Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Racial Slavery Spawned Racism

How Racial Slavery Spawned Racism:
It seems logical to assert that racial slavery spawned racism. Yet as the "peculiar institution" of racial slavery solidified in America between the 18th and 19th centuries, the ideology of racism grew to substantiate the cheap labor demands of Southern planters like Landon Carter. In American Slavery, American Freedom (1975), historian Edmund Morgan argued that colonial Virginia initiated the first laws to suppress free blacks. Indeed, slavery had existed for thousands of years prior to the founding of America. In the Old World, it mainly centered on prisoners of war and basic criminals while in the New World, it became racialized. Historian Winthrop Jordan claimed that racial slavery was only about 150 years old by the time it reached colonial Virginia in 1619. And it was after Nathaniel Bacon's infamous rebellion in 1676 that Virginia planters largely went from holding white indentured servants to driving black slaves. But race was not necessarily their primary motivation in making that transition. In fact, it was their deeply-rooted beliefs in protecting property rights that brought about this act. To colonial Virginians, the threat posed by landless whites proved more pernicious than that of enslaved blacks. Ultimately, as historian Oscar Handlin contended, the aura of inferiority that surrounded American slavery in the South had less to do with one's race and more to do with one's status as a slave.

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