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Slavery Overview

Slavery Overview


Slavery played a significant role in the early history of the United States, shaping the economy, culture, and politics of the nation. Millions of Africans were brought to America against their will, where they were forced to work on plantations and farms for little or no pay. In this article, we will provide an overview of slavery within the United States, examining its history, impact, and legacy.

The Origins of Slavery in America

Slavery in America began in the early 17th century, when Dutch traders brought the first African slaves to the British colonies in Virginia. Over the next several centuries, millions of Africans were forcibly taken from their homes and transported to America, where they were sold into slavery and forced to work on plantations and farms.

The Impact of Slavery

Slavery had a significant impact on the economy and culture of the United States. It provided the labor needed to build the infrastructure of the nation, including roads, canals, and railroads. It also fueled the growth of the agricultural economy, particularly the production of cotton and other crops.
Slavery also had a significant impact on American culture and politics. The legacy of slavery created deep racial divides within the nation, which persist to this day. It played a significant role in the Civil War, where it was one of the main issues that led to the conflict between North and South. After the Civil War, slavery was formally abolished with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

The Legacy of Slavery

Despite its formal abolition, the legacy of slavery continues to shape American society. The racial inequality and discrimination that arose from slavery continue to create deep divides within the nation. African Americans continue to face systemic racism and discrimination in various aspects of their lives, including education, employment, and the criminal justice system. The legacy of slavery also gave rise to the Civil Rights Movement, which sought to address these inequalities and create a more just society.


Slavery was a deeply ingrained institution within the United States, shaping the economy, culture, and politics of the nation. Although it was formally abolished with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, its legacy continues to impact American society and create deep divides within the nation. As such, it is essential for us to confront this legacy and continue the fight for equality and justice for all Americans.

Slavery within the United States represents a time that will remain a distinct imprint upon the minds of all governing bodies. It is described as the forcing of individuals to perform labor as well as other actions with no form of
compensation whatsoever.

Slavery put no basis upon an individual’s rights or wishes, and thus, overrode the person’s legal rights, which we see more clearly today. Its institution during the advent of the United States represented a system now deemed a symbol of utmost inequality.

Significant occurrences within the realm of slavery include that of the period in which certain states began to move toward other avenues of economic means. Due to this, the sale of slaves was increased as they were now being conveyed to deeper areas of the South that still needed manual laborers for the purposes of their regions. Slaves were being separated from their families left and right, leaving more slaves with no choice but to try and flee.

One area of the United States Constitution that contributed to the passing of slavery laws was that of the “Three-Fifths Compromise“, which entailed that three-fifths of the slave population be counted for legislative purposes despite them having no voting rights at all. Since slaves encompassed an adequate amount of the population, slaveholders possessed much power in the eyes of the Government, thus leading to the passing of “Federal fugitive slave laws”.

These slavery laws allowed for slaves to be returned to their owners following initially fleeing. An important Supreme Court case in direct relation to slavery is that of Dred Scott v. Sandford. Scott was a slave who sued for his freedom following the passing of his owner. The grounds by which he sued included that he resided in a region where slavery was actually not allowed. Following contrasting decisions in State courts, the
final decision of the Supreme Court was that a slave may not attain free status
even if found to be within a free State.

The Court reiterated that Congress did not have the authority to ban slavery in any specific territory as well as the fact that individuals of African descent were not eligible to become citizens. Therefore, Scott had no basis to sue in the first place since only citizens could file suit in Federal courts. Slavery was dealt yet another burden to carry in this case as it was a constant reminder of the inequality.

With the institution of the Thirteenth Amendment, however, the United States Constitution did away with slavery as well as all practices associated with it. One distinction that the Amendment maintained was that such “involuntary servitude” be allowable due to punishment for a crime committed.

One present-day example akin to that of slavery is human trafficking, which poses quite a complex situation for that of the United States Constitution. This is due to the fact that these activities usually involve illegal immigrants. The fear of deportation and consequences of the like, then, may prevent adequate reporting of such occurrences despite their unconstitutional nature.