Slavery in America

Over one-hundred and fifty years after the Thirteenth Amendment[1] abolished involuntary slavery and servitude in America; slavery is still a very sensitive subject, especially for “African” Americans. Much of this apprehension has its origins in an historical view that Africans and their descendants are somehow less civilized, less intelligent or preposterously less “evolved” from assumed animal ancestors than their white counterparts. Yet, instead of looks of derision or treatment as second class citizens, all Americans owe the men and women who were enslaved in America and their descendants  a debt of gratitude equal to the gratitude bestowed upon patriots who fought to secede from England in America’s war for independence.

The grounds for this apparent paradigm shift is that had it not been for Protestant pirates who captured African Bantu slaves from a Spanish gallon on July 15, 1619 and brought them to Jamestown to be sold, [2] American colonies would never have developed into what they eventually became; thirteen separate and sovereign independent States of America.

This story traces itself back to James I of England who was not only a Spanish sympathizer but a debt ridden monarch. When the account of the stolen African slaves reached his attention, he used it as an excuse to nullify his charter to the Virginia Company and take over the lucrative Jamestown tobacco plantations for his own profit. In so doing, he unleashed a chain of events that ultimately divested the English crown of their American colonies.

In 1620, a ship full of English separatists, known as pilgrims, were setting sail for North America to settle under the Virginia Company charter, but due to the Jamestown slave incident, they were allowed to settle in Cape Cod on their own accord, opening the way for Puritans to charter the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1630, which established the colony of Massachusetts.

The dissolution of the Virginia Company opened the door for many other charters such as Maryland by Lord Baltimore in 1634, Connecticut by Thomas Hooker and Rhode Island by Roger Williams in 1636, North and South Carolina by a group of investors in 1653 and 1670 respectively, Pennsylvania by William Penn in 1682 and Georgia by James Oglethorpe in 1733.

Had the Virginia Company charter not been nullified, none of these separate and individual colonies would have been founded. Additionally, had America remained under one central government they would have been much easier to control, thereby preventing any attempt at independence.

Descendants of Africans who suffered the humiliation of slavery need not feel ashamed of their origins as it is very likely nearly every person living today may have descended from a person who was a slave, because slavery is an institution that has been a part of society in every century throughout recorded history regardless of skin color.

Everyone must understand and acknowledge, the first African slaves in America went on to gain their emancipation[3], own African slaves of their own[4] and some of their descendants even fought for American independence.[5]

Many free black African descendants moved out of the Virginia colony for various and sundry reasons. Some of the descendants of the first African slaves moved farther and farther west and eventually established the American cattle culture. The Bantu slaves came from an African cattle society and transplanted their cattle husbandry skills in America.

Many words used by modern American cowboys have their origins in the Bantu language. Words such as “buckaroo” which is a derivative of the Bantu word “buckras” describing whites or “doggie” which comes from the Bantu word “dogi” meaning small calf or “corral” which comes from the Bantu word “kraal” meaning a cattle enclosure.

Contributions to America by African Americans throughout our nation’s history have been numerous and significant, but that being said there should not be any distinction between the achievements and contributions of people with different skin colors, because in spite of our differences, we are all Americans. Not African Americans, European Americans or Native Americans, just Americans.

Being an American is not a birthright or something that government should arbitrarily bestow. Being an American is a way of thinking modeled upon America’s defining culture; the founding one. This method of thinking is embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the original intent of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights and it is rooted in the Reformed Theological Worldview upon which these founding documents are based.[6]

Each of us, no matter what our skin color or immigration method, should determine how well we, individually, stand up to this test by comparing our understanding of the world with those of the founding culture. This is the only true measure of being an American; everything else is either a cheap imitation or an altogether false claim.

Contrary to modern historical revisionists, the founding culture and founding fathers were not all a bunch of white European slave owners and their ideas on government were, for the most part, completely right. While there were and still are issues American society has to work on to bring its collective thinking more in line with God’s incarnate word, this does not mean we must throw out everything for which our founding culture stood.

When considering these things, we must all keep in mind our founding culture consisted of some black African slave owners mixed in with a larger majority of white non-slave owners. We must also keep in mind; the majority of the founding fathers were opposed to the institution of slavery, including ones that owned slaves themselves.

Slavery in America, as evil an institution it may have been, served its purpose of placing people from the African continent in America where they were better introduced to the word of God. “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”[7]

Had slavery in America never existed, America most likely would never have existed as a nation of independent States and we certainly would not have many of the wonderful God fearing people whose ethnic group now makes up approximately thirteen percent of our population. For these reasons, all Americans owe African descendants a debt of gratitude just as we owe descendants of patriots our appreciation. It is long past time all of us, white, black or other, start treating each other with respect and love under the rule of law every human owes another as individual image bearers of God.

[1] The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865.

[2] Tim Hashaw, The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown (New York, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2007), 1.

[3] Hashaw, 168.

[4] Hashaw, 195.

[5] Hashaw, 185.

[6] American Founding Principles, Freedom in America: The Unifying Idea, June 17, 2013.

[7] Romans 8:28 (NASB)


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