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So, this year marks 400 years since enslaved Africans were brought to eastern North America. That the Spanish and Prortugese had already been bringing African slaves over, and that almost every other people on the American continents practiced slavery, and that the rest of the planet practiced slavery, doesn’t seem to matter. That slavery is still practiced today, in part because some religious texts positively command it, doesn’t matter to those who are concerned with chattel slavery of Africans as practiced in the British colonies.
Yes, slavery has been around as long as humans have been around in sufficient numbers to get into disputes. And it continues, either openly as slavery, or as debt-peonage, or concubinage, or debt-slavery, or “life servants,” or “gift servants.” Only Europeans tried to end the practice, because they believed that all men were created equal, and that enslaving people was no longer a right and moral practice. But that doesn’t count, or so the New York Times and other sources suggest.
Me being me, I have to wave my penalty flag. First off, slavery is not unique to the Americas, Europeans, or Africans. Everyone enslaved everyone else, ever since waaaay back when. Second, there were as many flavors of slavery as there were reasons for it, ranging from working people to death (the mines of Athens and Persia, sugar-cane plantations in Iraq,) to having more women and children to boost the population after eliminating the enemy’s men (all over the world), to domestic service (almost all over the world), to having soldiers (Russians, Ottomans), to agricultural workers (all over the world), to skilled workers (Rome, Western Europe between AD 450-950 CE). Even in the US, some slaves were skilled craftsmen, some worked on the task system and had free time as soon as the job was finished, and some where the cotton plantation slaves that everyone thinks of.
Africans enslaved other Africans, and sold them to everyone else. Until almost 1800, it was native Africans who controlled the sale of slaves to Europeans in west Africa. To this day, if people find out you are descended from a slave, you may be treated as a second-class citizen and lose job and marriage prospects. After all, if your ancestors were weak or dumb enough to be enslaved, then you’re probably not much better.
The Mongols, and later Tatars captured millions of Europeans and sold them into slavery over the course of time from around 1000 until the 1700s. The last slave raids against England and Iceland were in the late 1600s! Part of the job of the Royal Navy was to keep Barbary Pirates from landing and kidnapping English men and women to sell in North Africa.
A few European individuals thought slavery lacked moral foundations, most notably Emperor Charles V, and some later thinkers, but no one really tried to stop it until the mid 1700s, when some crazy folks began to argue that just because people had always done it didn’t mean that buying and selling other people was still right. Eventually France and England banned slavery at home, and then started stopping the trade on the sea.
In the US, one found the only growing population of enslaved people. That means that conditions in the rest of the Americas were so bad that the only way to keep the slave numbers the same was to import more. In the US, it was not true. Slaves had protection under the law, even if that might be ignored, or minimized. Some free blacks owned black slaves, and not just family members they purchased. Indian groups owned slaves just like Euro-Americans did. Slavery of Indians were supposed to have been outlawed after the Civil War. It continued, with captive Indians becoming life-time servants to families. To my knowledge, the last acknowledge slave died in the late 1930s in New Mexico. She had resisted manumission.
So yes, the Dutch brought enslaved Africans to the Carolinas in 1619. And Africans gradually replaced indentured British and Irish men and women, in part because it was harder for them to blend into the population and disappear. And the US fought a bloody, terrible war against itself in 1861-65 in order to end the practice (among other things). But we need the rest of the story. Having practiced chattel slavery makes the US neither unique nor especially evil. It means we were like other humans since the eighth day of creation. And we don’t do it any more. Unlike certain other places and people today.
Edited to add: I have no problem with arguments in the comment section, but I’d like to avoid getting too far into questions about Nazi Germany. The focus is slavery in the global past and present. Thanks.