African American History

  • Category: History
  • Words: 692
  • Grade: 100
We as Americans, are still faced with the question of why were Africans enslaved? There have been many historians who have touched on this topic and have came up with some very convincing answers. Some of which are Eric Williams, Winthrop D. Jordan, and David Brion Davis. Each has proposed a very convincing and believing theory of how Africans became enslaved. While each man's work is very contrast, they are also a tad similar. In viewing these theories society should be able to come closer to their own conclusion.
        Eric Williams believes that slavery was of an economical result and not an inferior motive. Mr. Williams believes that Africans were taken into slavery because the cost was extremely high to keep Indians, who would easily become ill, and Whites, who were indentured servants who would eventually become free. If we break down what Williams is saying, we would paint a picture of strategy. In other words the Spaniards were beginning to see their empire fall and had to come up with a plan. They realized that the Indians rapidly succumbed to the excessive labor demanded of them, the insufficient diet, the white man's diseases, and their inability to adjust to the new way of life (Williams's p.4). Being accustomed to a life of freedom, the Indians constitution and temperament were poorly adjusted to the plantation life style. Now we come to the White man who replaced the Indians. The Spaniards once again had run into a problem. They realized after a certain period of time, that the white mans service would come to an end. They finally discovered that one Negro was worth twice as many Whites and Indians.
        While Winthrop D. Jordan believed that slavery didn't cause "prejudice", or vice versa, they seem to have generated each other... dynamically joining hands to hustle the Negro down the road to complete degradation (p.1). The main issue Jordan is trying to stress is that when the Europeans first saw the Africans they immediately look at the color of their skin. After hearing the words black and Negro continuously, the Europeans began to add this presumption into their vocabulary. By contrast, the Negro was ugly, by reason of his color and also his "unpleasant Curles" and "blemished" lips and nose (Jordan p.15). As Shakespeare wrote apologetically of his black mistress,
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red:
If snow be white, why then her breast are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white
But no such roses see I in her cheeks.
        ... As we witness such a profound description, Jordan's theory becomes more convincing.
        Now, we will take a look at David B. Davis. Mr. Davis believe it is simplistic to assume that [negative color] symbolism accounts for the growing Muslim and Christian conviction that black Africans were in some way "made' to be slaves. For the Africanization of large parts of the New World was the result not of concerted planning, racial destiny, or immanent historical design but of innumerable local and practical choices. Davis is basically saying that is was more convenient for them to grab an African on the way to the New World. He says that the Africans had the least knowledge of the rest and would be easier to control (pp.25-27).
        Do to the drastic level of prejudice against Africans during and after slavery, people have suspected that the enslavement of Africans was a result of racism. The three historians, included in this critique, have theorized that slavery was not a color but inexpensive labor and convenience. Each gentleman have stated very different views, but each have given an outstanding picture that we can visualize to try to answer this heinous question. The real truth of the matter is that no one can really answer this question, but the ones who actually enslaved the Africans.         

Work Cited

Davis, David B. Slavery and Human Progress.
        Oxford University Press, Inc. 1984.
Jordan, Winthrop D. White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro.
        University of North Carolina Press, 1968.
Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery.
        University of North Carolina Press, 1972
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