The development of the Old West cannot be fully understood without the inclusion of slavery as an important issue before the Nation. Slavery was very much alive as the Old West was taking root. This pre-Civil War Period was crucial to the development of the States, which were being carved out in the Old West.~Source: Professor Melvin Sylvester


    The first Africans in America arrived as Indentured Servants via Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. From 1619 to about 1640, Africans could earn their freedom working as laborers and artisans for the European settlers. Africans could become free people and enjoy some of the liberties like other new settlers. By 1640, Maryland became the first colony to institutionalize slavery. In 1641, Massachusetts, in its written legislative Body of Liberties. stated that "bondage was legal" servitude, at that moment changing the conditions of the African workers - they became chattel slaves who could be bought and solely owned by their masters.

    The rising demand for sugar, coffee, cotton, and tobacco created a greater demand for slaves by other slave trading countries. Spain, France, the Dutch, and English were in competition for the cheap labor needed to work their colonial plantation system producing those lucrative goods. The slave trade was so profitable that, by 1672, the Royal African Company chartered by Charles II of England superseded the other traders and became the richest shipper of human slaves to the mainland of the Americas. The slaves were so valuable to the open market - they were eventually called "Black Gold."

    Many Europeans came to America to exercise their God fearing beliefs and to practice religious freedom. Slavery, on the other hand, was a form of persecution which, in the eyes of colonial America, had to be justified. Therefore, the black slave became an easily identifiable group targeted as being inferior, subhuman, and destined for servitude. The early Christian churches did not take up the cause of eliminating slavery until much later in the century. The famous Boston theologian, Cotton Mather,  in 1693 included in his Rules for the Society of the Negroes the explanation that "Negroes were enslaved because they had sinned against God." He later included a heavenly plan that "God would prepare a mansion in Heaven," but little or no way for the end of forced slavery on earth was undertaken by most religious groups.

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