THE IVENTION OF RACE
This article was compiled by Jodi Phillips May 2014, for the Institute of Black Academics
concerning Black Under achievement.
PUBLISHED 09 MAY 2014 04:26
The transatlantic slave trade reached its peak between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries spurred by the growth of large plantations in North and South America. To increase profits, slave ship owners divided the hull into multiple decks, so that they could transport as many slaves as possible. The conditions were horrific and led to incredibly high mortality rates. The slave ship Henrietta Marie, which sank off the coast of Key West, Florida, in 1701, carried up to 400 slaves in a single voyage, with some chained to the bow of the ship during the entire weeklong passage.
By the late eighteenth century, slavery in the U.S. was a firmly established social, political and economically lucrative institution. It existed in both the North, where slaves were employed in various trades and as skilled laborers, as well as in the South. But with the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, the demand for agricultural labor increased significantly, especially in the Deep South where cotton was the major crop. The cotton gin made cultivation on a huge scale possible, increasing the daily processing capability fifty fold. As a result of increased cotton production and the required labor, the slave population in cotton-growing regions greatly increased.
The economic and political impact of the cotton gin was significant. In South Carolina for example, only the low country—the area south of Charleston including the coastal region—had been able to grow long staple cotton, while the upcountry was only able to grow short staple cotton, which was harder to separate by hand.
The invention of the cotton gin made it possible for short staple cotton to be processed as fast as long staple cotton. As a result, the economy of the low country and upcountry became fairly equal. The invention also meant upcountry cotton planters required a large number of workers, so they began importing African slave labor. Though South Carolina's upcountry now had its own wealthy planter class, the low country still dominated politically since the upcountry received only three-fifths of a vote for every slave.
Europe, which dominated the Atlantic slave trade, began to experience a growing unease with slavery. In the U.S., similar concerns were raised in the North. Led by the Quakers and evangelicals such as William Wilberforce, the anti-slavery movement gained support as opposition to the slave trade increased. Denmark, which had been very active in the slave trade, was the first country to ban it in 1792, though the law went into effect eleven years later. Britain banned slave trade in 1807, imposing stiff fines for any slave found aboard a British ship. That same year the U.S. banned the importation of slaves. Though the British banned slave trafficking, slavery was still legal in the British Empire until 1833.
[Source : http://www.understandingrace.org/history/society/invention_of_race.html].