In Honor of Black History Month, I have decided to do a series of posts inspired by the PBS special African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. The six hour series narrated by Henry Louis Gates chronicles the history of black people in America.
Episode 1, The Black Atlantic (1500-1800) goes back to the shores of Africa, in Sierra Leone. Yes, the idea of slaves existed long before Europeans got a hold of Africans but the use and purpose of slaves was very different. In Africa, Slaves were often prisoners of war and were at times traded. Europeans took advantage of this system and bought slaves from African Warriors and Chiefs. Slaves were then traded throughout europe and eventually to the New World. The truth was, the colonists needed slaves for survival in the New World. Slaves grew crops for food and trade, they tended and raised the animals and yet were treated as if they were not human. Slave labor literally built this nation brick by brick. The first President George Washington was owner of one of the largest slave plantations.
During the American Revolution, several slaves joined the ranks of the British to have a chance at freedom. Among The Black Pioneers as they were called, several died in their fight for freedom and independence. During this time as the constitution is being written and American revolutionaries are discussing the ideals of freedom, independence, prosperity and equality, the slaves are inspired by these thoughts. Many slave revolts begin the take place as black people realize that they too are entitled to a life of Freedom.
The biggest and most successful slave rebellion took place in 1791, in Saint Dominigue with later became known as, Haiti. Haiti became the first black republic in the world and the second nation to win it’s independence from European power.