Driven out of their native land, the first African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. During this time the slaves were sold to work on land that European immigrants were colonizing on the North America Coast. During this period, millions of black slaves were dreadfully treated. The transatlantic slave trade sustained until the mid 1800s, when slavery was finally prohibited. As more blacks came to America, colonies instituted the “black code” that was meant to control and monitor the population of African Americans. As explored by Ayers, Gould, Soderlund & Oshinsky, the whites feared that if the population of blacks grew to large numbers as compared to the population of whites, then they were able to fight them (83).
The black code that had been implemented in many states indicated that a master could not release his slave under any circumstance. The blacks were forbidden from marrying from another race and were also not permitted to marry legally from their own race (Ayers et al 83). According to the whites, this was a form of controlling the increase in population of blacks which was already growing tremendously. The laws that were put in place by the whites to govern slavery were both harsh and discriminatory. Being a slave meant that the master owned the slave together with the family. The master had a right to decide whether the parents stayed with the children or whether they were sold as slaves to another master. This excess power that was exercised by the whites instilled fear in the blacks against having more children with the fear that they would either be killed or sold as slaves.
During the slavery period, both men and women were given chores. The men became drivers and others worked in plantations while the women were in charge of domestic chores. This made it a challenge for the blacks to interact and bring up children due to the amount of work given and the long working hours that were compulsory to all. In some states, as indicated in the article “The Zero Population Growth Game”, the women were required to use birth control in addition to employment of other social and physiological ways that disabled the reproduction of both men and women. The whites felt like they had to use all possible means in order to control the population of blacks.
For many slave, having their family members around was important for them to survive the harsh treatment they received fro their masters. As discussed by Ayers et al, those family members who were sold to another master often escaped in order to rejoin their families (84). This mostly happened with men unlike with women because it was not easy for them to escape accompanied by their children. Newly acquired slaves also had the tendencies to escape because they would go unnoticed as compared to those that had been working there for a long period of time.
The harsh laws implemented were later met with rebellions from the slaves who staged demonstrations, went on a go-slow and other even pretended to be sick so as to miss work. Others stole crops and tools, destroyed the farm produce while other committed arson and even murder with an aim of gaining their freedom. In states where the population of blacks out-numbered that of the whites, the riots made other slaves see that success was possible.
- Ayers, Gould, Soderlund & Oshinsky. American Passages: A History of the Unite States. USA: Cengage Learning Inc, 2009. Print.
- Innis Roy. “The Zero Population Growth Game”. Ebony. Johnson Publishing, Nov 1974 178 pages Vol. 30, No. 1