How Some Black Slaves were able to free themselves in Colonial America Essay

The history of Blacks under the yoke of slavery is not a kind one. Colonial (A) Latin America was the first and perhaps the worst perpetratorin the crime of slavery. Brought from across the sea to work without wagesand to suffer horrible treatment the African element of Latin Americansociety lived a life of extreme diadvantage. Eventually the restrictionsplaced upon Blacks and the measure of prejudice against them lessened inseverity. These changes in views and attitudes came slowly but surely whenthe Blacks and Spanish whites lived and worked in close proximity with oneanother.

Despite the wishes of the Crown the people of White and Blackmixed together commonly ( prof switched “mixed together” and “commonly”. It was in the urban environment that this intermingling of peoples wasbound to happen and where Blacks enjoyed the most opportunities forfreedom. Black slaves in colonial Latin America suffered under extremeprejudice and institutionalized inequality. Transplanted from theirhomeland and lacking a common culture or language, Black slaves wereforcibly integrated into an oppressive Spanish Colonial society andeconomy.

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However, certain environments for Black slaves were lessoppressive than others. The urban landscape afforded Black with someopportunity to better their position i the Americas. Close contact withthe Spanish commoner and the enormous physical presence of Blacks, free andslave, gave many Black Americans the chance to rise out of bondage intoself determination. Lima, Peru was a prime example of this dynamic. Here Black slavelabor was in even higher demand than was usual for most of Latin Americadue to the extremely high mortality rate of the Indian populations uponcontact with Euorpean and Afican disease.

The Indians that survived werereluctant to leave the village after the extreme decline in population andthe widespread abuse of the mita system. As a result, Black labor was inmore demand than it ever was and especially in the urban centres. BecauseLima was located in a mineral rich coastal area (B) the potential foreconomic development was immense if enough labor could be found. Lima developed one of the largest populations in the New World withover half of its inhabitants from the Black or Mulatto caste. The economyof Peru was administered and much of its business and trades were performedin the capital city of Lima.

Lima was a busy coastal seaport that linkedwith Pacific trade routes, processed precious metals, defended the highseas against Dutch and Portuguese invasion, housed the administration ofthe colony, enjoyed a construction boom and all of the other economicamenities associated with a growing metropolis. The needy state of the labor market in Lima provided Black slaveswith opportunities to learn skilled trades through apprenticeships andexperience. With labor in such high demand, slaveowners were more willingto provide their slaves with incentives to work and to learn skillestrades.

Better wages, options to buy freedom through a percentage of theirwages. The prospect of eventual freedom and equal wages strenghthenedblack economic independence and social status. “…Slaves and freemen in urban areas gained access to most manual trades,despite discriminatory laws…These positions in the urban economy gaveslaves opportunities to earn and accumulate money, which led to manumissionand the growth of a free black community. ” The use of Black labor, free or slave, was widespread throughoutthe colony but especially so in the urban areas.

Crown corporations madeuse of Black skilled and unskilled slave labor. The Church also saw thebenefits of using black labor in for skill required functions. Slaves were desperately needed to perform labor in nearly every aspect of Lima’seconomy except the most exclusive. Despite the fact that the presence ofBlacks in great quantities was necessary and welcomed by business theSpanish elite of the society remained apprehensive. The colonialgovernment were well aware of the possible problems that a large Blackpopulation in the city would have on their racial caste society.

Laws werepassed that were intended to segregate the races and prevent race mixing. These laws could not control the tide of popular reality which was that theraces were already mixing and that the urban labor of Black people wasnecessary for the economy. Another characteristic of Peruvian slave labor was the existence inevery region and every craft of free black and mulatto workers employedalongside slaves. For the Black slave to know and come in regular contactwith Blacks who had freed themselves from enslavement must have beeninspirational for them.

The existence of these role model for liberty musthave spurred an even greater resolve among Blacks to eventually secure ameasure of self-determination. Race mixture contributed greatly to the number of free coloredpeople. When the number of mixed race people escalated the strictimpositions of teh state soon became difficult to uphold. The mixture ofAfrican and Native was impossible to prevent despite the wishes of thecrown. Relations between white Spaniards, usually men, and blackmistresses were commonplace in the early colonial period.

The resultingoffspring were in a state of legal ambiguity in the context of the slavecaste system. This was quite significant because they were a growingpercentage of the urban population. “In their eyes and in the view of society at large race mixture producedtypes who combined the worst defects and vices of both parents. So strongwas the prejudice that this view tended to become a self-fulfillingprophecy. ” Despite this viewpoint urban slaves and colored people of mixedparentage were becoming more important to the society as a whole and morereadily acceptable to the white population.

The seeming generosity of somemasters allowed black artisans to apply a portion of wages towards freedom. Slaveowners would lease out their slaves to certain businesses for profit. “Complex web of direct ownership, rentals, and self-employment made theslaves an extremely mobile and adjustable labor force. ” While being of great benefit to business the increased numbers ofmestizos was testament to the fact that the Black population was alsoaccepted by a great number of Spanish peoples. Color was graduallybecoming less important in defining social status.

The adherence toEuropean or Spanish culture and tradition was now becoming the yardstickfor social acceptance. Because a majority of the urban Black slaves wereemployed domestically a familiarity with Spanish culture already existedamong many Blacks. Despite the successes that some Urban Blacks could achieve, themajority of the Black population, both urban and rural, suffered throughoutLatin America. The Urban environment was not a haven for Black people butat least it allowed for some of the Black population to become more thanjust slaves.

The reality of the demographics and needs of businessdemanded the presence of Blacks in the urban landscape. The presence oflarge numbers of Blacks working and living in close proximity to theSpanish commoner and the Spanish elite ran in direct conflict with thestate position on racial intermixing and racial prejudice. The position ofthe State was frequently ignored by the general populace in the face of thephysical reality. Slave ownership in Peru would become a model for all Spanish andmost of Portuguese America as well. The same pattern of Black urbanizationand social mixing was eventually experienced throughout Latin America.