The people were desperate for more workers and realized that black slaves were the easiest answer to help them get what they wanted. Zinn explains how obtaining these slaves was not easy, but it was easier than enslaving anyone else, so that is what the whites did. Zinn talks about how the only way in which the culture was inferior to white was in military capability. Since the whites had guns and ships, blacks were considered “inferior” even though Westerners could not get blacks to surrender “and had to come to terms with its chiefs.” Even though in some ways, the African civilizations were more admirable than their European counterparts, Westerns took the people and brutally used them for their own profits.

I find it insane that I was never taught the full story about slavery, but only the small bits and details that were mentioned in the history books that I studied in high school. Zinn does a great job of talking about the information that isn’t talked about. He brings hidden facts out so that the real stories can be written.

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4 Comments

  1. Julia Borger Julia Borger

    I also found the contrasts of the different kinds of slavery very informing and eye-opening. Personally, I was not aware that there were different kinds of slavery during this time, and that the American slavery was the most brutal. Slavery alone is atrocious, but coupled with the fact that it was one of the worst kinds, makes it unfathomable. I really can’t believe my history books and other articles have never highlighted this difference, as I think it is a very important distinction that needs to be taught so students know just how cruel the early white settlers were.

  2. Alexandra Oloughlin Alexandra Oloughlin

    I also was not taught about the origin of American slavery. In some way, I feel this origin makes it worse because the people of Jamestown were suffering and struggling to get by and just passed the burden onto someone else. In a society that hadn’t previously enslaved africans, what spurred this sudden decision.
    I share your shock about how i was never educated about the true history and I believed what I was taught about slavery

  3. Jeffrey Sprung Jeffrey Sprung

    Henry, I think your blog post highlights several key takeaways from the reading. Similarly to you, I did not realize that the initial reason for the transportation of slaves to Virginia was simply because the colonists needed more efficient labor as Native Americans were too elusive and difficult to control. Also, Zinn’s point that blacks’ culture was only considered inferior to whites’ culture due to their lack of military capability was very frustrating to me and further illustrated the cruelty behind the enslavement of blacks in my mind.

  4. Sophia Picozzi Sophia Picozzi

    I find the lack of education or information regarding the incapability of the white settlers in cultivating the land and providing themselves with enough food to survive borderline unbelievable. Now that I wholeheartedly understand that this history was told with the sole purpose of making the settlers seem like the “good guys”, victors, and the superior race I can see why this piece of history was intentionally overlooked and ignored. The white settlers didn’t want to admit that they failed and that they had to rely on another, in their eyes “lesser” race to make them live. It’s honestly eye-opening.

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