David Brian and Winthrop D. Jordan: Varying Opinions on Racialized Slavery toward Africans

Topics: Slavery, Africa, Atlantic slave trade Pages: 3 (866 words) Published: April 11, 2013
There is no denying that slavery has existed since the beginning of time. References and drawings describing slavery have been traced all the way back to the biblical era. While many people associate the word slavery with the African race, history shows that multiple races and cultures have undergone such captivity. In “The Origins of Antiblack Racism in the New World” by David Brian Davis and “Unthinking Decision: Enslavement of Africans in America to 1700” by Winthrop D. Jordan, two historians express varying opinions on racialized slavery towards Africans. Their argument differs not only in time and location but also the underlining factor in which slavery became racialized.

The time period in which the authors believe racialized slavery began isn’t that far apart. Davis argues that this took place during the 1400s, while Jordan claims this took place between the 1640s and 1660s. Religion played a part in how the authors choose this timeframe. Due to biblical associations and the negative connotation with the word black, it wasn’t long before this ideology reached the head of the church. Davis believes it wasn’t until the 1400s when a succession of popes begin giving their blessing towards the enslavement of Africans. “It thus seems probable that most Europeans received their first subliminal impressions of so-called Negroes in a local church or cathedral” (Davis 59). Backing up their beliefs with biblical stories such as the “Curse of Haam”, it wasn’t long before the European nation was on board. (Davis 56) On the other side of the argument, Jordan believes it wasn’t until after the establishment of New World colonies that slavery became racialized. He states that the new settlers felt an overwhelming since of disorientation and isolation. Losing many passengers on the voyage to the New World, and then being thrust into a rugged uncivilized territory prompted quick and immediate solutions. Tudor statesmen began to harp on the importance of a labor system....

References: and drawings describing slavery have been traced all the way back to the biblical era. While many people associate the word slavery with the African race, history shows that multiple races and cultures have undergone such captivity. In “The Origins of Antiblack Racism in the New World” by David Brian Davis and “Unthinking Decision: Enslavement of Africans in America to 1700” by Winthrop D. Jordan, two historians express varying opinions on racialized slavery towards Africans. Their argument differs not only in time and location but also the underlining factor in which slavery became racialized.
The time period in which the authors believe racialized slavery began isn’t that far apart. Davis argues that this took place during the 1400s, while Jordan claims this took place between the 1640s and 1660s. Religion played a part in how the authors choose this timeframe. Due to biblical associations and the negative connotation with the word black, it wasn’t long before this ideology reached the head of the church. Davis believes it wasn’t until the 1400s when a succession of popes begin giving their blessing towards the enslavement of Africans. “It thus seems probable that most Europeans received their first subliminal impressions of so-called Negroes in a local church or cathedral” (Davis 59). Backing up their beliefs with biblical stories such as the “Curse of Haam”, it wasn’t long before the European nation was on board. (Davis 56)
On the other side of the argument, Jordan believes it wasn’t until after the establishment of New World colonies that slavery became racialized. He states that the new settlers felt an overwhelming since of disorientation and isolation. Losing many passengers on the voyage to the New World, and then being thrust into a rugged uncivilized territory prompted quick and immediate solutions. Tudor statesmen began to harp on the importance of a labor system. A system which would constitute the social norms for the New World. The answer seemed simple, find cheap labor. This labor would provide the work force behind the growth of colonies and more importantly the cash crop. Its no secret to historians that New World colonies flourished from agriculture. Jordan claims that by the year “1660 slavery crystallized on the statue books of Maryland, Virginia, and other colonies” (Jordan 26). The developing of a new community also created the subconscious need to distinguish the outsiders from the insiders. With the increasing number of Scottish and Irish servants the need to distinguish a “true Englishman” became inevitable.
Not only do the authors differentiate on when slavery became racialized, but also from whom this notion was adopted. The majority of Davis’ argument focuses on the Islamic world and its influence on the rest of the world. For a long time Europeans associated any person from the African region with their Islamic enemies. Africans were seen as barbaric foreigners, ones who needed to be taught and civilized. Davis states that Islam basically “invented Africa as a continent” (Davis 60). Muslim conquest extended geographical boundaries and produced the need for a massive flow of slaves from one area to the next. Davis accredits the Islamic World to developing the first slave trade by both caravan and sea. Medieval Arabs and Persians, while enslaving various different outside races, associated the most horrendous forms of labor with black slaves. This ideology, combined with the races highly distinct features slowly paved way to the black association with the term slavery. Over time the Arabic word for slave ‘abd’ came only to mean black enslavement. The constant interchange between the Muslim and European world slowly but surely merged together the racialized ideology that Africans were ‘natural born’ slaves. “By the fifteenth century, many Iberian Christians had internalized the racist attitudes of the Muslims and were applying them to the increasing flow of African slaves to their part of the world” (Davis 64).
Jordan on the other hand believes the primary group involved in racializing slavery was the Spanish and Portuguese. He claims that slavery has existed in Spain and Portugal since the beginning of time as a primary “function of the religious wars against the Moors.” It wasn’t until the mid 1500s that Englishmen developed the idea that profit could possibly arise from supplying the Spanish with Negroes. Explorer John Hawkins was the first, in 1560, to make the voyage. Hawkins made three voyages, two of which were successful, and proved to Europeans that Africans could indeed be treated as beneficial merchandise. The Spain and Portugal use of African slaves acted as an example towards the New World. While Davis argues that the Islamic World influenced and racialized slavery, conversely Jordan argues that it was the Spanish and Portuguese. (Jordan 34).
Differentiations in time and ethnic origin don’t overshadow that fact that both authors key point the fact that slavery took place on a national scale. Both historians agree that over time society needed a way to differentiate between those who were free, and those who were slaves. On top of that, religious references, negative symbolism, and the social outlook that Africans were child-like and inferior all contributed to the racialization.
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