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Blacks in Colonial America
Mr. McDowell
African American Studies
Lesson objective: (Write
this in your notes)
I will understand the role of
African Americans, both slave
and free, in the development of
the United States.
The Southern Colonies
● By the end of the 1600s, nearly all Africans who arrived in
the colonies were enslaved.
● Slavery existed in all of the colonies in some form, but the
lives and treatment of slaves varied widely from place to
● Slavery took hold most firmly in
the southern colonies.
● North Carolina, South Carolina,
Maryland, Virginia, and
The Southern Colonies
● By 1708 Virginia alone was importing 1,000 slaves each
● South Carolina had a larger black population than white.
● By 1760 three slaves existed for every two free settlers in
the South Carolina colony.
The Plantation System
● There were so many slaves in the south because of
● Plantations were large, profitable sites that plantation
owners made money through growing a single crop that
could demand high prices in Europe or other countries in
The Plantation System
● Including crops such as tobacco, rice, and cotton and a
dark blue dye, called indigo.
● Without slaves providing backbreaking labor needed to
grow the crops, the South’s entire economy would have
● In a sense, slaves were the backbone of the entire southern
colonial economy.
The Plantation System
● One Virginia planter noted
○ “To live in Virginia without slaves is morally
impossible. Before our troubles, you could not hire a
servant or slave for love of money, so that, unless
robust enough to cut wood, to go to mill, to work at the
hoe, etc., you must starve.”
-Peter Fontaine, Letter to Moses Fontaine, 1757
The Plantation System
● As the demand for their crops grew, planters hurried to
buy more land, which required more slaves to work.
● This vicious cycle prevented the freeing of slaves and kept
the institution of slavery strong in the South for many
Plantations vs. Smaller Southern Farms
● A single large plantation in one of the southern colonies
might have hundreds of slaves working on it.
● In many cases, these slaves were treated like beasts of
○ They were whipped mercilessly to make them work in
the fields from sunrise to sunset, with only one short
break for lunch, six days a week.
Plantations vs. Smaller Southern Farms
● Strict rules governed the behavior of slaves on large
○ For example, slaves were not allowed to leave a
plantation without a written permission from his or her
○ Slave could not wear shoes except in the winter.
Plantations vs. Smaller Southern Farms
● Contrary to popular belief about plantations in the south,
every slave did not live on a plantation.
● The majority of farms in the South were small family
● Only about 10 percent of the South’s people lived on
plantations, though that 10 percent owned 90 percent of
the region’s wealth.
Plantations vs. Smaller Southern Farms
● Slavery was not confined just to plantations.
● Small Southern farms had maybe one or two slaves and the
farm owners would work side by side in the fields with
their slaves, sharing in their labor.
● As a result, these farm owners did not usually treat their
slaves as poorly as large plantation owners did.
Slave Revolts
● As early as the 1660s, slaves in Virginia had begun planning
revolts against their masters.
● Although many of these plans were discovered before any
revolts occurred, on at least two occasions slaves rebelled
and took over slave ships before they even reached
Slave Revolts
● As a result of these revolts, southern planters feared that
they were being outnumbered by slaves.
● The planters did not want to do away with slavery, but
wanted to control the number of new slaves coming into
their areas.
● British officials refused to stop importing slaves, however,
because the slave trade was too profitable for them.
The Middle Colonies
● The middle colonies were those that lay between the
southern colonies and the New England colonies farther
○ The include Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and
New York.
● Slavery was permitted in all of the middle colonies, but it
was never as central to its economy as it was in the South.
The Middle Colonies
● The middle colonies were based more on trade and
manufacturing rather than agriculture.
○ This means there were no plantations/farms for slaves
to work on.
The Middle Colonies
● Many slaves worked in construction, literally helping
build the nation’s largest cities.
○ Others toiled in factories, in lumber camps, or in
similar places.
The Middle Colonies
● In places like New York, highly skilled slaves had been trained
in certain crafts.
○ Masonry- a person who shaped and placed stone for
○ Shipwright- a person who built ships
○ Goldsmith- a person who shaped and worked gold for
○ Glazier- a person who shaped and placed glass in windows.
New England Colonies
● The northernmost English colonies were Connecticut, Rhode
Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. (They were called
the New England Colonies.)
● Slavery was less common in the North compared to the middle
and Southern Colonies.
New England Colonies
● Slaves had restrictions that were placed on their activities, but in the
north they had more rights than slaves in other regions.
○ For example, there were allowed to gather at each other’s homes
to socialize.
○ Slaves were also allowed to participate in certain community
○ Slaves were even allowed to hold elections for king and governors.
■ Those positions held no power, but they did give the slave
prestige among the area’s slaves.
New England Colonies
● Many New Englanders considered slavery to be immoral and
protested against it.
○ For example, the famous Massachusetts Purritan minister
Cotton Mather argued in the late 1600s that Africans were
people just like Europeans who deserved to be freed and
that to refuse to free slaves was unchristian.
New England Colonies
● Even though slavery was objected and slaves were treated better
in the North than the South, slavery remained an evil
● Some slaveholders still worked their slaves harshly and limited
their rights.
● In addition, many northern business owners were active
participants in the slave trade, helping to transport and sell
captured Africans to planters in the southern and middle