While at Great Hopes plantation in Williamsburg, we met an African man who made our Chesapeake Semester group question our views on slavery. He made a remark similar to the following: the colonists left Britain in order to gain independence from them, yet with their new found freedom, the colonists use slaves to complete all of their work. While gaining independence, the colonists, who had many ‘dignified and proper’ men amongst them, enslaved another race of people. Why was this an acceptable practice in the new world?
The Chesapeake Semester group watched a reenactment called ‘Storming the Palace’ in which outraged Virginian colonists rallied together and approached the Governor’s palace in order to seek answers about why the British sailors stole gun powder from the Magazine. The colonists wanted the Governor to return the gun powder and questioned who ordered this deed. Colonists shouted ‘Liberty or death’ as they stormed, armed, towards the palace. The Governor quickly dismantled this gathering and also threatened the freeing of all slaves in Virginia, at which the colonists gasped.
Without slaves, the British colonists would have had to provide for themselves. Even with slaves, the colonists did the bare minimum when it came to providing for themselves. Depending heavily on Britain’s imports, colonists would await the arrival of food items, building materials, and luxuries. In 1663, slavery was legalized in Virginia. Years down the road, planters eventually took control of the colony and the economy which lead to more of an agriculture dominated economy. Because of this, even more slaves were imported, most being African. Having African American slaves became a sign of wealth because they costed more than indentured servants from England or Ireland.
Ignoring the initial reasons why Virginian’s used slaves (status, more agriculture output), there is no justifiable answer as to owning slaves. The emotional and historical scars on not only African Americans, but English and Irish men and women, is distasteful and immoral. Being thrust back into the 1600’s by the reenactments in Williamsburg and the information we’ve learned along the way, the Chesapeake Semester group was disgusted by the treatment of the people used as slaves. There are countries today that continue to practice slavery. Just as the colonists, and all of the United States, understand and practice antislavery today, the abolishment of slavery in general is something we all look forward to.