S1: Hi, this is Rebecca Onion in commemoration of the beginning of American slavery in 16 19. Slate is rereleasing the History of American Slavery series from 2015.
S2: This project wouldn’t have been possible without your support of Slate Plus. So thank you.
S3: This is the history of American slavery a slave academy. My name is Jamelle Bouie. I’m a Slate staff writer.
S2: And my name is Rebecca Onion. I’m Slate’s history writer.
S3: In each episode, we’re looking at a different chapter in the history of slavery in America and starting the conversation with the life of a single person. In this episode, we’ll talk about Anthony Johnson.
S4: We don’t know where Anthony Johnson was born or how he came to end up enslaved. We do know he arrived in Virginia in 16, 21, coming in on a ship called James. His name was inscribed in the colony’s records as Antonio, a Negro.
S5: He survived an attack by Powelton Indians and 16 22 as the natives attacked many of James towns outlying settlements in an attempt to drive out the colonists in 16 twenty five. He was one of only about two dozen Africans and all of Virginia. He worked on the tobacco plantation owned by Edward Bennett, an absentee master who is a major investor in the Virginia company. But Johnson’s life on that plantation was very different than what you might think of when you think of what slavery looks like. At least some of the men Johnson worked with were white Europeans who had financed their emigration by entering contracts of indentured servitude, which was a common practice at the time. Johnson’s master permitted Johnson to wed his wife. Mary, described in Colony Records, has a Negro woman. Anthony and Mary were allowed to farm independently while still enslaved and eventually to buy their freedom with proceeds from their labor, which happened sometime before sixteen forty seven. Then Anthony Johnson bought a farm near the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula through the Virginia colonies had Wright system. That meant that in exchange for a land grant of 250 acres. Johnson financed the indenture and immigration of five men. Upon arriving in Virginia, these men became Johnson’s indentured property in sixteen 53. When John ksr, one of the Johnson families enslaved laborers, escaped to a neighboring plantation, Johnson contested case his claim that his indenture was over. He sued for kasab’s return, arguing the John Kaser was his slave for life. Johnson won his case. This wasn’t the Johnson family’s only recognition from the local court system. By the 16 50s, Anthonys, two sons owned large farms adjoining their parents land five hundred fifty and one hundred acres. The Johnson children fought and won land disputes with white neighbors. And when Anthony suffered the effects of a disastrous fire in 16 53, he asked for tax relief from the county court. In his petition, he reminded the court of his and his wife’s status in the community. Writing in the third person there, their hard labors and known services for obtaining their livelihood were well known. The court agreed. Johnson received the tax relief he was looking for. By the standards of the time, Johnson and his family were wealthy and influential. But times were changing. Indentured servitude was transforming into slavery, as we think of it today.
S4: Hereditary and race-based when Anthony Johnson died and 16/17, a white planter, successfully challenged his will, which left 50 acres of property in Alchemic County to his son, Richard. Because Johnson was a Negro and by consequence, an alien.
S3: In today’s episode, we’re talking about the shape of slavery at the very beginning in the northern and southern colonies, I would later become the United States. Later in the episode, we’ll be trying to understand the political, economic and cultural changes that brought hereditary race slavery to the colonies. But first, let’s talk a little more about Anthony Johnson. So I’ve done some reading about 17th century Virginia in the name. Sounds familiar. And I feel like I had read about him, but I didn’t quite realize just how prosperous he was.
S2: Yes, he was both prosperous and very active in public life, or at least insofar as we can tell through court records. He and his family conducted their affairs much like any other family of Virginia colonists who had managed to to some degree thrive in this new place. And so, you know, you have all these court records of him and his family and disputes with their neighbors or buying new bits of land or moving. And it reads like they’re a white family, right?
S6: Pretty much into what about the Johnson story is so relevant to the development of slavery in the United States and race slavery in the colonies?
S2: Well, just the very fact that he existed and was able to do what he did in the middle of the 17th century, and that by the time it was, you know, 70 years later, that would not have been possible. Right. Which is kind of a remarkable thing to think about.
S6: Right. That in the span, really in the span of a single lifetime, you could have African families be powerful landowners or at least like well-to-do landowners. And then at the end of that period, virtually no one like that exists throughout the colonies.
S2: Yes, it becomes very hard to find an example of a similar kind of family in the 18th century. Right.
S7: So one of the most interesting things about Johnson, obviously, is that he was an African who owned African slaves.
S8: It really shows the extent to which the institution of slavery is much less static than it appears. So, you know, the fact that Johnson could live through two phases helps us like see how things really do shift in the institution from generation to generation.
S9: Yeah. And that’s something that I didn’t think about as much before starting this project, because I think that there is within the public conversation about the history of slavery, the time that gets talked about a lot as maybe 1810 through 1860. Right. Which is when people were picking cotton and when there were big plantations in the south. So a scholar that we speak with later on in this episode, IRA Berlin has this sort of scheme of how to understand the history of slavery in the northern colonies and in the United States. And he calls it the generations. And so that generations that Anthony Johnson belong to is what IRA calls the charter generation, which is the first group of people who experience slavery in the seventeenth century colonies. You know, it wasn’t hereditary through the mother. So there was just a little bit more of fluidity to it.
S8: It looked a bit more like slavery had looked in other societies in the past.
S9: Yes. And this charter generation is, you know, 17th century, early 18th century phenomenon. And then the next generation, what IRA calls the plantation generation, lived through a time when it was much more difficult to find ways to leave.
S8: Exactly. And a lot of what we’re going to talk about today is exactly that transition from this informal system to a race based hereditary slavery that I think more people are familiar with. But first, after a break, we’re going to talk more about slavery in the colonies and Anthony Johnson’s time.
S4: You can read an excerpt from IRA Berlin’s book Generations of Captivity on the Slate Academy Web site. Find the link in the episode one show notes or at Slate.com Slash Academi.
S7: Welcome back. When we left, we were talking about Anthony Johnson’s Virginia or a few Africans like himself, own slaves.
S10: Yes. And I think that is kind of hard for us to look back at and understand. I’m much more sort of complicated, less total listing system in some way. So I spoke with IRA Berlin, who I mentioned earlier, who is a very Agusta scholar and teaches at the University of Maryland in College Park. And he’s written a ton of books about slavery, but the ones that I like a lot that are helpful for me to understand. You know, things like this are are the ones that are written on a sort of broad synthetic scale. And so he wrote one called Many Thousands Gone the First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. And one of the concepts that he introduces is helpful concept when it comes to understanding how a place like Virginia might compare to other forms of slavery that existed earlier in human history. At the same time, in other places and later on in the United States. So, you know, it spoke to us about his idea of the difference between a society with slaves and a slave society.
S11: This notion of society with slave, meaning a society in which slavery exists, that is, men and women are owned, but to allow slaves to trade independently on their own lives, to have an independent religious life, often to have an independent family life as well. The reason why slave holders are allowed the slaves to have an independent control over their lives and what we call a society with slave is that it’s dangerous to push men and women to the brink. There’s no telling when a slave might decide this is just not worth it. You’re going to push on me. I’m going to push back on you. You may get me, but I’ll get you as well. And slaveholders don’t want to be in that position.
S2: So on another question that I asked, IRA had to do with the national origins of colonizers and the way that they set up the institution of slavery in their colonies. And so I was sort of hypothesizing that the difference between being enslaved in English colony and a Dutch colony, a Spanish colony, might have to do with the national ideas of slavery in those places, although that might have some influence. What he thought was that the difference between the way that slavery operated in the different places had more to do with the way the economy was structured, right. So he thought that the telling difference between a society that has lived in it and a slave society is that when there comes to be a commodity that’s very profitable, like sugar or later tobacco and Virginia, eventually cotton, eventually cotton, and that is when there is a strong profit motive to have a slave society.
S12: And it’s worth getting a bit more into, I think, the social distinctions between a slave society and society with slaves. One way you can think of a society with slaves is think of ancient Rome, where there were slaves. There are many of them, but there existed some form of mobility for slaves. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t perfect. But being born a slave didn’t necessarily mean that your great, great grandchildren would also be slaves. And as well, Roman society wasn’t necessarily centered on slavery, that there are other there are other economic and social bases for the structure of Roman society and a slave society.
S13: It’s basically opposite that slavery is just the overwhelming institution that shapes not just economic life, but social life, all sorts of norms and practices and things that we associate with sort of like civil society.
S2: And that in a slave society there is a ideology related to slavery, that there is a strong belief that it is the right thing to do. Exactly. That you see, you know, maybe less early on in the charter and the plantation generations. But in the migration generation in the United States, that becomes very strong in the south. This conviction that we have a slave society and it’s right and we’ll talk about this later in the podcast.
S12: There emerge thinkers in the slave south who explicitly argue without reservations that a slave society is the only proper and decent way to organize society.
S2: Yes, it’s a couple other sort of distinctions that a slave society has, which is that quite often in those societies, there are people who own a lot of slaves at once. So in New York, it wasn’t like a plantation where you own hundreds. There was a, you know, a few and a household. It was also, although not always 100 percent the case, its office sort of easy to say that if you have slavery in an urban location where the economy is diversified, yes, people aren’t just producing one crop and slave people might be working in trades.
S12: There are multiple sources of low cost labor.
S2: Yes, there are multiple sources. So there’s a number of people who are not slaves, but are. In bounce labourer’s situations, indenture or apprenticeship, which is often the case in Jamestown, where early on. It’s not just that there are people who are slaves, they’re also indentured servants. So this is a society with slaves.
S12: And to go back to Anthony Johnson, this is all to say that part of the reason why his story was possible and why his life was possible was at Virginia in the 17th century, or at least through the first three quarters of the seventeenth century, wasn’t a slave society. It was a place where people owned slaves in that I called flexibility. Obviously, slavery as bad as slavery always wanted bad. But there are aggregations of badness here. And Virginia of the 17th century was not as bad as it would later become, and that gave a certain amount of freedom to people like Anthony Johnson.
S2: And there are other examples of people in the 17th century who also, like Anthony Johnson, managed to not only make it out, but become in some degree influential. And that is something that is sort of a characteristic of this charter generation.
S14: You know, Anthony Johnson is not simply a unicorn. He’s not simply one of a kind in this society. There are many people like him. I doubt whether they’re a majority of the population at any time or they will might be in some places, but their importance is that they set the tone for that society. If you see, you know, a black man coming into court or walking down the streets of Jamestown or Williamsburg, you can’t presume that this guy is a slave. And they exist in such numbers that they force people to think differently about the question of slavery and the question of race. That’s a lot different than it is on a plantation in Alabama. You know, in 1830.
S13: So we know that slavery in the 17th century wasn’t a pervasive system. It didn’t sort of govern the lives of everyone who happened to have black skin, sort of my question. And the thing I frankly never learned ever was how we got from that point when slavery was part of colonial society, but not a dominant force in colonial society, too. Just a couple of decades after Johnson’s death, when slavery was more in the kind of the form that we would recognize as Americans today, I would say my short answer is greed.
S15: Should we call the victims of slavery slaves or enslaved people? Slate’s Katy Waldman looks at a debate that’s anything but academic.
S16: Find a link to her essay and the episode one show notes or at Slate.com Slash Academi.
S17: So when we were planning the series on one of the producers for Slate podcast asked me what changed to make there be slavery in the American colonies? And, you know, I didn’t know how to answer that question. And it was just one of the reasons why we thought this series would be interesting to do. So thank you to that producer. Yes. Thank you, Mike volo. So, you know, I’m still in doing research for this. Used to I’m still sort of wondering what happened in the southern colonies in the late 19th and early 18th century to make the transition between a sort of Turner generation model to this hereditary race-based slavery.
S12: So did you find any leads on that end?
S17: Yeah. So we you know, we called and spoke to Peter Wood, who is an American professor from Duke. And interestingly, he wrote a book called Black Majority Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from sixteen seventy three this down A Rebellion, which was a book way back in 1974. Doctorow was one of the first people to make the point that rice planters in South Carolina learned how to plant rice from the enslaved people from Africa who worked with them.
S18: Yeah, that they weren’t unskilled labor. But in this makes sense, they were taken from their homes and they had skills that they use in their homes and they could put to use here in their new their new home. We’re going to put it. But I guess it’s the best available word I have at the moment.
S17: Yeah, you could say environment maybe. Yeah. Yes. Their new environment. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. This idea that there is a contribution to the colonial economy that is sort of multifaceted and layered in this way, he very specifically writes about this transition between a more sort of diverse model of society with slaves and the hereditary race based slavery that came later.
S10: And so that can be found in his book, which is called Strange New Lands Africans in Colonial America by the 18th Century.
S19: You really have chattel slavery where these people are legally being treated as property. But how we get there is a complicated story that most Americans don’t think about because we tend to think about slavery as being a deep, dark past and then getting better. So it’s if it’s on a graph, it’s nothing but a slow upward climb through emancipation and Jim Crow and eventually getting up to the Voting Rights Act or something. You know, it’s all one way and moving upward. That’s the way Americans like to tell even bad stories like this. But in fact, the graph is really a big you curve. You know, it doesn’t start out low. It starts up at a system of relative equality, a racial term in the first half of the 17th century. You know, you really do have people from Africa and people from Europe intermingling and working on the frontier. You know, the one of the images I found actually in early South Carolina was a white guy, a black guy working on opposite ends of the same handsaw. You know, there’s not much social justice, but that all changes. So this terrible transformation is the downward part of the curve. How do these different little colonial cultures slide into this terrible abyss of race slavery that we’ve been digging our way out of for 200 years?
S20: So where does that transition point start for our listeners? I think it’d be really helpful just to sort of hear how we move from a nonracial slavery to this very particular racial slavery doesn’t happen in the late 17th century, is it earlier than that? Is it a bit later than that?
S19: It happened at different times, in different places. But generally speaking, it’s the second half of the 17th century, say, from sixteen fifty to seventeen hundred. You know, the course of a couple of generations, there were some signs of it before that there will be some lingering uncertainties after seventeen hundred, but it’s in that second half of the 17th century that it all happens. And that’s a very unfamiliar period of American history, even for American historians.
S21: The idea that these changes are happening really slowly, I think is really fascinating. Professor, I would refer to it as sort of a climate change that you tiling. Notice that it’s happening, but it is happening. And then once it’s happened, you’ve definitely noticed.
S22: Yeah, he said it was like climate change or the change of season. If you think about the way it is in spring where, you know, one day it’s warm and you’re like, yeah, it’s spring. And then the next day it snows. And then the next day it’s a little bit warmer. And you’re sort of. You have a sense that you’re moving toward spring, but you can’t really feel it right. And then finally you’re in man hand. It’s 80 degrees every day and you think, OK, it’s spring and then you’re in the summer in ninety five degrees every day.
S12: You’re like, this is just how it’s always been.
S22: Yeah. So this is a great metaphor for that reason. So you might be an insane person in Virginia or you might be in Cypress and South Carolina. You may have different perspective on how these changes are happening. You know, you might be in a different social position and have a different perspective.
S21: But Peter makes the point that by the end of the 17th century, everybody knows that summer into one of the things he says is driving this shift towards racial slavery. It’s just a change in labor supply that there suddenly becomes the need for more laborers and Africans kind of emerge to fill that need.
S19: I mean, if you go back to the middle of the 17th century, you have these small colonies needing to add people and provide labor that’s just built in the colonization processes that you want more people there to do more for works, that whether it’s cutting down trees or plowing fields or doing whatever that colony is doing. So if it’s an English colony, as these were in North America, then the thought is to bring more or Englishmen. But the availability of colonists from England dries up. You know, there’s a huge plague in London in the 60s and 60s. There’s the great fire of London that burned half the city, which creates all kinds of new jobs for people who had been unemployed before. So there’s no excess labour. They even start grabbing children off the street and sending them across the ocean as labor. That’s where our word kidnapping comes from. So all of a sudden, it’s getting harder and harder in England to find people who are willing to go to the colonies. They also try employing or and or enslaving Indians. But that has all sorts of problems connected with it. Partly that native population is decreasing through disease and warfare. Partly. Native Americans are living in their home country and can escape more easily run back to their own villages and communities. The third possible source of labour is people from Africa, and the enslavement of African people has been going on in the Caribbean and in Brazil and in Mexico Central America for quite some time. So that’s a precedent. That’s also a labor stream that exists. You know, slave ships are bringing people to the Caribbean. It’s a question of whether you in Philadelphia or Charleston want to send your ship down to the Caribbean. And at first, you can’t if your colony is so small. Suppose you have a tiny little village on Chesapeake Bay. If a huge transatlantic slave ship showed up with 300 people, there wouldn’t be enough capital in that community to buy them, even if there were enough people who thought that was a good investment and not a perverse operation. There simply wasn’t the capital. But that too is going to change so that by the 60s and 70s, 60s, 80s, there were more and more people with money to invest in labor. And one of the other things that’s changing at the same time is that actually living conditions are improving. In the early 17th century, life expectancy, especially in the southern colonies, which were very malaria prone, life expectancy was very low. If you were hiring somebody or renting somebody or buying some of these labor for a few years, you didn’t want to make a big investment in 20 years of labor because that person might only live for three years. And then there’s the whole cultural argument that if you’re an English speaking Christian, you’d probably rather have an English speaking Christian as your work force on your small farm, but as your ambitions grow and you may change your views.
S13: And so at first it makes total sense if you are a newly arrived landowner, if you’re an elite in Virginia to one English speaking worker and you know, if you understand each other, you can communicate. You’re in this really tough environment together. And so having those lines open just makes life a little easier. But, you know, eventually. The colony did start working out. People start making money, lots of money, hand over fist money. People start accumulating land. Those servants that you thought were only going to live for a couple years will now they’re surviving their terms of indentured servitude and they are in them and they’re trying to farm for themselves or trying to make money and are trying to compete. They’re trying to get land in what we think of, you know, the Virginia colony answer of the early colonies as his vast expanse. And a lot of ways they are geographically quite limited. And you move to farm one direction and all of a sudden you’ve sparked a war with nearby tribes right into the supply of available land, felt much smaller than it was. And you add all this together and it does begin to seem like this whole English worker thing isn’t the best deal in the world, especially if you’re a wealthy elite.
S2: Yes, all of these are small annoyances actually blossomed into you open conflict at various points during the middle of the 17th century. Right.
S12: You have minor examples of conflict and insurrection from the white working class of the Virginia colony. But eventually it does blossom, like you said, Rebekka, into something quite serious, like Bacon’s rebellion by the 60s and 70s and 80s.
S19: The planters, let’s say, in Virginia and Maryland are becoming so rich and they’re treating their workers so poorly that there’s a huge gap between them. Servants are running away at a great rate. Some are going to live with the Indians. Some are escaping down into North Carolina, where they can live more readily and some of them are fighting back. You know, there are strikes among the tobacco pickers. This is a workforce that’s both black and white, know African and European and mixtures in between, but all poorly paid, all forced to work in horrendous conditions and they resist. There’s a famous incident in sixteen 70s in Virginia known as Bacon’s Rebellion, which starts out as a fight among the elite over who’s going to have the most control. But it quickly turns into a almost a class war that blacks and whites who are working in the tobacco fields join together and become part of this movement. It becomes almost a turning point for the Virginia gentry that they realize they’re very much outnumbered by this very poor mixed race working class. And it’s really at that point that the idea of divide and conquer and pitting black workers against white workers comes into the American vocabulary and lives happily for hundreds of years.
S23: And to say we still got that. Absolutely.
S19: Absolutely. And it was a real conscious effort and part of this terrible transformation that, OK, we will split the working class and we will provide certain minor favors for the white members and disadvantages for the poor, the blacks.
S6: So I think the common understanding among the public is that African slavery happened because of racism. But what you seem to be describing is the opposite. Right. That racism happens or people develop ideas that we would eventually call racism in part to justify enslaving Africans.
S19: Yes, this transition in the late 17th century is primarily a transition from seeing people in terms of their religion to seeing people in terms of their race. In 16:00, the earliest colonists saw themselves as Christians. They saw the Indians as non-Christians. So the Africans, the Christians, they were heathens. The English didn’t refer to themselves as white. They referred to themselves as Christian. But the problem there is that for a Chesapeake employer who says, no, I’m enslaving you because you’re a heathen. You would very quickly say, well, suppose I convert to Christianity and I’m off the hook, right.
S23: It’s a no brainer, as we would say.
S19: And they realize that and many of them are devout Christians. Even the letters themselves are see that that’s a dilemma. In other words, if you’re enslaved because of your religion, you can change your religion. OK. How could we make this more permanent? Well, maybe we’re going to enslave you because of the way you look. And that’s not something you can change. It’s really in this period in the late 17th century that that shift takes place. Europeans start calling themselves white and they start referring to slaves as black. You’re enslaved not because you’re a heathen, but because you’re black in appearance.
S12: One thing I’m curious about, Rebecca, is who is making these laws? Who are the people in? And I guess at this point in Virginia, it would be in the House of Burgesses who are making these decisions.
S24: You could sort of guess that the people who are making the laws are the elites, like the people who have a lot of money and a lot of land. Well, it was interesting to me about Peter’s response to our questions about the lawmakers. Was his reminder that a lot of the people who have a bunch of money and power in the southern colonies at this point are people who have gained tremendous advantage from the restoration of the English King Charles, the second who when he was restored, gave tracts of land and sort of controlling interest to people who run the Royal African company, the Hudson Bay Company, the sort of big entities that are making a bunch of money out of the colonies. So in the middle of the 17th century, there is like this infusion of people who expect to make a lot of money out of Virginia and Carolina, right? Yeah.
S21: They expect to make a lot of money. And when it becomes clear that they’re obstacles, that you only take steps to try to do something about it.
S24: Yes. And that’s where these the sort of cascade of new laws about slavery comes from.
S25: One thing I was interested about was resistance to this, because if there was a growing group of landowners and small farmers who were white and who are black men who were affected by these sort of wars and the kind of laws we’re talking about, it should have lost forbidding interracial marriage law, sort of imposing harsher penalties on in the deterrence, not on white ones.
S21: And it seems like you would have some kinds of resistance in me. We talk to Peter about that here.
S24: Peter referred to the term leveller to describe some of the people who resisted racial slavery in the Virginia colony. That’s a word that refers to a faction in England during that period of civil war. And right before the restoration, people who advocated for, as you might be able to infer from the name, not quite democratic, but a distribution of power towards the House of Commons and suffrage for more people and all kinds of liberalizing reforms.
S19: One of the things we’re slowly learning is that there was plenty of resistance to this idea of racial enslavement, even as it begins to emerge. You know, we often think of it as being something that appears only beginning in the 18th century and growing in the 19th century. You know, a few Quaker abolitionists before the American Revolution. But in fact, the Quakers are out of that leveler tradition. They come out of the English revolution. We’ve just figured out wonderful historian at Ohio is working on this right now. But Anthony Johnson, whom you’ve read about, has been talking about. We never quite knew why he moved north to Somerset County, Maryland. There on the eastern shore, you know, at a certain point, he pulls up stakes and moves with his whole family.
S26: Well, it now turns out that he’s involved with these Quaker level or andtime anarchical groups that were looking for a place to get out from under the thumb of these big guns who are making life.
S23: Wow. Yeah, it’s fascinating. How did he.
S19: How is this is a wonderful student of my name. nolin Zanna, who’s working on a book now about this this group of people. And of course, Johnson shows up there.
S27: He actually when he moves north, he’s leasing land. You know, isn’t it called Tony’s Vineyard or.
S19: L&D Everlys leasing it from a guy named Steven Horsey, who is a Quaker and who is a leader of this ISN group that’s been marginalized in Virginia, pushed out of Northampton County and they settle. If you look at Somerset County, I mean, it’s red. They were right on the edge between Maryland and Virginia. They were in this kind of no man’s land. And that’s what they wanted was some place where they could operate.
S13: Part of the story, the Virginia colony and we’ve alluded to this is how law and culture interact with each other, drive each other and form each other in Virginia. What you see is the imperative of economic life in the colony driving law. This law influencing the culture and the gradual change of the culture, in turn, driving other laws. I kind of build upon each other. And so the best example of this for this period and we reference it earlier was be laws against things like interracial marriage and the law sort of explicitly making blacks a different class of servant and person than whites in the colonies.
S2: Yes. And we’ll put a timeline of some of those changes and codes on our show notes. It’s really interesting to see how it moves forward in these way. A sort of little laws and little changes that all add up. I’m looking at the timeline now. Sixteen 67, Virginia declares Christian baptism will not alter a person’s status as a slave. Sixteen sixty eight New Jersey passes the Fugitive Slave Law. 70 in Virginia. Free blacks and Indians can no longer keep Christian or white servants. So these structures are put on by people at different times in different colonies. But it’s sort of like this cascade of little regulations.
S19: It is gradual and it couldn’t be things like whether you’re allowed to testify in court, whether you’re allowed to marry someone of a different color. But the key transition in all the different law is I think the really key one has to do with heredity, inheriting your slave status. If you have a group of indentured servants who are all serving five, 10 years or something, and if some of them are from Africa, there’s no reason not to extend that first service, because for the Europeans, there’s what I call the feedback loop. You know, there’s word going back to Europe, the cities. I’m being badly treated here. You shouldn’t come here. You should go to New Jersey instead. Something like that. My indentures too long. The climate is terrible. Whatever. In the African labor, there is no feedback system. There aren’t letters going back. There are sailors transmitting messages. So if I’m an African and you extend by service, I have no.
S27: What are you going to do? Because we are going to do exactly. And so you get this growing phenomenon in the middle of the 17th century of Africans serving longer terms and even life term.
S19: But it’s still not hereditary. So the real shift is there. And if you can enslave someone and also own the next generation at the goose that laid the golden egg. But in order to get to that point, you have to change English law, because English law says that you inherit the status of your father. So that means that if there’s a white father and a black mother, that should make the son or daughter free. And that was true in the first half of the seventeenth century. They say, wait a minute, here in this colony being Virginia, then the others pick this up, too. You’re going to inherit the status of your mother. So if your mother is a slave, then the child is a slave as well. And that’s the beginning of hereditary race slavery. You know, of passing it on from generation to generation. And that’s a real shift even in the whole notion of enslavement. I mean, in slavery in Africa, there was plenty of slavery in Africa, but it wasn’t hereditary and passed on. You could marry into a new group and your children would have different lives. That all gets cancels out. So that appears in the 60s and 60s. It then spread this idea that slavery can be passed on. And of course, from the from the owners point of view, it’s suddenly a bonanza because if you can and it’s to raise up this next generation of children when they’re not yet productive labor, but then pretty soon there they are and you haven’t even had to pay for.
S21: You know, one of the things I really enjoyed about talking to Peter. It’s a reminder that things aren’t inevitable. The fact that we can trace a progression, we can see laws change. You can see attitudes change. We can identify people resisting them. I think really throws a wrench into what is an unfortunate tendency to believe about the period that race slavery is kind of inevitable and it’s going to happen anyway, that it’s just human nature that this happen. And it really it really isn’t at all.
S2: Of course, things are complicated and there’s many factors, but we can tease it out. We have that ability.
S21: The status quo, we God wasn’t inevitable. And yes, some people might see that as depressing, that we got one of the worst of the possible worlds. But I see it as a bit of heartening and that people resist and sometimes resistance works.
S7: Jamal, you’re a half glass, half full kind of guy. I really am. Yeah, I guess I am. Turns out so with this segment done where we’re going next, Rebecca.
S28: So in the next episode, we’ll be talking about slavery in the 18th century and in particular, the development of slavery in the Atlantic world through the life of a really unusual person allowed a Quiano in his life.
S29: We will see the emergence and development of the British anti-slavery movement. And we’ll get a better sense of what it was actually like to be a slave during the period when racial slavery was the norm. Until then, though, I’m Jamelle Bouie. And I’m Rebecca Onion. And this is the history of American slavery. Slate Academy. We’ll see you soon. To prepare for episode two of the Academy.
S4: Rebecca and Jamelle, we’ll talk to Marcus Rediker about life aboard a slave ship. Find a link to an excerpt from Rheticus book, The Slave Ship A Human History. In the episode, one show notes or at Slate.com Slash Academi.