400 Years of Slavery – Lessons Learned from America’s Start

Go Lean Commentary

That’s America for you; they think they are the only one that has had this problem – slavery that it.

Today, is a Red Letter Day in the History of the American Experience; it is believed that on this day – August 23, 1619 – the first African slaves touched down on the American mainland – see Appendices A & B below. This is an important milestone to commemorate and commiserate, as the eco-system of slavery dictated every “ying-and-yang” of the American experience, from 1619 until … today.

(Don’t get it twisted – the reason for the American Revolution in 1776 was so that the 13 Colonies could maintain autonomy of the slavery eco-system, rather than submitting to the ever-increasing liberalism of the British Parliament).

Why should we bother to look back at this history?

The 2013 book Go Lean…Caribbean answers this question. It looks at that hard-wrought history and declares that lessons can be learned today that will allow us to reform and transform our society tomorrow. The book states at Page 26:

Ways to Impact the Future – If Not Now, Then …
History is a Great Teacher. The African Diaspora experience in the New World is one of “future” gratification. The generations that sought freedom from slavery knew that their children, not them, would be the beneficiaries of liberty. The ethos or guiding beliefs is that “children should be more successful in the future than the parents maybe here and now”.

So America wants to take note of this day – August 23 – and remember, reconcile (and maybe even repent for) the stain of this bad history of this country’s record.

If so, have at it!

But let’s start with the truth! August 23, 1619 was not the start of slavery in the Americas. No, the practice had started earlier in the New World, including these same Caribbean islands. Consider the VIDEO in Appendix C below plus these documented examples here:

Slavery in the America’s – An Early Timeline

New Spain – In order to establish itself as an American empire, Spain had to fight against the relatively powerful civilizations of the New World. The Spanish conquest of the indigenous peoples in the Americas included using the Natives as forced labour. The Spanish colonies were the first Europeans to use African slaves in the New World on islands such as Cuba and Hispaniola.[156]

Hispaniola – The first African slaves arrived in Hispaniola [(today’s Haiti & Dominican Republic)] in 1501.[157]

Brazil – During the Atlantic slave trade era, Brazil imported more African slaves than any other country. Nearly 5 million slaves were brought from Africa to Brazil during the period from 1501 to 1866.[174] … Slave labor was the driving force behind the growth of the sugar economy in Brazil, and sugar was the primary export of the colony from 1600 to 1650.

Jamaica – The Caribbean island of Jamaica was colonized by the Taino tribes prior to the arrival of Columbus in 1494. The Spanish enslaved many of the Taino; some escaped, but most died from European diseases and overwork. [The Spaniards treated the Tainos so harshly that in about fifty years all of them were dead. They had numbered fully sixty thousand. The Spaniards got slaves from Africa to take their place.] [190]

MexicoIn 1519, Hernán Cortés brought the first modern slave to the area.[194] In the mid-16th century, the second viceroy to Mexico, Luis de Velasco, prohibited slavery of the Aztecs. A labor shortage resulted as the Aztecs were either killed or died due to disease. This led to the African slaves being imported, as they were not susceptible to smallpox.

Puerto Rico – When Ponce de León and the Spaniards arrived on the island of Borikén (Puerto Rico), they Taíno tribes on the island, forcing them to work in the gold mines and in the construction of forts. Many Taíno died, particularly due to smallpox, of which they had no immunity. Other Taínos committed suicide or left the island after the failed Taíno revolt of 1511.[195] The Spanish colonists, fearing the loss of their labor force, complained the courts that they needed manpower to work in the mines, build forts, and work sugar cane plantations. As an alternative, Las Casas suggested the importation and use of African slaves. In 1517, the Spanish Crown permitted its subjects to import twelve slaves each, thereby beginning the slave trade on the colonies.[196]
Retrieved August 22, 2019 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery#Modern_history

The foundation of slavery was embedded deep in the societal engines of the New World.

Can’t we all just get along … now?

Slavery was an ugly institution. No victim deserved such treatment; no perpetrator’s can be justified, rationalized or excused. Today, due to the analysis of the acts and events of slavery, we have the definition and classification of Human Rights violations. There is no normalizing this villainy; and this is an apropos and contemporary discussion as slavery is not just ancient history:

Saudi Arabia didn’t abolish slavery until 1962.[118]

But indeed we can still “get along“! But only after reconciliation, and that reconciliation must come with the desire to set things straight and correct the wrongs. In fact reconciliation is the motive of this August 2019 series of blog-commentaries from the movement behind the Go Lean book. Our focus is on all the dimensions of this 400 Year History of Slavery; the past, present and future.  The full series is cataloged as follows:

  1. 400 Years of Slavery: America, Not the first
  2. 400 Years of Slavery: International Day of Remembrance
  3. 400 Years of Slavery: Emancipation Day – Hardly ‘Free At Last’
  4. 400 Years of Slavery: Where is home?
  5. 400 Years of Slavery: Cop-on-Black Shootings in America’s DNA

In this series, reference is made to the need for a comprehensive roadmap for elevating the societal engines of the 30 Caribbean member-states. We are not trying to reform or transform America – that is outside our scope. But we want to learn from the American experience. Truth be told, there are many American institutions that have still not reconciled their ugly history; no reconciliation; no reform. The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the implementation for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). We want to do better here. Considering that 29 out of the 30 Caribbean states are majority Black – descendants of slaves – we must do better.

We can succeed too; we can be Better than America.

This theme – learning from the history of Bad Race Relations – have been exhaustingly studied in many previous Go Lean commentaries; see a sample list here:

http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=16944 Women Empowerment – Accepting Black Women ‘As Is’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=16926 Learning from Canada’s Viola Desmond: One Woman Made A Difference
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=16512 On Martin Luther King’s 90th Birthday – America is still ‘Dreaming’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=15123 Blacks get longer sentences from ‘Republican’ Judges
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=15121 Racist History of Loitering
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=15093 1948 “Windrush” Drama – Migration to the UK fraught with Racial Discord
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=9626 The Black Vote – Continues to be Marginalized
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=9214 Black Relations in America Today – Spot-on for Protest
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2297 History’s Lessons on Contrasting Strategies – Booker T versus Du Bois

In 1776, Thomas Jefferson was on a committee within the Continental Congress of the 13 British Colonies; he was appointed to write the Declaration of Independence. He penned:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As this Declaration went back to England, the home country laughed and scoffed at the blatant hypocrisy of these words, as America was believed to be holding (a little less than) 694,200 African-descended-people in the bonds of slavery at that time – out of a full population of 3,893,635. In England, there was a movement towards liberalism and libertarianism at this time. One of the respondents to the US Declaration of Independence was the philosopher and statesman Jeremy Bentham.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was a British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer. He is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism. Bentham became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism. He advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalizing of homosexual acts. He called for the abolition of slavery, the abolition of the death penalty, the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children, and animal rights. Though strongly in favor of the extension of individual legal rights, he opposed the idea of natural laws/natural rights [as flawed moral basis for slavery and oppression of women and minorities], calling them “nonsense upon stilts”. – Go Lean book Page 37.

Jeremy Bentham advocated for the Greater Good as the preferred community ethos; this is ‘the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong”. So he urged America to be better and do better towards its slave population. They did not! After winning the war for Independence against Britain, the new United States of America doubled-down in the practice and pursuit of slavery, especially in the southern States:

1790 Census Slave Population: 694,200 | Total Population: 3,893,635 | 17.8% | Slavery in 100% of Country

1860 Census Slave Population: 3,950,200 | Total Population: 31,443,321 | 12.6% | Slavery in only 25% of Country

So there are many lessons for the Caribbean to learn in considering the history of 400 Years of Slavery in America. We can take these lessons to heart in our region and be a better society as a result:

  • Where as, there was a Slave Trade then, we have human trafficking today. Have we learned to protect the Weak in our society from being abused by the Strong?
  • Where as, there was White Supremacy then – a byproduct of Natural Law, have we now corrected that defect in society and promulgate policies that project that All Men Are Created Equal?
  • Where as, the Slave Trade was urged-on as an economic solution for cheap labor, do we now ensure that all labor is conducted with dignity and due consideration for all stakeholders?

A consideration of 400 Years of Slavery in America does not have to be dead history, it energizes our current society to ensure liberty, fairness and egalitarianism. These are great ideals to pursue. America needs to do better in this pursuit; and so does the Caribbean.

Slavery affected economic, security and governing engines of Caribbean society. These same 3 societal engines are in focus to reboot so as to elevate the member-states today. So slavery is more than just academic; it is our foundation. We must not ignore it, nor forget; we must recognize the pain, sacrifice and purchase-price our ancestors paid for us to occupy these lands. As the old Calypso song says:

Oh island in the sun, willed to me by my father’s hand“.

Let’s remember and reconcile. 🙂

About the Book
The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), for the elevation of Caribbean society – for all member-states. This CU/Go Lean roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion and create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to ensure public safety and protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines, including a separation-of-powers between the member-states and CU federal agencies.

The Go Lean book provides 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to execute so as to reboot, reform and transform the societal engines of Caribbean society.

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Who We Are
The movement behind the Go Lean book – a non-partisan, apolitical, religiously-neutral Community Development Foundation chartered for the purpose of empowering and re-booting economic engines – stresses that reforming and transforming the Caribbean societal engines must be a regional pursuit. This was an early motivation for the roadmap, as pronounced in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 12 – 14):

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xvi. Whereas security of our homeland is inextricably linked to prosperity of the homeland, the economic and security interest of the region needs to be aligned under the same governance. Since economic crimes … can imperil the functioning of the wheels of commerce for all the citizenry, the accedence of this Federation must equip the security apparatus with the tools and techniques for predictive and proactive interdictions.

xxiv. Whereas a free market economy can be induced and spurred for continuous progress, the Federation must install the controls to better manage aspects of the economy: jobs, inflation, savings rate, investments and other economic principles. Thereby attracting direct foreign investment because of the stability and vibrancy of our economy.

xxxiii. Whereas lessons can be learned and applied from the study of the recent history of other societies, the Federation must formalize statutes and organizational dimensions to avoid the pitfalls of communities … . On the other hand, the Federation must also implement the good examples learned from developments … like … the old American West and tenants of the US Constitution.

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Appendix A – History of Slavery in Virginia

Slavery in Virginia dates to 1619,[1] soon after the founding of Virginia as an English colony by the London Virginia Company. The company established a headright system to encourage colonists to transport indentured servants to the colony for labor; they received a certain amount of land for people whose passage they paid to Virginia.[2]

Africans first appeared in Virginia in 1619, brought by English privateers from a Spanish slave ship they had intercepted. …
Source: Retrieved August 22, 2019 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_market


Appendix B – Virginia’s First Africans
Contributed by Martha McCartney
Virginia’s first Africans arrived at Point Comfort, on the James River, late in August 1619. There, “20. and odd Negroes” from the English ship White Lion were sold in exchange for food and some were transported to Jamestown, where they were sold again, likely into slavery. Historians have long believed these Africans to have come to Virginia from the Caribbean, but Spanish records suggest they had been captured in a Spanish-controlled area of West Central Africa. They probably were Kimbundu-speaking people, and many of them may have had at least some knowledge of Catholicism. While aboard the São João Bautista bound for Mexico, they were stolen by the White Lion and another English ship, the Treasurer. Once in Virginia, they were dispersed throughout the colony. …
Source: “Virginia’s First Africans”www.encyclopediavirginia.org. Retrieved 2015-11-04.


Appendix C VIDEO –  ! Slave Ship… International Slavery Remembrance Day August 23,2018 – https://youtu.be/aCM4RoV5MSI

International Slavery Remembrance Day
Published on Apr 18, 2018
An estimated 15 million Africans were transported to the Americas between 1540 and 1850. To maximize their profits slave merchants carried as many slaves as was physically possible on their ships. By the 17th century slaves could be purchased in Africa for about $25 and sold in the Americas for about $150. After the slave-trade was declared illegal, prices went much higher. Even with a death-rate of 50 per cent, merchants could expect to make tremendous profits from the trade. The journey from Africa to the West Indies or North America Usually took about two months. One study shows that the slave ship provided an average of about seven square feet per slave.
  • Category: People & Blogs
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  • Song: Slave Ship
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