Slavery was an atrocity that never should have happened. It’s a very dark stain on Americas past. Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths that persist about slavery. This article addresses the 7 most common myths I’ve come across.
1. America created slavery.
This is false. Slavery has existed since the beginning of documented history. It can be traced back to ancient Sumer about 9,000 years ago (6800 B.C.).
Here are other examples of places in the past that had high percentages of slavery:
Ancient Athens: Scholars estimate that somewhere between 15% to 35% of Athens’s population were slaves.
Ancient Rome: Between 10% to 20% of the Roman empire’s population were slaves.
Ancient Egypt: It is believed that during the Roman period, up to 10% of Egypt’s population were slaves.
Han dynasty China: From the years 206 BC–25 AD, 5% of the population was enslaved.
Malabar, India: In 1841, Malabar had a slave population of about 15%.
Zanzibar: In the 19th century, 65% to 90% of the population of Zanzibar was enslaved.
Crimea: Between 1475 and 1783, Approximately 75% of the population in Crimea was either slaves or former slaves.
2. Europeans physically kidnapped people from Africa and exported them to the New World.
This is not true. A majority of the slaves acquired from Africa were enslaved by other Africans. African rulers are largely responsible for supplying people for the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
According to historian John K. Thornton, slave traders from Europe commonly purchased enslaved people who were captured in warfare between African states.
In 1788, an eyewitness account of the slave trade, by Dr. Alexander Falconbridge, confirmed that Africans were enslaved by other Africans.
Disclaimer: The following is an excerpt of the testimony by Falconbridge. His testimony is very valuable for learning about the atrocities that were committed against slaves in the past. However, the language he uses would be very inappropriate today. His beliefs are his own.
Falconbridge said, “There is great reason to believe, that most of the Negroes shipped off from the coast of Africa, are kidnapped. But the extreme care taken by the black traders to prevent the Europeans from gaining any intelligence of their modes of proceeding; the great distance inland from whence the Negroes are brought; and our ignorance of their language (with which, very frequently, the black traders themselves are equally unacquainted), prevent our obtaining such information on this head as we could wish…
During my stay on the coast of Africa, I was an eye-witness of the following transaction: a black trader invited a Negro, who resided a little way up the country, to come and see him. After the entertainment was over, the trader proposed to his guest, to treat him with a sight of one of the ships lying in the river. The unsuspicious countryman readily consented, and accompanied the trader in a canoe to the side of the ship, which he viewed with pleasure and astonishment. While he was thus employed, some black traders on board, who appeared to be in the secret, leaped into the canoe, seized the unfortunate man, and dragging him into the ship, immediately sold him…
When the Negroes, whom the black traders have to dispose of, are shown to the European purchasers, they first examine them relative to their age. They then minutely inspect their persons, and inquire into the state of their health, if they are afflicted with any infirmity, or are deformed, or have bad eyes or teeth; if they are lame, or weak in their joints, or distorted in the back, or of a slender make, or are narrow in the chest; in short, if they have been, or are afflicted in any manner, so as to render them incapable of much labor; if any of the foregoing defects are discovered in them, they are rejected. But if approved of, they are generally taken on board the ship the same evening. The purchaser has liberty to return on the following morning, but not afterwards, such as upon re-examination are found exceptionable.
The traders frequently beat those Negroes which are objected to by the captains, and use them with great severity. It matters not whether they are refused on account of age, illness, deformity, or for any other reason.
At New Calabar, in particular . . . the traders, when any of their Negroes have been objected to, have dropped their canoes under the stern of the vessel, and instantly beheaded them, in sight of the captain. As soon as the wretched Africans, purchased at the fairs, fall into the hands of the black traders, they experience an earnest of those dreadful sufferings which they are doomed in future to undergo.”
3. Most slaves were brought to the United States.
This is false. Less than 4% of slaves were brought to the United States. According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson, out of the 10.7 million slaves that survived the passage to the New World, only 388,000 were shipped to North America. The vast majority of slaves were brought to South America and the Caribbean. For example, 4.86 million out of the 10.7 million slaves were brought to Brazil. The vast majority of slaves (90%) were brought to 5 countries; the Netherlands, France, Britain, Brazil, and Portugal.
For comparison, according to research from Robert Davis, professor of history at Ohio State University, between the 1,600s and the 1,900s, over 1.25 million white Europeans were bought and sold in North African slave markets. This was known as the Barbary slave trade.
According to the African-American economist Thomas Sowell, “More whites were brought as slaves to North Africa than blacks brought as slaves to the United States or the 13 colonies from which it was formed.”
4. Republicans supported slavery.
The opposite is true. Republicans were against slavery, while Democrats supported it.
Almost all of the slaveholders were Democrats, all of the Confederate States voted Democrat, all of the pro-slavery legislation was pushed by Democrats, and all of the most prominent Confederate figures were Democrats.
Democrats were the party of slavery.
(Read my full article “Democrats Were the Party of Slavery” for more information)
5. The reason Black Americans today are more likely to be impoverished is because of slavery.
This is very unlikely. There doesn’t seem to be any connection between former slave states and current economic outcomes for black Americans.
According to the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, 7 out of the 10 cities where Black Americans fared the best economically were located in Virginia, Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. All of those states were formally Confederate States that supported slavery. The study compared the percentage of business owners, bachelor’s degree holders, labor force participation rate, homeownership rates, and household income for blacks in 129 cities.
The Top 10 States
1. Virginia Beach, VA
1. Grand Prairie, TX (tie)
3. Aurora, IL (tie)
3. Pembroke Pines, FL (tie)
5. Miramar, FL
6. Charlotte, NC
7. Garland, TX
8. Durham, NC
9. Enterprise, NV
10. Elk Grove, CA
6. Slavery is rooted in capitalism.
As I explained in my article “Critical Race Theory Is Divisive and Racist“, the idea of capitalism being in some way connected to slavery is ridiculous.
Racism has been around since the beginning of written history, while capitalism has only existed since the 16th century. Shortly after the implementation of capitalism in the Western world, slavery was eliminated, despite slavery existing for thousands of years. I’m not saying capitalism is responsible for the elimination of slavery; but property rights, economic growth, and voluntary transactions contributed.
According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, the top 10 Countries with the highest rate of modern slavery were North Korea, Eritrea, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Mauritania, South Sudan, Pakistan, Cambodia, and Iran. All of these countries also have extremely low levels of capitalism. According to the 2022 Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation; North Korea, Eritrea, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Pakistan, and Iran are on the list of countries with the least capitalism/economic freedom in the world. Mauritania and Cambodia had mostly low levels of capitalism/economic freedom. Afghanistan wasn’t ranked in 2022, but in 2021 it was listed as having mostly low levels of capitalism/economic freedom.
North Korea (repressed)
Central African Republic (repressed)
Afghanistan (mostly unfree)
Mauritania (mostly unfree)
Cambodia (mostly unfree)
Countries that have removed or limited capitalism have significantly more slavery than countries with capitalism. This data contradicts the arguments CRT advocates make.
7. The Constitution was pro-slavery.
This is false. Those who say that the Constitution is pro-slavery claim that there are four clauses contained in the Constitution that support slavery.
Frederick Douglass refutes every one of those claims. (Read below for more information).
Frederick Douglass concluded, that if it’s “interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a glorious liberty document.”
Abraham Lincoln also argued that the Constitution led to laws and regulations that directly put an end to slavery practices.
What I find interesting is that today, many Democrats claim that the Constitution is a pro-slavery document. The evidence they use is the very same arguments that pro-slavery Democrats, like Stephen A. Douglas, made in the past. Democrats, today, completely ignore the arguments that anti-slavery Republicans like Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass made.
(Read my full article “The Constitution Supported Slavery Myth” for more information)
Countries that still have slavery 2022. World Population Review. (2022). Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/countries-that-still-have-slavery
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Ralph A. Austen (1988) The 19th Century Islamic Slave Trade from East Africa (Swahili and Red Sea Coasts): A Tentative Census, Slavery & Abolition, 9:3, 21-44, DOI: 10.1080/01440398808574960
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Gates, H. L. (2014, January 6). How many Africans were really taken to the U.S during the slave trade? America’s Black Holocaust Museum. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from https://www.abhmuseum.org/how-many-africans-were-really-taken-to-the-u-s-during-the-slave-trade/
Lindsay, T. (2019, August 30). ‘After all, didn’t America invent slavery?’. Forbes. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomlindsay/2019/08/30/after-all-didnt-america-invent-slavery/?sh=4183499f7ef6
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The Atlantic Slave Trade. (2015, August 25). Retrieved October 26, 2022, from https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/history-of-slavery/the-atlantic-slave-trade/#:~:text=According%20to%20John%20K.,war%20captives%20and%20selling%20them.
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