Pictured above is Harriett Tubman, with several slaves that she led to freedom. These slaves had various jobs on the plantation that their master’s owned, including working in the field to harvest cash crops like tobacco and cotton and working in “the big house” to serve their master and his family. Enslaving people of African descent was the foundation that helped to build our American world economy. (Courtesy Photo)

By Carl Thomas
Special to the AFRO

America… Land of the Free (labor). At its inception, America represented an exceptional opportunity to experiment on various nouns (people, places and things) without the direct threat of said experiment backfiring and permanently injuring the nations in power.

Slavery has existed for as long as man, with one of the earliest recorded instances coming in Mesopotamia, 3500 BC. Still, the Transatlantic Slave Trade is widely regarded as the most inhumane and brutal format of captivity known to man. It is likewise the most profitable.

The notion that America would ever grow to become as powerful as Spain, France, or even the mighty United Kingdom was as far-fetched as the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet, here we are. Superpowers. Aligned merely in the oppression of its Brown inhabitants and the profits generated therein.

Prior to the arrival of the first slave in North America, much of the European power hierarchy was already solidified. From an international perspective, the European superpowers controlled the resources. They had already found plenty of ways to exploit lesser countries for their own gains. Slavery did not create superpowers, it solidified them. What slavery did do, was grant European investors the opportunity to expand the reach and jurisdiction of a specific country via its colonial partnerships, which were contingent upon the not only the free labor they were receiving, but also the revenue being generated by the sale of items produced by slaves.

One can make an argument that the creation of the United States, gave the European superpowers unlimited access to revenue generating opportunities. We need look no further than one of our most popular providers of gasoline- BP- also known as British Petroleum, which started shortly after discovering oil in Persia. The British Crown still leases land (it has conquered) and offshore coast lines to BP all over the world.

The greatest direct contribution from slavery to the world economy comes in the form of one mega product: cotton. During slavery in the United States, slave-grown cotton provided over half of all U.S. export earnings. Before the Revolutionary War, cotton, as well as the proceeds associated with it, went to Great Britain. As the United States carved out its own identity, it continued to provide cotton to European nations. By 1840, the South grew 60% of the world’s cotton and provided some 70% of the cotton consumed by the British textile industry.

As the north and south regions of the U.S. moved in two competing directions and ideologies, they still maintained a cooperative and collaborative relationship. Often they had specializations, which aided the other in the facilitation or distribution of slave grown products. In the south, there was an emphasis on production and growth, like cotton. In the north, they had developed a litany of business that provided services to and for southern slavers. Those entities, such as meat processing plants, textile factories, insurance companies, shippers, and cotton brokers, still maintain very impressive business models (and profits), which rest primarily upon their ability to use old slave money without being seen as actual benefactors.

These businesses and industries have thrived for hundreds of years on the backs of slaves and have provided the products and goods by which the rest of the world survives. There continues to be an interdependence between the footing of these nations and the backs of brown people all over the world. It’s time we start recognizing it as such.

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