The Concepts of Race and Slavery

Ethnicity describes the difference between subgroups within the larger racial categories, for example between American citizens who have Italian, Irish, Polish and Swedish forefathers. They are all similarly Caucasian in appearance, but they have different cultural traditions, and it is this social difference that is called ethnicity.
These ethnic differences have been a part of American history from the beginning because people from many different countries came over as immigrants and formed communities that carried on these original traditions. The bigger American culture is made up of elements from all those other cultures. The English view of race was very positive about white people, seeing them as conquering heroes, who had taken over lands as rulers, just as English companies took over India and other colonies. They saw other races as inferior, however, and this was very extreme in the case of Africa. African people were viewed as savages and they were exploited because the British had superior weapons. This treatment shows that the British thought of Africans as something less than human and this kind of attitude was brought over to America in the early days, and transferred also to the view that white Americans had of other groups, including all the native tribes and nations who were on the land before the Europeans arrived.
The system of slavery began with the establishment of various kinds of colonies in the American territories. There were not enough white people to tend the fields and so a system of plantations was created, bringing African Americans as slaves to work in them. These people were brought by force. There were also many poor white people who voluntarily became slaves for a fixed period of time because this gave them a chance to make a new life in America when they had failed to prosper in their home country. White people saw themselves as superior, and this is a social cause of slavery. Slaves were not allowed to decide about family matters like getting married and having children, and they could not own property, or invest in their own education, making this a very difficult and unfair social environment.
The real driving force behind the fast growth of slavery was economic. Slavery guaranteed the supply of goods to the European markets at cheap prices. Cotton cannot be grown in England because the climate is too cold and wet, but it is an ideal material to feed the huge cloth-making factories in England. Cotton grows in the Southern States of America and black people were gathered up in Africa and transported in ships to the place where the cotton fields were. In this way, ships could carry products and slave labor on a triangular route between Europe, Africa, and America, which made the whole system more efficient for the wealthy businessmen in Europe.
The American political system developed to maintain the institution, giving fewer rights to black people, and to slaves, and allowing slaves to be persecuted and even killed if they run away. White male landowners had the vote, and all other citizens were excluded. Women, children, and slaves had to submit to the authority of these individuals. In theory, America was a free nation, and all citizens were equal, but in practice, the powerful part of society made sure that weaker elements could not enjoy equal rights.