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Chattel Slavery Vs. Servitude

topic posted Sun, April 27, 2008 - 6:59 PM by  Metaphysics
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Femi Akomolafe
femi.akomolafe.com/

Very often, the embalmers of Western history have tried to gloss over the sordid trade in African slaves by Europeans, for over four centuries, by putting up the argument that lot of Africans also made a fortune in the dealings. From these 'mythorians' we often hear the stories that slavery was rampant in Africa before the Europeans came along.

Not only is slavery been argued away, the colonial oppression of Africa is also been massaged to make it appear less cruel. We are told that the colonies also enjoyed the fruits of colonization. Christianity and Western-styled education are often cited as the 'benefits' Africans derived from colonialism. These apologists then asked why must it be that all the opprobrium are directed against Europeans alone?"

Even more unfortunate is the fact that some Africans (Uncle tom Sell outs), especially those in the diaspora, have bought into these pseudo-arguments.

I shall try to put slavery in proper historical perspectives, and show how the chattel slavery introduced by capitalism differs from all other forms of slavery.

To those who said Africans benefit ted from slavery and colonialism, one can argue, with the same [twisted] logic, that the countries conquered by Nazis also enjoyed the fruits of Nazism. We can say that Holland, which was conquered and oppressed by German Nazis, also benefited from their forced oppression. We can argue that the French, the Belgian, and the Dutch people who were forced into labor camps also benefited! This manner of thinking is, of course, simply outrageous.

As any student of history knows, it was not only in Africa that slavery was rampant in ancient times. The Hebrew, Greek, Roman history tells of slavery. Watching slaves butchered each other was a game enjoyed by the decadent rulers of the Roman Empire.

The Jews, like many other people, have been enslaved several times. But does the fact that they have been oppressed several times in the past lessen the enormity of the holocaust

The Atlantic slave-trade was different from all these earlier slavery in several respects. Most enormously important is that it was the first form of slavery that was solely motivated by commercial incentives. In earlier times slaves were used as domestic workers and soldiers, since there were no plantations or industrial factories where millions of slave-labor was needed

It was the large-scale capitalist mode of production which required cheap labors that induced the slave trade. It was the Industrial Revolution in Europe that made it necessary to traffic in human lives on a colossal scale.

Slaves in earlier times enjoyed social and individual rights - like marriage, freedom to raise a family, speak their language and worship their gods, rights which were denied the African slaves exported to the Americas. Africans captured and taken into the new world were stripped of all their personality and humanity - they could not even bear their own names.

It was capitalism that introduced chattel-slavery. "In the welter of philosophical arguments for and against the slave trade, the one cogent and inescapable argument in favor of it is easily hidden: in spite of its risks, illegality, and blighted social status, slave trading was enormously profitable. Despite the popular assertion that free labor was cheaper, the price of slaves continued to go up and to compensate for the risks of the trade."

In older times, slaves were not regarded as properties of their masters, manumission was possible and occurred frequently. Since slaves in those days were generally captured soldiers, they're treated humanely, because the possibility always existed that a military or spiritual giant could arise from their tribe and turn the tide in their favor. Moses was such a figure.

These are some of the qualitative differences, between the Atlantic slavery and earlier forms of slavery. They are important differences which the ideologists, masquerading as scientists and historians, want to gloss over.

"Slaves became profitable after the discovery of the New World had established a seemingly insatiable demand for workers on the plantations. Slavery was not new to Africa, but it had existed primarily in its domestic form-involving rights as well as duties.

In Born the kings sent slaves to govern their provinces and Hausa kings also often ruled through slaves. In Yorubaland, slaves of the ALAFIN often attain great power. It was the Europeans who turned slavery into an industry and introduced such well-documented barbarities as the rigors of the 'middle passage' (across the Atlantic).

What these imperialist mythorians are striving to achieve is a situation whereby Black people will continue to blame themselves for all the enormous crimes visited on them by the white people.
Language, they say, defines those that uses it. The fact that slavery in Africa does not have all the negative connotations and brutalities associated with the chattel slavery, could be seen from the Yorubas who have the same word 'ERU' for both slaves and prisoners of war.

To them both are unfortunate victims of wars. They are kept to serve terms and there are strict rules on how they should be treated. They are never engaged in plantations (there were none) with their mouths padlocked, they are not chained like cattle in pens.

And whereas the few Africans who participated in slavery had been well-documented, those who fought tenaciously against it remain unsung.

It is natural for the guilty to look for parallels, so as to diminished the enormity of his crime, so it is with the Europeans. They are busy collecting bogus anthropological findings and presenting same as historical fact to lessen their culpability in the greatest crime ever committed against a people, in the history of the world. Their assault on history should not be allow to go unanswered.
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  • Re: Chattel Slavery Vs. Servitude

    Sun, April 27, 2008 - 7:11 PM

    "They seize numbers of our free or freed black subjects, and even nobles, sons of nobles, even the members of our own family."

    -Excerpt from letter from Affonso, King of Congo, to King of Portugal João III, 18 October 1526.

    "I was soon put down under the decks, and there I received such a salutation in my nostrils as I had never experienced in my life: so that, with the loathsomeness of the stench, and crying together, I became so sick and low that I was not able to eat, nor had I the least desire to taste anything.

    I now wished for the last friend, death, to relieve me; but soon, to my grief, two of the white men offered me eatables; and on my refusing to eat, one of them held me fast by the hands and laid me across I think the windlass, and tied my feet, while the other flogged me severely.

    I had never seen among any people such instances of brutal cruelty; One man in particular I saw, when we were permitted to be on deck, flogged so unmercifully with a large rope near the foremast, that he died in consequence of it."

    "...the excessive heat was not the only thing that rendered their situation intolerable. The deck, that is the floor of their rooms, was so covered with the blood and mucus which had proceeded from them in consequence of the flux, that it resembled a slaughterhouse."

    -Alexander Falconbridge, a surgeon aboard slave ships and later the governor of a British colony for freed slaves in Sierra Leone.
    • Re: Chattel Slavery Vs. Servitude

      Sun, April 27, 2008 - 7:12 PM

      He does not know the year, as most slaves are not allowed to know their ages. He remembers being unhappy and confused that white children knew their ages, but he was not allowed even to ask his own.

      He is separated from his mother soon after birth—a common practice among slave owners. He assumes that this custom is intended to break the natural bond of affection between mother and child.

      He knows only that his father is a white man, though many people say that his master is his father. He explains that slaveholders often impregnate their female slaves. A law ensures that mixed race children become slaves like their mothers. Thus slaveholders actually profit from this practice of rape, as it increases the number of slaves they own. He explains that such mixed race slaves have a worse lot than other slaves, as the slaveholder’s wife, insulted by their existence, ensures that they either suffer constantly or are sold off.

      He recalls a particularly violent episode of the Captain whipping his Aunt Hester. The Captain calls for Hester at night and finds that she has gone out with a slave named Ned, against the Captain’s orders. Douglass implies that the Captain has a particular sexual interest in Hester, who is quite beautiful. The Captain brings Hester home, strips her to the waist, ties her, rapes her and whips her until her blood drips on the floor. He is so terrified by the scene that all he can do is hide in a closet, hoping he will not be whipped next.

      Fredrick Douglass
      • Re: Chattel Slavery Vs. Servitude

        Sun, April 27, 2008 - 7:20 PM

        Difference in Capitalistic slavery

        Black Britannica (good site)
        search.eb.com/blackhistory

        Slavery of exchange with Africans; that wasn’t until later that the Moors (islamic) came to Africa to sell out Africans for a profit, Africa did not have the commercial aspect of commerce (capitalism) And this is where many are misguided into thinking the kind of treatment of slavery was the same - it wasn't.

        “Slavery existed in a large number of past societies whose general characteristics are well-known. It was rare among primitive peoples, such as the hunter-gatherer societies, because for slavery to flourish, social differentiation or stratification was essential. Also essential was an economic surplus, for slaves were often consumption goods who themselves had to be maintained rather than productive assets who generated income for their owner. Surplus was also essential in slave systems where the owners expected economic gain from slave ownership.”

        “Ordinarily there had to be a perceived labor shortage, for otherwise it is unlikely that most people would bother to acquire or to keep slaves. Free land, and more generally, open resources, were often a prerequisite for slavery; in most cases where there were no open resources, non-slaves could be found who would fulfill the same social functions at lower cost. Last, some centralized governmental institutions willing to enforce slave laws had to exist, or else the property aspects of slavery were likely to be chimerical. Most of these conditions had to be present in order for slavery to exist in a society; if they all were, until the abolition movement of the 19th century swept throughout most of the world, it was almost certain that slavery would be present. Although slavery existed almost everywhere, it seems to have been especially important in the development of two of the world's major civilizations, Western (including ancient Greece and Rome) and Islamic.”

        There have been two basic types of slavery throughout recorded history. The most common has been what is called household, patriarchal, or domestic slavery.

        The other major type of slavery was productive slavery. It was relatively infrequent and occurred primarily in classical Athenian Greece and Rome and in the post-Columbian circum-Caribbean New World. It also was found in 9th-century Iraq, among the Kwakiutl Indians of the American Northwest, and in a few areas of sub-Saharan Africa in the 19th century. Although slaves also were employed in the household, slavery in all of those societies seems to have existed predominantly to produce marketable commodities in mines or on plantations.”

        “Slavery was a species of dependent labor differentiated from other forms primarily by the fact that in any society it was the most degrading and most severe. Slavery was the prototype of a relationship defined by domination and power. But throughout the centuries man has invented other forms of dependent labor besides slavery, including serfdom, indentured labor, and peonage.”

        A person became an indentured servant by borrowing money and then voluntarily agreeing to work off the debt during a specified term. In some societies indentured servants probably differed little from debt slaves (i.e., persons who initially were unable to pay off obligations and thus were forced to work them off at an amount per year specified by law). Debt slaves, however, were regarded as criminals (essentially thieves) and thus liable to harsher treatment. Perhaps as many as half of all the white settlers in North America were indentured servants, who agreed to work for someone (the purchaser of the indenture) upon arrival to pay for their passage.”

        Peons were either persons forced to work off debts or criminals. Peons, who were the Latin-American variant of debt slaves, were forced to work for their creditors to pay off what they owed. They tended to merge with felons because people in both categories were considered criminals, and that was especially true in societies where money fines were the main sanction and form of restitution for crimes. Thus, the felon who could not pay his fine was an insolvent debtor. The debt peon had to work for his creditor, and the labor of the criminal peon was sold by the state to a third party.

        In England about 10 percent of the population were slaves, with the proportion reaching as much as 20 percent in some places. Slaves were also prominent in Scandinavia during the Viking era, AD 800–1050, when slaves for use at home and for sale in the international slave markets were a major object of raids. Slaves also were present in significant numbers in Scandinavia both before and after the Viking era.

        Continental Europe—France, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, and Russia—all knew slavery. Russia was essentially founded as a by-product of slave raiding by the Vikings passing from Scandinavia to Byzantium in the 9th century, and slavery remained a major institution there until the early 1720s, when the state converted the household slaves into house serfs in order to put them on the tax rolls.
        • Re: Chattel Slavery Vs. Servitude

          Sun, April 27, 2008 - 7:28 PM


          Slavery

          I wanted to post the whole article for reference

          search.eb.com/blackhistor...icle-9109538

          condition in which one human being was owned by another. A slave was considered by law as property, or chattel, and was deprived of most of the rights ordinarily held by free persons.

          There is no consensus on what a slave was or on how the institution of slavery should be defined. Nevertheless, there is general agreement among historians, anthropologists, economists, sociologists, and others who study slavery that most of the following characteristics should be present in order to term a person a slave. The slave was a species of property; thus, he belonged to someone else. In some societies slaves were considered movable property, in others immovable property, like real estate. They were objects of the law, not its subjects. Thus, like an ox or an ax, the slave was not ordinarily held responsible for what he did. He was not personally liable for torts or contracts.

          The slave usually had few rights and always fewer than his owner, but there were not many societies in which he had absolutely none. As there are limits in most societies on the extent to which animals may be abused, so there were limits in most societies on how much a slave could be abused. The slave was removed from lines of natal descent. Legally and often socially he had no kin. No relatives could stand up for his rights or get vengeance for him. As an “outsider,” “marginal individual,” or “socially dead person” in the society where he was enslaved, his rights to participate in political decision making and other social activities were fewer than those enjoyed by his owner. The product of a slave's labour could be claimed by someone else, who also frequently had the right to control his physical reproduction.

          Slavery was a form of dependent labour performed by a nonfamily member. The slave was deprived of personal liberty and the right to move about geographically as he desired. There were likely to be limits on his capacity to make choices with regard to his occupation and sexual partners as well. Slavery was usually, but not always, involuntary. If not all of these characterizations in their most restrictive forms applied to a slave, the slave regime in that place is likely to be characterized as “mild”; if almost all of them did, then it ordinarily would be characterized as “severe.”

          Slaves were generated in many ways. Probably the most frequent was capture in war, either by design, as a form of incentive to warriors, or as an accidental by-product, as a way of disposing of enemy troops or civilians. Others were kidnapped on slave-raiding or piracy expeditions. Many slaves were the offspring of slaves. Some people were enslaved as a punishment for crime or debt, others were sold into slavery by their parents, other relatives, or even spouses, sometimes to satisfy debts, sometimes to escape starvation. A variant on the selling of children was the exposure, either real or fictitious, of unwanted children, who were then rescued by others and made slaves. Another source of slavery was self-sale, undertaken sometimes to obtain an elite position, sometimes to escape destitution.

          Slavery existed in a large number of past societies whose general characteristics are well-known. It was rare among primitive peoples, such as the hunter-gatherer societies, because for slavery to flourish, social differentiation or stratification was essential. Also essential was an economic surplus, for slaves were often consumption goods who themselves had to be maintained rather than productive assets who generated income for their owner. Surplus was also essential in slave systems where the owners expected economic gain from slave ownership.

          Ordinarily there had to be a perceived labour shortage, for otherwise it is unlikely that most people would bother to acquire or to keep slaves. Free land, and more generally, open resources, were often a prerequisite for slavery; in most cases where there were no open resources, non-slaves could be found who would fulfill the same social functions at lower cost.

          Last, some centralized governmental institutions willing to enforce slave laws had to exist, or else the property aspects of slavery were likely to be chimerical. Most of these conditions had to be present in order for slavery to exist in a society; if they all were, until the abolition movement of the 19th century swept throughout most of the world, it was almost certain that slavery would be present. Although slavery existed almost everywhere, it seems to have been especially important in the development of two of the world's major civilizations, Western (including ancient Greece and Rome) and Islamic.

          There have been two basic types of slavery throughout recorded history. The most common has been what is called household, patriarchal, or domestic slavery. Although domestic slaves occasionally worked outside the household, for example, in haying or harvesting, their primary function was that of menials who served their owners in their homes or wherever else the owners might be, such as in military service.

          Slaves often were a consumption-oriented status symbol for their owners, who in many societies spent much of their surplus on slaves. Household slaves sometimes merged in varying degrees with the families of their owners, so that boys became adopted sons or women became concubines or wives who gave birth to heirs. Temple slavery, state slavery, and military slavery were relatively rare and distinct from domestic slavery, but in a very broad outline they can be categorized as the household slaves of a temple or the state.

          The other major type of slavery was productive slavery. It was relatively infrequent and occurred primarily in classical Athenian Greece and Rome and in the post-Columbian circum-Caribbean New World. It also was found in 9th-century Iraq, among the Kwakiutl Indians of the American Northwest, and in a few areas of sub-Saharan Africa in the 19th century. Although slaves also were employed in the household, slavery in all of those societies seems to have existed predominantly to produce marketable commodities in mines or on plantations.

          A major theoretical issue is the relationship between productive slavery and the status of a society as a slave or a slave-owning society. In a slave society, slaves composed a significant portion (at least 20–30 percent) of the total population, and much of that society's energies were mobilized toward getting and keeping slaves. In addition the institution of slavery had a significant impact on the society's institutions, such as the family, and on its social thought, law, and economy.

          It seems clear that it was quite possible for a slave society to exist without productive slavery; the known historical examples were concentrated in Africa and Asia. It is also clear that most of the slave societies have been concentrated in Western (including Greece and Rome) and Islamic civilizations. In a slave-owning society slaves were present, but in smaller numbers, and they were much less the focus of the society's energies.

          Slavery was a species of dependent labour differentiated from other forms primarily by the fact that in any society it was the most degrading and most severe. Slavery was the prototype of a relationship defined by domination and power. But throughout the centuries man has invented other forms of dependent labour besides slavery, including serfdom, indentured labour, and peonage. The term serfdom is much overused, often where it is not appropriate (always as an appellation of opprobrium). In the past a serf usually was an agriculturalist, whereas, depending upon the society, a slave could be employed in almost any occupation.

          Canonically, serfdom was the dependent condition of much of the western and central European peasantry from the time of the decline of the Roman Empire until the era of the French Revolution. This included a “second enserfment” that swept over central and some of eastern Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. Russia did not know the “first enserfment”; serfdom began there gradually in the mid-15th century, was completed by 1649, and lasted until 1906.

          Whether the term serfdom appropriately describes the condition of the peasantry in other contexts is a matter of vigorous contention. Be that as it may, the serf was also distinguished from the slave by the fact that he was usually the subject of the law—i.e., he had some rights, whereas the slave, the object of the law, had significantly fewer rights.

          The serf, moreover, was usually bound to the land (the most significant exception was the Russian serf between about 1700 and 1861), whereas the slave was always bound to his owner; i.e., he had to live where his owner told him to, and he often could be sold by his owner at any time. The serf usually owned his means of production (grain, livestock, implements) except the land, whereas the slave owned nothing, often not even the clothes on his back.

          The serf's right to marry off his lord's estate often was restricted, but the master's interference in his reproductive and family life ordinarily was much less than was the case for the slave. Serfs could be called upon by the state to pay taxes, to perform corvée labour on roads, and to serve in the army, but slaves usually were exempt from all of those obligations.

          A person became an indentured servant by borrowing money and then voluntarily agreeing to work off the debt during a specified term. In some societies indentured servants probably differed little from debt slaves (i.e., persons who initially were unable to pay off obligations and thus were forced to work them off at an amount per year specified by law). Debt slaves, however, were regarded as criminals (essentially thieves) and thus liable to harsher treatment.

          Perhaps as many as half of all the white settlers in North America were indentured servants, who agreed to work for someone (the purchaser of the indenture) upon arrival to pay for their passage. Some indentured servants alleged that they were treated worse than slaves; the economic logic of the situation was that slave owners thought of their slaves as a long-term investment whose value would drop if maltreated, whereas the short-term (typically four years) indentured servants could be abused almost to death because their masters had only a brief interest in them. Practices varied, but indenture contracts sometimes specified that the servants were to be set free with a sum of money, sometimes a plot of land, perhaps even a spouse, whereas for manumitted slaves the terms usually depended more on the generosity of the owner.

          Peons were either persons forced to work off debts or criminals. Peons, who were the Latin-American variant of debt slaves, were forced to work for their creditors to pay off what they owed. They tended to merge with felons because people in both categories were considered criminals, and that was especially true in societies where money fines were the main sanction and form of restitution for crimes.

          Thus, the felon who could not pay his fine was an insolvent debtor. The debt peon had to work for his creditor, and the labour of the criminal peon was sold by the state to a third party. Peons had even less recourse to the law for bad treatment than did indentured servants, and the terms of manumission for the former typically were less favourable than for the latter.

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