Slavery — A Long, Shameful History
Slavery has a long and shameful history.
Ancient cultures made slaves of those captured in battle, as seen in Babylon, Persia, Greece, China, India, and Africa.
Israelites were made to be slaves by powerful Pharaohs of Egypt for four hundred years.
Julius Caesar conquered in Gaul and brought so many captured “slavic” peoples into to Rome that the term “slav” gained the connotation of permanent servant — “slave.”
Over half of Rome’s population were slaves.
Another form of slavery was generational indebtedness, spread by Roman Emperor Diocletian.
In the 3rd and 4th century, the Roman economy became so bad that people who were unable to pay their mortgages would simply abandon their properties, renounce their Roman citizenship, and go off to live with the barbarians.
To stop this, Diocletian made it a law that people could never run away from their debts — thus tying them and their children to the land in perpetuity, creating the feudal system.
This is essentially the case in India, with rural peasant farming families inheriting ancient indebtedness. The Royal Commission on Agriculture described that India’s farmer “is born in debt, lives in debt and dies in debt.”
A more recent example of inescapable debt is that of young people in America locked into trillions of dollars of student loan debt that they can never escape:
– Huffinton Post (5/08/15): “Obama Administration Improperly Denies Student Loan Debt Relief.”
– The Hill (5/13/16): “President Obama’s horrible, terrible legacy on student loans”: “(His) lawyers fight furiously behind the scenes to keep bankruptcy protections gone from student loans.”
– Buzzfeed (2/9/19) “Student Debt is Dragging a Whole Generation Down - Here’s Why So Many Americans Feel Cheated by Their Student Loans”;
– TIME Magazine (2/9/12) “Why You Can’t Discharge Student Loans in Bankruptcy”;
– National Consumer Law Center (June 2006) “No Way Out: Student Loans, Financial Distress, and the Need for Policy Reform”;
– Rolling Stone (8/15/13) “Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal”: “Congress almost completely stripped students of their right to disgorge their debts through bankruptcy (amazing, when one considers that even gamblers can declare bankruptcy!)”
The timeline of slavery added a new chapter in 711 AD, when Muslim Moors conquered Spain, then invaded Portugal and France, followed by the coasts of Italy, Greece and the Mediterranean.
Over a million Europeans were carried off into Islamic slavery.
In 1189, Muslims raided Lisbon, Portugal, and enslaved 3,000 women and children.
In 1191, Muslims attacked Silves, Portugal, and enslaved 3,000.
When Saladin captured Jerusalem, according to Imad al-Din, approximately 7,000 men and 8,000 women were unable to pay a ransom so they were enslaved.
Medieval Catholic religious orders of Trinitarians or Mathurins would collect donations to ransom people from Muslim slavery.
Muslim raiders enslaved an estimated 180 million Africans over its 1,400 year expansion.
Muslim slave markets existed in:
Tangier (Morocco), Marrakesh (Morocco). Algiers (Algeria). Tripoli (Libya), Cairo (Egypt), Aswan (Egypt), Khartoum, (Sudan);
Aoudaghost (Mauritania), Timbuktu (Mali), Gao (Mali), Bilma (Niger), Kano (Nigeria);
Bagamoyo (Tanzania), Zanzibar (Tanzania), Kilwa (Tanzania), Sofala (Beira, Mozambique), Mombasa (Kenya);
Horn of Africa:
Assab (Eritrea), Massawa (Eritrea), Nefasit (Eritrea), Tadjoura (Djibouti), Zeila (Somalia), Mogadishu (Somalia), Kismayo (Somalia);
Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Zabīd (Yemen), Muscat (Oman), Aden (Yemen), Socotra (Indian Ocean);
Debal (Sindh, Pakistan), Karachi (Sindh, Pakistan), Janjira (India), Surat (India), Mandvi, Kutch (India).
There has never been a significant abolitionist movement in Islam as it could be interpreted as an indirect condemnation of Mohammed and the Rightly Guided Caliphs, as they owned slaves.
Tragically, Muslim slave markets continue, with news reports giving shocking details of ISIS enslaving captured women, many of whom are Christian or Yazidi.
The Clarion Project (3/3/16) reported: “ISIS Sells Yazidi Sex Slaves Far and Wide.”
Liberal academia defended this practice, as reported on February 7, 2017, where Georgetown University Professor Jonathan Brown, holder of the Al-Waleed bin Talal Chair in Islamic Civilization, delivered a lecture explaining how slavery and non-consensual sex (rape) are acceptable under Islamic sharia law.
Organizations bringing relief to these victims include:
– Voice of the Martyrs,
– Shared Hope International,
– New Friends New Life,
– International Justice Mission,
– Wellspring Living,
– Slavery Footprint,
– Christian Solidarity International,
– Agape International Missions,
– YWAM Thailand Tamar Center,
– Persecution Project Foundation, which provides compassion, hope, and assistance in rebuilding communities though the love of Christ.
In pre-Columbian America, warring tribes would enslave captives, sometimes using them in ritual sacrifice and cannibalism.
The Inca Empire had a system of mandatory public service known as mita, similar to the Aztec’s tlacotin.
When Spain conquered the New World in the early 1500’s, conquistadors deposed Indian government leaders and ruled in their stead.
In the Inca Empire, where native populations had been trained to obey government orders, they willingly obeyed their new Spanish leaders, even though it often meant dying in forced labor such as in the Potosi silver mines.
Spaniards set up a system called encomienda or repartimiento, which was similar to feudal France’s Corvée “unfree labour.”
Priests like Bartolomé de las Casas and the Franciscan Friars, together with Papal Bulls, fought to end the enslavement of native Americans.
Unfortunately, those wanting to continue slavery sought to replace the freed natives with African slaves purchased from Muslim slave markets.
In 1526, Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón explored the eastern coast of America as far north as Delaware Bay, then, somewhere near Sapelo Sound, Georgia.
With 600, settlers, of which 100 were African slaves, he attempted a settlement named San Miguel de Gualdape.
The Dominican friars who accompanying them celebrated the first recorded Catholic Mass in what would later be the United States.
Unfortunately, that winter, two-thirds of the settlers died of disease, including Ayllón.
The African slaves rebelled and ran off to live with the native tribe of Guales, becoming the first non-natives settlers in North America.
Another early account was in 1528. Pánfilo de Narváez and Cabeza de Vaca led an expedition of 400 settlers to establish a settlement in Florida.
Battered in a hurricane, they were shipwrecked near St. Petersburg.
Natives misled, betrayed, and ambushed them.
One member of the expedition, Juan Ortiz, was captured and enslaved by the Tocobaga tribe, being rescued 12 years later by De Soto’s expedition.
His story was related in the Discovery and Conquest of Terra Florida by a Gentleman of Elvas (1557), translated into English by Richard Hakluyt-the younger (1611:
“This Christian’s name was John Ortiz, and he was born in Seville … He was twelve years in the hands of the Indians … He came … with … Narvaez … to Florida …
A great number of Indians, which compassed them about, and took them in a place where they could not flee; and the others … they presently killed …
They took John Ortiz alive, and carried him to Ucita their lord … Ucita commanded to bind John Ortiz hand and foot upon four stakes aloft upon a raft, and to make a fire under him, that there he might be burned.
But a daughter of his desired him that he would not put him to death, alleging … that it was more for his honor to keep him as a captive …
John Ortiz … notice … the damsel that had delivered him from the fire, how her father was determined to sacrifice him …
She went with him half a league out of the town by night, and set him in the way, and returned, because she would not be discovered.
John Ortiz travailed all the night, and by the morning came unto a river.”
The surviving 80 members of the Narváez expedition returned to the Tampa Bay coast.
They salvaged their wrecked vessel and fashioned it into two rafts, using deer skins for bellows to blow air into the fire, making it hot enough to forge metal nails.
They floated along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to the mouth of the Mississippi River, where they were suddenly swept out hundreds of miles.
Narváez was never found, and Cabeza de Vaca, with two dozen others, were shipwrecked near present day Galveston, where they were enslaved by natives.
Four found an opportunity to escape:
– Cabeza de Vaca,
– Andrés Dorantes de Carranza,
– Alonso del Castillo Maldonado, and
– Estevanico, or Esteban, who had been a Moroccan Berber slave.
They traveled through the areas of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and Coahuila.
Cabeza de Vaca preached the Gospel and prayed Christian prayers for sick natives to be healed, with reports of miraculous recoveries. Gaining a reputation as a “faith healer,” the Indians let him travel freely.
Cabeza de Vaca and his companions came down the coast of the Gulf of California to Sinaloa, then finally to Mexico City in 1536, eight years after the expedition began. Cabeza de Vaca sailed back to Spain.
He later returned to the New World in 1540, as governor of New Andalusia (Argentina), where he helped settle Buenas Aires.
The first African slaves brought to the English colony of Virginia came on a Dutch ship in 1619.
Over the next two centuries, the number of slaves tragically grew from “20 and odd” to an estimated 4 million by 1860.
A lesser known chapters of slaves brought to America occurred in the 1600s when King James I, followed by Charles I and Oliver Cromwell, sold over 500,000 Irish Catholics into slavery onto plantations in the West Indies, Antigua, Montserrat, Jamaica, Barbados, as well as Virginia and New England.
Additionally, many poor Europeans sold themselves as “indentured servants” — a temporary slavery — for seven years, in exchange for transportation to America.
From 1714-1756, thousands of oppressed Irish sold themselves as indentured slaves in return for passage, usually to Pennsylvania, hoping to take advantage of William Penn’s promise of toleration.
Historian Will Durant wrote in The Story of Civilization:
“The Irish scene was one of the most shameful in history.”
Indian tribes would sell captives from other tribes into slavery.
Sacagawea, a Lemhi Shoshone, was captured by the Hidatsa people and sold to the Frenchman Toussaint Charbonneau, who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their explorations.
York, an African slave of William Clark, was part of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery.
Some Native Americans owned African slaves. In 1842, there was an African slave revolt in Cherokee Territory.
After colonial conflicts with American Indians, some were sold into slavery in the West Indies.
Christian missionaries and movements, especially Quakers, Moravians, and Methodists, were a continual voice of conscience against slavery.
Jefferson pushed through legislation ending the importation of slaves into the United States, telling Congress, December 2, 1806:
“… to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interests of our country, have long been eager to proscribe.”
Haiti had several slave revolts against the French government.
Fear that Haitian slave revolts would spread was a compelling factor convincing Napoleon to sell the French Louisiana Territory to the United States.
Tragically, some slavery continues, with Reuters publishing an article, February 7, 2017: “Haiti hotel police exposes child sex trafficking.”
In 1820, a U.S. revenue cutter captured the slave ship Antelope off the coast of Florida with nearly 300 African slaves.
Francis Scott Key fought to free the slaves, spending seven years in an expensive legal battle which went all the way to the Supreme Court in 1825.
When Democrats wanted to expand slavery into this new Louisiana Territory, it resulted in “Bleeding Kansas.”
Prior to the Civil War, America was divided into 5 categories:
Radical Northern Republicans: whose attitude was slavery is wrong — end it now.
Moderate Republicans: whose attitude was that slavery is wrong but the country should transition out of it gradually over time.
Practical Neutral Voters: who cared little about the value of human life. They were more concerned about their pocketbook, jobs, wages, economy and tax-tariff issues.
Moderate Southern Democrats: whose attitude was slavery is wrong, but it was settled law and the nation should just live with it. People should have the choice whether or not to own a slave — just treat your slaves nice.
Extreme Southern Democrats: whose attitude was slavery is good and should be expanded into new Territories and States.
Slavery was ended in the United States after the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment.
Slavery began in Cuba earlier and lasted longer than most anywhere in the Americas.
A notorious trade triangle developed with Havana, Cuba, at its center: SLAVES from Africa to SUGAR from the Caribbean to RUM in England.
An international incident occurred in 1839 when a Portuguese ship from Sierra Leone transferred 53 slaves to the Cuban ship Amistad.
On July 1, 1839, the African slaves broke free of their shackles and seized control of the ship, demanding to be sailed back to Africa.
The captain misdirected the ship, sailing slowly east during the day, but quickly west at night, finally landing at Long Island, New York, where the slaves were arrested.
The Amistad case went to the Supreme Court.
74-year-old former President John Quincy Adams, known as “Old Man Eloquent,” defended the jailed Africans, writing:
“By the blessing of God, I will argue the case before the Supreme Court.”
This was portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 film Amistad, starring Morgan Freeman, Nigel Hawthorne, Anthony Hopkins, Djimon Hounsou, and Matthew McConaughey.
John Quincy Adams wrote in his journal, October 1840:
“I implore the mercy of God to control my temper, to enlighten my soul, and to give me utterance, that I may prove myself in every respect equal to the task.”
Francis Scott Key gave Adams legal advice to free the slaves.
Adams shook hands with Africans Cinque and Grabeau, saying: “God willing, we will make you free.”
Against all odds, John Quincy Adams won freedom for these Africans.
President James Buchanan wrote December 19, 1859:
“When a market for African slaves shall no longer be furnished in Cuba … Christianity and civilization may gradually penetrate the existing gloom.”
In 1868, a revolt began in Cuba by a farmer of Spanish descent crying out for racial equality, freedom of speech and freedom of association.
Spain put down the Cuban revolt in the Ten Years War, killing thousands.
A Spanish Royal decree finally ended slavery in Cuba in 1886.
In 1895, another rebellion began in Cuba and Spain sent 200,000 soldiers to put it down.
Thousands were put into concentration camps where they suffered from starvation, disease and exposure.
Yellow Press journalism excited the American public, who demanded President William McKinley intervene.
The U.S.S. Maine was sent to Havana, and on FEBRUARY 15, 1898, it blew up in the harbor under suspicious conditions, beginning the Spanish-American War.
President McKinley approved the Resolution of Congress:
“Whereas the abhorrent conditions which have existed for more than three years in the island of Cuba, so near our own borders, have shocked the moral sense of the people of the United States, have been a disgrace to Christian civilization,
culminating, as they have, in the destruction of a United States battle ship, with 266 of its officers and crew, while on a friendly visit in the harbor of Havana, and cannot longer be endured …
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives … that the people of the island of Cuba are and of right ought to be free.”
There are more slaves today than at any time in human history, reported Benjamin Skinner, a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
An estimated 27 million people in the world are forced to work, held through fraud, under threat of violence, for no pay beyond subsistence, in forced marriages, in sex-trafficking and prostitution.
Though mostly illegal, slavery, by its different names, exists today in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Southeast Asia, Romania, Sudan, Haiti, Brazil, Latin America, and even in the United States.
Those most loudly demanding reparations for past slavery are strangely silent regarding present-day slavery.
TIME Magazine reported January 18, 2010:
“Despite more than a dozen international conventions banning slavery in the past 150 years, there are more slaves today than at any point in human history.”
In arguing before the Supreme Court to free slaves of the Amistad ship, John Quincy Adams stated: “The moment you come to the Declaration of Independence, that every man has a right to life and liberty, an inalienable right, this case is decided. I ask nothing more in behalf of these unfortunate men than this Declaration.”