A People’s History – Chapter 2, Drawing the Color Line part 4

Zinn Page 25:

Everything in the experience of the first white settlers [from Britain to the New World] acted as a pressure for the enslavement of blacks.

And it was natural to consider imported blacks as slaves, even if the institution of slavery would not be regularized and legalized for several decades. Because, by 1619, a million blacks had already been brought from Africa to South America and the Caribbean, to the Portuguese and Spanish colonies, to work as slaves.Fifty years before Columbus, the Portuguese took ten African blacks to Lisbon—this was the start of a regular trade in slaves. African blacks had been stamped as slave labor for a hundred years.

My initial reaction to this point by Zinn was scepticism at how the events unfolding in Spain and Portugal’s slice of the New World could be that influential on a few people from Britain settling the New World thousands of miles away.

Here is from my first notes on this part of Zinn’s book:

How would some shit happens thousands of miles away hundreds of years earlier have any direct relevance on English religious migrants in North America?

I could not have turned out more wrong. But not in the way one might expect. Indeed, the evolution of Spanish colonialism impacted the British explorers of the New World and their backers at home – private and government alike. Spain’s harsh treatment of Natives and Africans alike was turning Britons off to slavery!

Edmund S. Morgan shows how the group that backed the early Virginia settlements were opposed to Spain’s slave practices, not inspired by them:

The various reports of Drake’s activities in the Caribbean suggest that liberating victims of Spanish oppression was part of the plan. With Drake’s help, it seems, the vision of Hakluyt and Raleigh was beginning to materialize: England was bringing freedom to the New World. To be sure, it was coming as a means to an end; Drake and Raleigh were both interested in power, profit, and plunder. But freedom has frequently had to make its way in the world by serving as a means to an end, and it has often proved a powerful means.

When the first permanent English settlers arrived in America in 1607, their sponsors had not given up hope of an integrated biracial community, in which indigent Englishmen would work side by side with willing natives, under gentle English government.



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