Segments in this Video

Introduction: The Downward Spiral (00:60)


More people came to America from Africa before 1800 than from anywhere else, but most Africans came in chains.

Dutch West India Company and Slaves (05:22)

English settlers in Jamestown bought 20 Africans from Dutch traders in 1619. Five years later, the first enslaved Africans arrived in Dutch New Amsterdam. Slaves were referred to as Atlantic creoles.

Life for New Amsterdam Slaves (04:14)

The slaves had to clear land, construct roads, and unload ships. The law around slavery was ill defined in the 1620s, and they could earn wages, negotiate for greater autonomy and seek redress in court. The Dutch feared race mixing, and brought creole women into the colony in 1629.

Half Freedom (03:35)

The Dutch were dependent on slave labor and enlisted them to fight after relations with indigenous tribes deteriorated. The Dutch West India Company allowed some of the Africans to live on "free negro lots"; their children remained slaves, and they could be called back to work when needed.

Indentured Servitude (05:03)

Black and white indentured servants were essential to the profits of Virginia tobacco farmers. Three servants fled to Maryland in 1640 but were caught and put on trial. John Punch, the sole black defendant, received a harsher sentence—a turning point in the treatment of race in America.

Emanuel Driggus and Slave Children (06:11)

Driggus first appeared in the records of the eastern shore of Virginia in 1645 as the slave of Captain Francis Pott. The terms of his enslavement guaranteed his children would be freed, but two were sold. In 1662, Virginia law makers decreed, the status of the mother determined that of her children.

Frances Driggus Court Records (05:34)

Emanuel’s daughter, Frances appeared in court multiple times. She insisted the father of her child was John Brewer, the blacksmith she served. Driggus later sued Brewer for assigning her to another man and she was released from her contract.

Racial Slavery Becomes Law (03:59)

By the beginning of the 18th century, slavery had become a race-based institution, and that people were considered property. Carolina was the first to make slavery the foundation of economic production.

Expansion of Slave Trade (03:12)

Many Africans who were enslaved during the 17th and 18th centuries were warriors captured during combat; victors would sell the captives to Europeans. The expansion of slavery was essential to capitalism. Many slaves died while being transported to the colonies.

Human Cargo (03:14)

The English established a “pest house” on Sullivan’s Island where they quarantined slaves before auction. The enslaved maintained their dignity by drawing strength from their spirituality and culture. By the 1720s, they outnumbered whites by more than two to one in the Carolina low country.

Industrial Slavery (05:06)

In South Carolina, the more money white elites made, the more it was in their interest to set up a system for policing slaves. Punishment for running away ranged from whippings to branding and castration.

Resistance and Stono Rebellion (06:24)

Many slaves resisted captivity with barn burning, poisoning, and other sabotage. The Stono Rebellion erupted when a group of slaves killed plantation owners while in route to freedom in Spanish Florida. Many were gunned down or caught.

Credits: The Downward Spiral (00:45)

Credits: The Downward Spiral

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The Downward Spiral

Part of the Series : Slavery and the Making of America
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Black and white indentured servants were treated similarly in the 1620s. By the early 18th century, the expanding slave trade caused many colonies to adopt strict "black codes," transforming the social system into one of legal racial oppression.

Length: 55 minutes

Item#: BVL166806

Copyright date: ©2004

Closed Captioned

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