Virginia’s Slave Society is a document that covers the slave trade history that occurred in the 18th century. The document describes the early lives of the Africans who were brought to America purposefully for providing cheap labor for the masters. The Africans labeled slaves because all of them were brought into America without their consent. They worked tirelessly with no pay just a little food and water to give them energy for more duties. The document was authored by Hugh Jones in the year 1724. The author had the first-hand experience of how the American culture was changing during the slavery period. From the author’s insight, the document was meant to enlighten us on how the slaves became appealing to the Americans of such time. In 20 years between 1680 to 1700, the number of slaves in Virginia alone grew from 3000 to 13000. The numbers show how cultural exchange within the period shaped Virginia of today. Even the Indians were also caught in the slavery. Indian slavery was of critical importance to Anglo-Indian relations in Virginia (Rice, 171-172).
The document shows the emerging African small society within Virginia. The society of Africans began to speak English and slowly started forgetting their African cultures. A decrease in the African culture adoration by the enslaved Africans gave room for interactions between slave masters and the slaves. The arrival of Hugh Jones in Jamestown Virginia gave him the true reflection of the increasing population in Virginia. One of the observations he made was that of emerging large and small landowners, poor white laborers, and enslaved Africans. All of whom had a role to play in shaping the slavery history he documented many years ago.
The document was written by Hugh Jones at the time the world was experiencing some serious shift in way of life. The industrial revolution was taking shape which gave lots of opportunity to both business people who saw value in trading Africans and the industrialists who saw Africans as objects used in the industries and farms to make a profit. The observations in this document came at the correct time when slavery was a booming business for some unscrupulous business people in America. The slaves were taken from their comfort in Africa chained and auctioned in public slave markets like animals. Upon arrival to Virginia, the slaves were assigned overseers who ensured they completed the duties given to them diligently. The masters changed the culture slaves previously had before they were captured. Masters believed that the slaves did not know how to provide for themselves when free therefore slaves had to be monitored for them to be productive.
Even the children were not spared during the slave period as the master`s wife could take the children from slave women to take care of stock. The cultural shift came about among the Africans who were named ‘Negroe’ which was intended to demean the African slaves. In the event Negroe gave birth to a laborer of European descent, their child was called Mollatoe and the child of Negroe with Indian was called Mustees. The name was a well-planned scheme by the masters to deny the slaves any identity within Virginia. The language of Negroes was considered to be very harsh jargon and even their religion was discredited by the masters. Culturally the masters considered the Indians superior to the African slaves, Indian laborers were considered sharp and better humored. Negroes were seen to be lazy and had to be given strict working rules to perform duties.
Even though the slaves were necessary to the slave masters, it was wrong how they were treated. From being forced to change their way of life the slaves ended up with no known identity of their own but that of their master. Everything was for the master and any slave who would go against the set rules was given serious punishment to act as an example to the rest of the slaves. Even though, some of the slaves later learned how to do better duties like carpentry work it was still not enough to show among the slaves who were majorly deprived of their freedom. For the reasons covering the changes in the industrial revolution and the quick change in slave culture, the document gave the true picture. It may have been normal to the slave masters who were profiteers but the document exposed the inhuman treatment in the Virginia farms thereby giving slaves a platform for revolution and change of status quo.
When analyzing the document we see the argument is on the regular life of a slave in Virginia during those days. The document summarizes the beginning of slavery from the 1680s and the speedy growth of the slave population within a short time. It shows how desperate the wealthy class was to continue using other people to remain at the top. The business people behind the trade are also covered within the document, as the industrialist were building their fortunes from scratch through slavery the slave traders were also making profits in the sale of slaves. The document points out the mistreatment of slaves and presents the argument of a better way of doing without slavery. Even though the slave trade was rampant among Africans others such as Indians were also laborers in the plantations with very little pay but at least they were given little consideration over Negroes.
The argument in this document was represented in a way that it served as a wake-up call to the slaves and the masters too. Slave masters were pointed out for their wrongdoing because using slaves to enrich themselves while leaving the slaves very poor with no identity. The slaves on the other hand are given hopes in the document because considering the time when the document was written the only thing the slaves could get was the hope of their plight being put out to the world to see. During the time this document was written slavery was the culture in Virginia and any master who could pay for a slave was served with a slave of his or her choice. The document is therefore fully reflecting on the slavery culture was increasingly becoming popular in Virginia. It, therefore, depicts how the slave culture came to take root in Virginia and other parts of America.
Culturally the slaves were to be trained in the cultures of their masters which were considered superior to those of the slaves. The slave masters knew that the only easy way of breaking the slaves and making them follow rules was to introduce new cultures to them thereby the intentional labeling of Africans as Negroes was one form of achieving identity manipulation. The document has captured the root of slavery in Virginia but it is missing the slave rebellion which occurred during the documentation.
James D Rice. Anglo-Native Virginia: Trade, Conversion, and Indian Slavery in the Old Dominion, 1646-1722. Ethnohistory 65(1), (2018):171-172