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The Many Faces of Slavery

July 2nd, 2009 Comments off

slavauctionWhen Americans think about slavery, they usually envision African tribes being captured in droves by white European men and transported by the hundreds in the holds of small wooden ships.  They envision rows and rows of black men standing in fields of cotton being whipped by white men.  They picture “Mammy” and all she represents.

But slavery goes back much farther than that.

Did you know that the term “slave” was coined in tenth century AD by the Germans?  They were enslaving so many “Slavs” that the name became the term they used for any captive servants.

Slaves have been obtained by many different cultures in many different ways.  Sometimes they were prisoners of war, debtors, criminals.  In some cultures, parents who found themselves in desperate situations would sell their children into slavery.  Pirates would capture and enslave men, women and children of ships and towns they pillaged.  One of the most popular methods in history seems to be capturing your enemy or competitor and forcing them into slavery, thus protecting yourself or your investment.

The first known slaves were the wardu of eighteenth century BC Babylon.  But in Babylon, slavery was more a legal status than what we often envision it to be.  Slaves of the Babylonian era occasionally owned property.  They often engaged in business, borrowed money and bought their freedom. They were allowed to marry free people and have children, which freed them.  And for the most part, their masters treated them well provided they kept in line. Read more…

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