Summary Objective 1

Students will recognize that slavery existed around the world prior to the European settlement of North America. Maps to Key Concept 1


What else should my students know? 

1.A Before the 15th century, most enslaved people were not Africans. Even the plantation system itself did not begin with African labor: Until the 1450s, European sugar planters in the Mediterranean imported enslaved laborers from parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

1.B Slavery was widespread in larger African kingdoms (the Kongo and Asante, for example). It was quite limited in smaller societies in regions like the Upper Guinea Coast. 

1.C In many African societies, people became enslaved when they were captured during war. The status of enslaved people changed as they learned the customs and integrated into their captors’ community. Slavery was not always intergenerational; the children of enslaved parents were not necessarily enslaved. 

1.D Slavery was a part of some Native American societies before European settlement. In some Native American societies, slavery could be socially alienating. But others had a built-in flexibility about slavery, so enslaved people could integrate into their societies and even become people of power and influence.

1.E European colonists in North America bought, sold and enslaved Native Americans. Some white colonists engaged in wars for the explicit purpose of acquiring Native Americans to enslave; some colonists financed or otherwise encouraged Native American allies to engage in wars with other Native Americans for the purpose of acquiring Native Americans to enslave. In South Carolina, English enslavement of Native Americans was so pervasive and lucrative that it financed the rise of American rice plantations.


How can I teach this?

  • The BBC program Story of Africa and its accompanying website allow users to search for information about slavery and the slave trade in Africa.
  • Indian Slavery in the Americas” by Alan Gallay is a short essay on the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History website, available to K-12 teachers with a free account. It is accessible as a reading assignment for upper-level students or can be used as teacher preparation.

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