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.