Was being a person of color during the New World slavery era one of the worst times & conditions to be alive throughout history?

Oct 2017
339
America ??
I’ve often encountered the popular topic of the worst times to be alive throughout history discussed in media as well as casually among people, the most common include being a Roman gladiator, living in the path of the Central Asian nomad invasions, the Black Death, other epidemics, World Wars & the Holocaust, all very good choices no doubt, but I surprisingly rarely if ever hear included in those lists slavery, particularly New World slavery, particularly being a person of color in, which I personally am inclined to think is one of the worst times as well as conditions to be in for various reasons.

For nearly half a millennium, when the West, & probably the rest of the world as well, was making progress through the scientific & industrial revolutions & enlightenment, there was an inverse degrading of people of colour in the West, & likely the Muslim world as well, the vast majority of whom were enslaved. Being enslaved is a very oppressive, limiting, dehumanizing & usually unpleasant experience & condition, as well as rife with its own dangers, from facing harsh & unforgiving working conditions, to facing severe punishment & abuse, to deprivation of nutrition & protection from elements, to dealing with oppression & drama from fellow slaves in concentration camp conditions, the list goes on & is very variable, but certainly means it has potential to be very dangerous & soul-crushing.

Free people of colour in the slave societies occupied an interesting niche which has been much explored & discussed, there is a general consensus that they largely formed their own communities & stuck together, but there is likewise a general consensus that they were constantly subject to prejudice, discrimination, oppression & inequality from the dominant whites as well as from each other, which meant that they rarely could attain high position jobs & were mostly limited to menial jobs, which meant that they couldn’t get very far in life, or at least in western society. Furthermore free people of color constantly faced the possibility of becoming enslaved by kidnapping & for punishment, as were Africans.

In Africa the slave trade had a huge impact, one of which was encouraged & increased raids & warfare, which meant that people & communities were constantly at risk of being attacked & enslaved, even some prominent slave traders found themselves enslaved & shipped to the Americas. Anyone was at risk of being kidnapped, & punishments often included slavery, with risk of eventually being sold to European & Arab traders, which one Africans were more likely to be sold to would be an interesting debate, but even the local slavery could be dangerous as is slavery anywhere, including the fact that human sacrifice was often part of the culture.

What do you think? Should being a person of colour during the American slavery era be included in the common lists of worst times & conditions to be alive throughout history?
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,807
On one of the high intensity production sugar islands of the Caribbean, in a situation where the owner has borrowed for investment, and needs to pay off the loans quickly, and new slaves are less expensive than the interests to pay – very possibly. Average survival was a couple of years.

Though being a mine slave in ancient Greece and Rome might well have been even worse.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist
Oct 2017
339
America ??
Another thing I forgot to mention is that what made it particularly dangerous being a person of color during the slavery era was that unlike elsewhere, your skin color itself was its own label or bar code, it’s own yellow star or badge of shame that you couldn’t get rid of & was very visible to anyone.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,972
Portugal
Another thing I forgot to mention is that what made it particularly dangerous being a person of color during the slavery era was that unlike elsewhere, your skin color itself was its own label or bar code, it’s own yellow star or badge of shame that you couldn’t get rid of & was very visible to anyone.
Probably worst that being of color was being of black color.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist
Oct 2017
339
America ??
Fighting against Mongols or the land you live is conquered by Mongols . İs there a worst thing than that ?
Few indeed, but you could still try to run away, hide or please the mongols, & weren’t they said to have been generous to many of their subjects?

What’s particularly dangerous about slavery is how oppressive, limiting as well as dehumanizing it is.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist
Oct 2017
339
America ??
Probably worst that being of color was being of black color.
Not to mention being female as well.

That was the extreme end of course, I’m sure skin color must have varied among slaves just as it does for colored workers today, I would imagine most would have been very dark skinned spending most of their lives outdoors. U.S slaves would probably have been the lightest skinned slaves geographically, unless they were from Africa. The equator runs along the northern part of South America, do you know whether there was slavery there? That must have been very intense if there was.
Those with lighter skin tones were viewed more favorably by whites, but even then the race system was very binary, either you were white or weren’t. That’s what distinguished New World slavery from any other.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,972
Portugal
Not to mention being female as well.

That was the extreme end of course, I’m sure skin color must have varied among slaves just as it does for colored workers today, I would imagine most would have been very dark skinned spending most of their lives outdoors. U.S slaves would probably have been the lightest skinned slaves geographically, unless they were from Africa. The equator runs along the northern part of South America, do you know whether there was slavery there? That must have been very intense if there was.
Those with lighter skin tones were viewed more favorably by whites, but even then the race system was very binary, either you were white or weren’t. That’s what distinguished New World slavery from any other.
That might be true for the USA, but not for other parts of America. For instance in Brazil there was a common saying that it was a hell for the black women, a purgatory for the white and a Paradise for the "mulatas". Similar reasonings could be made in the Spanish America. The race system was mostly binary in the USA and in the English colonies, not in the Portuguese and Spanish ones. This was already mentioned in this forum several times.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

janusdviveidis

Ad Honorem
Mar 2014
2,002
Lithuania
Mongols would kill entire tows with exception of skilled craftsmen. Being Jew during Nazi rule was pretty bad. Getting captured by Actek war party was no joke. Being slave in Rome was not pretty, how many of them were crucified after Spartak's uprising? Meeting Zulu for any another tribe was not particularly fun. What about being foot soldier during WWI?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,427
In the US, work in sugar and rice plantations was very dangerous. Slavery in the upper south was generally better than deep south cotton plantations.

Conditions and status for house slaves were better. They were often light skinned, and the female were often involved with their masters. Legally, they did not have a different status from black field slave, but they were treated differently.

There were a few slaves with better jobs, such as assistant overseers or drivers. There were some slaves who worked off the plantation as skilled workers or factory workers. Obviously, there masters got most of their pay, but it was generally much better than working in the fields.

Not sure if being a slave in the US upper south was that much worse or different from being a peasant or serf in Europe. Slaves were generally reasonably well fed, unlike peasants in famines in Ireland and China.

Being a white convict indentured servant on a southern plantation was worse than being a slave. The master had no financial interest in the indentured servant's health or survival and whites had more trouble with tropical diseases etc. However, the indentured servant was free after completing his sentence and could often obtain land to farm in the west.

Being a leased convict or a convict on a chain gang in the post Civil War south was generally much worse than being a slave. However, that might have been better than being a galley slave convict or a French convict in Devils Island.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist