Institutionalization of Slavery

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Institutionalizationof Slavery

Throughouthistory on slavery, it is evident that many governments sanctionedtotal control of certain people for the benefit of other individualswho are the majority in a given geographical region. This wasachieved under the guise of social, technological progress, andmercantilism. The stage for American slavery was set when wealthynations like Spain and Portugal started capturing Africans forenslavement in Europe (Fraser, 2015). They also conquered and laidclaim to the Caribbean and West Indies bringing along the practice ofslavery with subsequent expansion to the north, to colonial America.The minority mostly Africans were enslaved on small farms, outside inthe fields, in industry and transportation, and in big plantations.This control of minorities was the characteristic that helped toshape policing in American society. Furthermore, to make slavesconform to their status quo, slave patrols were established tomaintain the economic order by assisting slave owners in recovery andpunishment of slaves that were considered property.

Thestatus of a slave as a property was enforced by instilling fear oractual violence. They suffered mental anguish for they were under theconstant threat of sale while others were sold as a form ofpunishment. Laws were enacted at both the state and nationalsubdivisions of the government to institutionalize slavery in theAmerican economic and legal order entirely. Slaves had to live underslave codes that varied in different states with the underlyingnotion being the same that slaves are not people but property. Theyhad no right to testify in court against a white, visit the homes offellow free blacks or whites. Slaves informally used to marry eventhough legally they were not allowed, and any children brought forthfrom the relations automatically became the property of the master(Fraser, 2015). The offspring could be separated from their parentsat will when the father, mother, or child was sold. Whenever theywere together, they would almost be immediately sold away from theirextended families.

Grandparents,sisters, brothers, and cousins could all find themselves forciblyscattered, never to see each other again. Female slaves had to endurethe threat and practice of sexual harassment. Being the property ofthe master, overseers could take advantage and use them asconcubines. The punishment for any shortcoming on a slave took manyforms like torture, mutilations, whippings, and imprisonments.Slavery potentially took away the right to life. In differentinstances, slave owners had the legal right to kill their slaves ifthey thought it necessary. It also took away the slaves’ ability toenforce and enjoy their moral rights like liberty and propertyownership. They were forced to work for longer hours performingbackbreaking tasks in harsh conditions where many perished.Furthermore, the conditions they were living in were wanting andcoupled with a poor diet, many died.

Inthe slave market, slaves were bought according to their worth or thevalue of the expected output or services a slave can generate. Thesex, age, health, and physical condition of a slave played asignificant role in determining the value of slaves. Younger femalesof childbearing age were highly treasured considering the value andnumber of children she might bear. There was also a notion that theoutput produced by slaves in bondage was far much greater than whatthey could provide in freedom.


Fraser, J. W. (2015). By the People: Combined Edition Plus New Myhistorylab for Us History — Access Card Package. Newyork: Pearson Education.

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