Ronald Takakati, born in 1939, perched himself as one of the best historians and scholar of Ethnic Studies dispelling all the myths surrounding the Asian American minorities. By pondering into the slave trade and ethnic diversity that predominated the American culture in 16th and 17th century, he went onto raise the question of the society’s future and answered the questions; how and why scenario in America has become ethnically and racially diverse?
The history of slavery goes as far back in the civilizations of Sumer and was found in Ancient Egypt, the Akkadian Empire, Assyria, Greece, Rome, parts of the Roman Empire and the Islamic Caliphat. But in Virginia slavery entered in the 16th century, yet there are several arguments regarding the exact preoccupation of slavery in Virginia. In his Different Mirror, Ronald Takakati made the readers delve into the history of slavery in America by bringing out the fact that although the slave codes were not enacted in Virginia until the 1660`s, a form of `de facto` slavery already existed there?
The first forced migration of African laborers to America occurred in 1616 when Africans entered into the land of Jamestown by the Dutch slave trader who exchanged his cargo of Africans for food. Slowly and slowly slavery spread to all the parts of America due to the increase in plantations, but the slavery code was enacted in Virgina in 1660 and much after the Bacon’s rebellion in 1676, which resulted in the white’s solidarity and fanned racism against the Indians which led slavery to become an obsessed order of the day among the planters Takaki discusses that the racial inferiority and slave codes were empirically prevalent before the North America was colonized.
The accounts from the English travel documents in the 16th century reveal the amount of racial discrimination and prejudice that marked the African slavery. The English travelers termed Africans as apes, and disparaged their social practice of unbridled sexuality and unchristian behavior. Even Jordan argued that African residents of Virginia were always considered as distinct and inferior group. Still even more than half a century after the colonies were established, slavery did not attain that dominant position, as both white and black laborers in the plantations were indentured servants. These Indentured servants were young white men basically English Irish who were supposed to work for a planter master for fixed term. They get room to but no pay and were not allowed to leave work for another planter. And were forced to serve the full term, after which they could acquire some land for themselves. These Indentured laborers were brought to Virgina as farm laborers, and their importance of slavery can been seen by the fact that in 1618, the colony gave incentives when they offer a headright, a grant of 50 acres per servant, and an incentive to planters to import more servants from England. The reason behind the indentured laborers goes to Tobacco farmers who hold the view that tobacco farming did not remain a profitable venture for planters, as they could not afford to attend 1670 case. The second reason is due to the non-prevention of alliance between the poor and white slaves and superior position of whites in the social hierarchy.
The indented servants were brought to Virgina as Farm laborers and it was the rule that practically every servant before leaving the British Isles cannot return the contract, but around 75 per cent of the population came under indenture.
Many of the Virginia slaves were imported from the Caribbean islands. As acting governor of Virgina said in 1680, that Negroes were brought to Virginia were imported generally from Barbados as very rare Negro ship use to come to Virginia directly from Africa. When the civil war was over many of the Southern plantation owners tried to change African American laborers with Chinese
According to some historians, the plant owners of the tobacco farming did not add for any additional cost of slaves until 1670’s. The laws of Virgina legislature, which was designed to contact slaves and poor whites, laid more emphasis on the superior position of whites in the social hierarchy. In this whole the exploited lot were Africans because they were already discriminated along cultural differences. This incident allowed the landowners to keep Africans slaves and render them powerless. Africans began to regarded as threat to their arms and assembly because of the different culture and appearance, subsequently Slavery enabled planters to develop a disfranchisement” This led the landowners to enslave Africans and render them powerless. The gentry took an advantage of already existing cultural disparities to prevent a class conflict.
In the colonies the indigenous population were invited to labor. But the Indians refused to be become servants to the English. They resisted being forced to work, and they escaped into the surrounding area, which, after all, they knew far better. The conquerors could not quit neither work in plantation. Although they could not give surprise, there were prisoners, convicted of petty crimes in Britain, or convicted of being troublemakers in Britain’s first colony, Ireland. Many were kidnapped on the streets of Liverpool or Manchester and put on ships to the New World. Some voluntarily became servants, hoping to start farms after they fulfilled their obligations to their masters. There is another problem with Indented servants because planters did not like, the servants’ insolence.
Although Takakti argued that in the 17th century there were very few laws, which defined slavery the people could earn or save enough money to purchase own freedom. On the one hand indentured servants worked under temporary conditions, the life expectancy of slaves were very low.
It is a matter of debate among the historians that whether the racism that is ensued among the blacks came before the date when legal system was adopted in support of the life time slavery in Virgina or it is the trend of slavery that led to the start of the racists attitudes against the blacks. But it is historically true that in earlier colonial days, Blacks were not considered as direct slaves. Many of them owned property, led a married life and raise families and were not bonded in the salvage of slavery laws. In the year 1660 only, government formed a law, which designate services according to color. Every year between the years 1667 to 1672, the General Assembly used to define the status on any Virginian based on color. These laws continued all through the 1680, 1682 and 1686, but as and as in the final decade of the seventeenth century and it seemed to be emergent as the most important characteristic in the eighteenth century.
The slave trade was rampant all over the British colonies for 200 years, until the year 1808, when under Article 1, Section 9 of the US Constitution it was totally abolished. There were around 300 “Africans” living in Virginia, which came to around 1% of an estimated 30,000 population. These were not slaves and many of them got their freedom but each were granted 50 acres of land when freed from their indentures. Soon the slaves began to be more preferred, and could be punished in any way and with any weapon. These slaves never have right to food and shelter and were forced to work until their death.
The Sugar planters kept on bringing more and more slaves even though they were too costly and they were forced to work until death, while indentured servants could quit when they chose to. By the year 1661, Barbados framed the first slave code in all his Caribbean colonies which gave slaves more respectable treatment and made it mandatory for the slave owners to provide clothing for their slaves, but this new slave code removed all of the slaves’ legal rights protected under English Common Law and slave owners attain an absolute control over the slaves. Masters got all rights to abuse, assault and even kill their slaves.
Immediately after the Bacon’s Rebellion, the realization dawned on the plantation class that there would be danger if we depend on a white laboring class who owned the right and freedom to assemble and keep arms, therefore the owners of plantations made the decision to keep enslaved African labor rather than white indentured servants. These African slaves did not have any right to assemble or keep any arms. By 1740, the black population in Virginia rose from 5 to 40 percent. This was the time when slavery became an institution.
These Black African laborers were thought to be more valuable in the fields than white indentured servants. This is because Africans were able to adopt themselves to the hot arid climate and could work in a more efficient way than indentured servants and another reason was that these slaves could be made laborers for whole life but indentured servants could be made to work as laborers only for few years in order to gain their freedom and thirdly because the future generations of slaves were also automatically bounded to the same owner. This was the reason that the slaves were considered as most expensive than other type of laborer. This socio and cultural fabric that marked the slavery led to the emergence of different ethnic groups who have made their contribution felt in building the new American Economy which even Walt Whitman said, “a vast, surging, hopeful army of workers.”
Initially the reason for the origin of slave trade was more of economic but not racial; it was more because of the cheaper rates of the labor rather than color of the laborer. But later after 1660 it took the turn of racism, which Ronald Takaki explored with great depth. He says that race had always been inscribed in the social fabric which had been historically segregated the racial minorities from European immigrant groups and went to reflect in the book the multicultural, multiracial, and multiethnic character of American culture.