The Sociology of Slavery
Where Do We Begin?
This article will detail the Sociological effects left behind after the imprisonment of African slavery in North America.
History has shown us that many cultures have had some form of slavery. From the slaves of Egypt to the slaves of Rome, civilization has had an experience with human ownership. However, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade had to be one of the most generationally crippling acts of injustice done on a single group of people in our current history. Sociology, by definition, is the science or study of the origin, development, organization, and functioning of human society (Sociology, n.d). Sociology is also defined as the analysis of a social institution or societal segment as a self-contained entity or in relation to society as a whole (Sociology, n.d).
For every event that took place following the abolishment of slavery there was a societal norm that developed. De facto and De jure Law also played a role in the mindset of generations today by not only making it acceptable to openly discriminate and punish blacks because of their differences, but also write this injustice into law.
America’s Relationship with the Enslavement of Africans
Many believe that the African slave trade began with Europeans. But in fact, the first slave trade agreement was negotiated by the Portuguese in 1472 for the desire and greed of wealth through the mining of gold and ivory (Smith). From there the timeline is as follows: In 1503 the Spanish and Portuguese brought African slaves to the Caribbean and Central America to replace Native Americans in the gold mines. The Dutch were also deeply involved in the African slave trade and brought the trade to the American colonies. The Dutch built and grew wealthy on an Atlantic empire of sugar, slaves, and ships. In 1619 a Dutch ship brings the first permanent African settlers to Jamestown, VA. By 1641 Massachusetts became the first colony to recognize slavery as a legal institution. This can be found in the 1641 Body of Liberties. Ten years later Rhode Island declares an enslaved person must be freed after 10 years of service. 12 years later a Virginia court decides a child born to an enslaved mother is also a slave. By 1730 England trades aggressively with North America, New York, Boston and Charleston thriving as homeports for slave vessels (Smith).
The Sociology of Willie Lynch
During these events the Psychology of mind control and self hate took its place in the world. The Sociology of mores took shape to how we relate in our society. The Willie Lynch letter, “Let’s make a slave”, and his speech, “The Speech of 1712”, helped usher in this dramatic cultural change and produce a culture of ignorance and intolerance. Below I have provided copies of both. Please take the time to read and understand the depth of oppression.
“Let us make a slave. What do we need?
First of all we need a black nigger man, a pregnant nigger woman and her baby nigger boy. Second, we will use the same basic principle that we use in breaking a horse, combined with some more sustaining factors. We reduce them from their natural state in nature; whereas nature provides them with the natural capacity to take care of their needs and the needs of their offspring, we break that natural string of independence from them and thereby create a dependency state so that we maybe able to get from them useful production for our business and pleasure.
For fear that our future generations may not understand the principle of breaking both horses and men, we lay down the art. For, if we are to sustain our basic economy we must break both of the beasts together, the nigger and the horse. We understand that short range planning in economics results in periodic economic chaos, so that, to avoid turmoil in the economy, it requires us to have breadth and depth in long range comprehensive planning, articulating both skill and sharp perception. We lay down the following principles for long range comprehensive economic planning: Both horse and niggers are no good to the economy in the wild or natural state.
Both must be broken and tied together for orderly production.
For orderly futures, special and particular attention must be paid to the female and the youngest off spring.
Both must be crossbred to produce a variety and division of labor.
Both must be taught to respond to a peculiar new language.
Psychological and physical instruction of containment must be created for both.
We hold the above six cardinals as truths to be self-evident, based upon following discourse concerning the economics of breaking and tying the horse and nigger together...all inclusive of the six principles laid down above....
Please click on the link to read the full text
The Speech of 1712
When reading the text of the doctrine you will find the emphasize on breaking the black woman. William Lynch was asked to visit the colony of Virginia on the bank of the King James River. His speech is as follows:
“How to control the Black man for at least 300 years”
I greet you here on the bank of the James River in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twelve. First, I shall thank you, The Gentlemen of the Colony of Virginia, for bringing me here. I am here to help you solve some of your problems with slaves. Your invitation reached me on my modest plantation in the West Indies where I have experimented with some of the newest and still the oldest methods for the control of slaves. Ancient Rome would envy us if my program was implemented. As our boat sailed south on the James River, named for our illustrious King, whose version of the Bible we cherish, I saw enough to know that your problem is not unique. While Rome used cords of wood as crosses for standing human bodies along its old highways, in great numbers you are here using the tree and the rope on occasion.
I caught the whiff of a dead slave hanging from a tree a couple of miles back. You are losing valuable stock by hangings, you are having uprisings, slaves are running away, your crops are sometimes left in the fields too long for maximum profit, you suffer occasional fires, and your animals are killed off.
Gentlemen, you know what your problems are: I do not need to elaborate. I am not here to enumerate your problems. I am here to introduce you to a method of solving them.
In my bag here, I have a foolproof method for controlling your Black slaves. I guarantee every one of you that if installed correctly, it will control the slaves for at least 300 years. My method is simple, any member of your family or any overseer can use it.
I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves: and I take these differences and make them bigger. I use fear, distrust and envy for control purposes. These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies and it will work throughout the South for you also. Take this simple little list of differences, and think about them. On top of my list is “Age” but it is only there because it starts with an “A”: the second is “Color” or shade, there is intelligence, size, sex size of plantations, status on plantation, attitude of owners, whether the slaves live in the valley, on a hill, East, West, North, South, have fine or coarse hair, or is tall or short. Now that you have a list of differences, I shall give you an outline of action -- but before that, I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust, and envy is stronger than adulation, respect or admiration. The Black Slave, after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self re-fueling and self-generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands.
Don’t forget you must pit the old Black male vs. the young Black male and the young Black male vs. the old Black male. You must use the dark skin slaves vs. the light skin slaves and the light skin slaves vs. the dark skin slaves. You must use the female vs. the male, and the male vs. the female. You must also have you Caucasian servants and overseers distrust all Blacks, but it is necessary that your Black slaves trust and depend on us. They must love, respect and trust only us.
Gentlemen, these kits are your keys to control. Use them. Have your wives and children use them. Never miss an opportunity. My plan is guaranteed, and the good thing about this plan is that if used intensely and properly for one year, the slaves themselves will remain perpetually distrustful.
Thank you Gentlemen. “
Free on Paper But Not in Society
The Mores of a society, in Sociology, are the values and norms that are deemed appropriate. Willie Lynch’s concept of human bondage took a different approach on slavery that gave White Americans a sense of entitlement and superiority. The norm was to not trust anyone black and violence and abuse was the answer to continuous mental conditioning. His words were so full of truth that it did not take long for most, if not all, slave masters to fall in line and practice the steps to “making a slave”.
Although Lincoln freed the slaves in 1862 by the issuance of the Emancipation Proclomation the Black race was still on a long journey to fight for real freedoms. Following this the Presidential Order also authorizes the recruitment of black men as federal regiments (Smith). The 54th Massachusetts is organized at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts. Free blacks from throughout the North enlist in the 54th. Other training stations, like Camp William Penn, outside of Philadelphia in Cheltenham are established for training black troops. Between 178,000 and 200,000 black enlisted men and white officers serve under the Bureau of Colored Troops. With having the rights to fight for America Blacks were still not able to vote and had little freedoms. By 1865 The Civil War ends with a northern victory. Free Southern blacks seek to reunite their families that were torn apart by slavery, as well as acquire education. Many leave the South for the West and North. President Lincoln speaks publicly about extending the franchise to black men, particularly "on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers." (Smith). Shortly after Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Andrew Johnson becomes President and begins to implement his own Reconstruction Plan that does not require the franchise for black men in the former Confederate states. Many northern states rejected referendums to grant black men in their states the franchise. Mississippi becomes the first of the former Confederate states to enact laws (Black Codes also known as De jure Law) severely limiting the rights and liberties of blacks. Other Southern states follow with similar legislation.
The Dominance of Hate
With all these events occurring in a short time span it was only expected that hate groups would up rise. Hate groups such as the KKK. In 1868 Blacks gained the rights to vote, but were also powerless to society’s hate toward their necessary freedoms. The Ku Klux Klan was a terrorist organization of white supremacists that are known to its members as "The Invisible Empire of the South. Their mission was and still is, to maintain forever white supremacy and to maintain forever the God-given supremacy of the white race." "White men must not mix their blood with that of colored or other inferior races."
Their pledge of secrecy is "to keep solemnly secret the symbols of the order" because the "alien world is eager to learn all it can of the organization." "These matters must never be divulged to the alien." In 1919, (The Red Summer) twenty-six documented race riots occur, where black communities across the country are attacked. Hundreds of blacks are killed and even more are injured in these attacks. There is widespread property damage in black neighborhoods. Whites also use lynching as a means to intimidate blacks. In some communities, like the District of Columbia, blacks stand their ground. In the 1920s, riots in Florida and Tulsa destroy the black communities.
De facto and De jure Law and Societal Mores
De facto Law is another way of saying segregation. Even though these laws were not written in the law books and followed by the courts, it still took precedence over how whites and blacks related to one another. De facto segregation was enforced during the 1950 into the 1960. At this time Blacks had to endure sitting in the back of the bus, not being able to eat at whites only diners, not using the same water fountain or receive the same standard of education. This was also the time of the Civil Rights movement.
How Far Have We Come?
With all these facts the only thing left is to relate the issues of today to those of the past. I have heard many times that we are a product of our environment. We also know that there will be some that can overcome adversities and still be a success. For African Americans there are those who allowed the experiences of the past to motivate them to be more than what is expected, but many have allowed low expectations to run their life decisions and commit the act of self fulfilled prophecy. Then there are those who are truly stereotyped and victimized by those who still hold anger and hatred close to heart. As a Black woman I know how it feels to be treated differently because of my race. I know how it feels to be stereotyped and watched closely in a store while shopping. I also know how it feels to be isolated because of the color of my skin or because I am foreign, but I also know this closely from the interaction amongst my own race. African Americans were taught that if you looked “too black” you are automatically unattractive. This stemmed from the light skinned slave working in the house and the dark skinned slave working in the field. As time progressed this message was still prominent once very light skinned blacks could live their lives as a white person. Then it became prominent in the music industry when lighter skinned Blacks faster took the stage. The social purpose of putting a relaxer in your hair to straighten it was to look as close to your white counterpart as possible. The mentality that dark skin is bad stemmed directly from slavery and to this day it still dominates the media and our minds.
Symbolism of President Obama
When people learn that who they are does not matter, they believe it and teach the same mentality to their children. It took Obama to run for presidency for me to witness lines of African Americans waiting to have their voice heard. In ghettos and projects I’ve seen self hate and violence. The African American is still fighting the fight of inequality, but this time it is an inward battle to identify who they are. The search for history will be the only way to create any form of unity. Many feel the past is the past, but who you are today affects who you may want to be. If you start in a secure place you are more likely to obtain long term success and a strong foundation. While White Americans were establishing ownership and learning about property ownership, finances and family structure, Blacks were just trying to survive. The only thing that was given was Christianity and to this day that is the only time you see real Black unity.
I am glad to see that things have changed amongst races, but there is still a lot to be done. The United States is currently dealing with the issue of Mexicans coming into the United States legally and illegally. How the country reacts to this will show how far we have come.
I will be posting additional articles that relate to this topic from different perspectives. Racism is a layered issue and needs various points of views to explain the results that were left behind.
Please leave a comment that is educated. I have no tolerance for hatred and judgement, only facts and smart opinions. Empathy, compassion, and love are the only things that will change the world. It is necessary to have these conversations.
American Experience. (n.d.). Retrieved June 18th, 2011, from The Murder of Emmitt Till:
- American Experience . The Murder of Emmett Till | PBS
The Murder of Emmett Till: Emmett Till's brutal murder in 1955 mobilized the civil rights movement.
Lynch, W. (n.d.). Let's Make A Slave. Retrieved 6 14, 2011, from
ushistory.org. (n.d.). The Impact of Slavery. Retrieved 6 13, 2011, from ushistory.org:
- The Impact of Slavery [ushistory.org]
The Impact of Slavery
Smith, V. C. (n.d.). American Anti-Slavery and Civil Rights Timeline. Retrieved 06 14, 2011, from ushistory.org:
- American Anti-Slavery and Civil Rights Timeline
American Anti-Slavery and Civil Rights Timeline