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     Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies,
    Amherst College. 1 of 4
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the age of discovery is so important in this epic proportions in the fifteenth and sixteenth century and the discovery of the new world the islands of the west indies in the mainland south and north america in many ways it forces ultimately european civilizations an african civilizations to collide in the same common history if plantation agricultural says this vast possibilities of money crop agriculture in world had not done what they were there would be little reason for europeans to go to africa and to try to extract so much labor from the african continent as they ultimately did so the age of discovery brings europe and africa into a kind of a common history that a history that ultimately has such a such a tragedy is at its center because in many ways what what africans head european
so wanted the one commodity that european so wanted eventually was people and the thing that european said that africans need with technology and in that sense i want to make a generalization the african slave trade the fact that african societies began to raid upon each other and went to sell and trade other africans it is kind of the it's the tribune paid by a society we can technology to society strong technology europeans want people from africa and in order for africans to protests update now in this growing atlantic trade which occurs because of the age of discovery and established colonies and empires world for africans to trooper disciplines trade they had to produce the people that europeans won't
it is the age of discovery leads to the creation of the mercantile empires it leads to the creation of nation states build themselves upon impact and the vampires of course necessity colonies and those colonies exist for the purpose of producing raw materials the whole idea of british mark into was in portland oregon kyle employers of any european powers was to established colonies around the world as sources of raw materials such that the flow of money i was always into the country and of course greatest commodities produced those canons of them were were eventually cash crops in north america first great cash proportions tobacco but what this leads to is now a kind of redefinition of the relationship of them are now become a modern nation state
with its developing empire around the world and that leads to a whole ideology of expansionist that leads to a notion in england a greater income at least to the idea that the world's resources out there to be exploited by the great powers and of course it also leaves therefore to competition great competition and competitive wars between the great powers i'm handsome the caribbean franchise in the duchess in spanish islands in british island all of which now are dependent on this african slave trade but by the sixties and into the seventeenth century by the time the north american colonies are funded by the english just after the beginning of the seventeenth century slave trade with africa is already a century old british actors are being actively few decades
the british have a hard time morally of dissipating an african slave trade in the seventeenth century and in fact the british are often condemned other european powers like to spanish or their traditional rivals the spanish and portuguese and french frigate disappearing so heavily illustrated human flesh but eventually has as has the economy in the digital in barbados in jamaica and the caribbean in the colonies in the south in north america begin to prosper and grow by the middle of the seventeenth century especially by the end of the seventeenth century over a period of generations the moral qualms but the british tend to have about the slave trade erode and by the turn of the eighteenth century but it took a while
was the labor system of the american south began to transform out of indentured servitude and racial slavery in that period sixteen sixties tv to seventeen hundred end of the seventeenth century the british are becoming more more heavily involved in the atlantic slave trade and establish the royal african company with a monopoly in the late seventeenth century but after the turn of the eighteenth century that the royal african companies cease to have a monopoly on the trade and the slave trade on the west coast of africa was open and a british citizen want to participate in it and this is one that when you begin to see them boom times of bristol and liverpool economies of which were more rooted in the slave trade with west africa and eventually buy it by the seventeen thirties and seventeen forties the british are dominating the african slave trade the vast majority of slaves brought to look at the whole the world after the seventeen twenty since nineteen thirties came and british ships so that by the time we're
talking about these american colonies in the middle of the eighteenth century leaning toward the american revolution they are part of a british empire that is now deeply involved in the atlantic slave trade has become one of the most important calls in the whole of the atlantic trade for the british because biko in the sixteen sixties and sixteen seventies is the period of the transition and virginia in particular a system of labor of indentured servitude to racial slavery know why that transition have occurred has always been one of the great debates about the origin and american slavery didn't get america's wars go on the world to find a new labor supply not really they in effect tapped into an existing now
unquote system of labor laws aren't coming to the caribbean have been coming to the west indies for decades and in many ways it's solved a lot of problems for southern slave holders in the late seventeenth century the problem they face is not only a decreasing supply of indentured servants that they face this increasing prime of what to do with all these indentured servants once they live out their terminal we're surviving than to be given the land they had to be given the freedom to do in a lot of do's and could even guns and there was a lot of unrest in virginia sixteen six sixteen seventies this instability and this disorder the convention servant system hence had had created made racial slavery to southern slave holders much more attractive because what what were black slaves were well they were a prominent deep and labor force who could be could be defined as the people set apart they were racially support they were
outsiders they were strangers and in many ways her out into the world with a couple possible exceptions slavery has taken root as daschle well and the people who are enslaved are defined as strangers as outsiders and can therefore be put into inheritable permanent status of slavery and now what what what southern slave owners hand by the late seventeenth century in the eighteenth century and now of course they're tapping in to the to the slave trade conducted by the british themselves is what they most need what they always knew throughout the seventeenth century which is it permanent and growing independent labor force that they believed that they could control the iranian that of course is that that that slave population would not always be so controllable but that's what they believe they were creating as bill clinton
the creation of racial slavery in the late seventeenth century is decisions made by sentence level the question has long been whether this decision was conscious decision and conscious decision is probably in some ways both but you have to kind of think about it in the reverse in order for for southern so different for southern planters in the late seventeenth century to have stuck with indentured servitude but look let's imagine for him to get the supplies and pension service would continue to grow and yet they increasingly found that they needed a prominent independent labor force the question is whether southern planters to sleep permanently affiliation what the existence of racial slavery now makes possible the supply of african slaves is in some ways perhaps an easier set of decisions because now the people who are to be riveted in this permanent inheritable status of slavery are are are and other people together
of people who are increasingly can be defined by now they are developing a racial ideology of fraught with assumptions about how race is certain traits and characteristics now some races are born to serve and some to rule that's an ideology was not by any means fully developed in the early eighteenth century as it will be later in the eighteenth and the nineteenth century but as an ideology that slave holders of themselves now weekend to forge we know this in part because of some of the laws that they begin to pass by the sixty nine he's and into the eighteenth century they become increasingly concerned about possibilities and the realities of this education they become increasingly concerned about keeping the races part and it passed the law after a law to try to prescribe the lives of black says slaves and to prevent intermixing in intermarriage of blacks and white it
is well there's no single decision made to create racial slavery in the seventeenth century and has no particular single mom on the decision as we all know the first african slaves came a membership and sixteen tony whether they're actually slaves absolutely certain that there what there is is a series of decisions over time two by africans in a permanent status of bondage rather than to play the invention for service originally five to seven years increasingly planters in the south are making conscious decisions to buy an available african slave population who are prominent instead of in him permanent population of indentured
laborer now such that by the end of the seventeenth century a perfectly conscious of what they're creating here is a prominent racial slave system none of them could probably gone back and identify the exact moment in time where this began because they will probably remember the africans working as as bombers learned some of them as indentured servants and some of the most prominent slaves as early as the sixteenth there is a sixty forty four people back in their own time and ask them to put that certainly by the turn of the eighteenth century in virginia the development and the preservation of this of this slave system is something that virginians are perfectly conscious even if they could not go back through time and reconstruct each of those conscious decisions to buy a slave instead of an indentured servant wednesday's slate
but the circumstances of this tournament but with the discovery of the world with that because of the immigration issue not only caused the collision of civilizations puts european african and a common history a real sense that means no thousands upon thousands of people and dozens and dozens of different cultures and language and religion are all going to be now part of of a fourth century history of transplantation of people huge more migrations to get to that point in time the largest migration of people in the world's history but it's kind of good of course of the largest forced migrations of people in human history to that over time in a real sense of africans come to the new world as immigrants and just what
europeans came immigrants the story of a transplantation of people's to the new world is really a story of immigration africans came to the new world over for centuries as immigrants in spite of all the meaning of the word carries on our culture but the great tragedy of the story of course is that some of those people come and those innovations comes voice but this is this is not a mutual history of europeans africans coming to the new world and informing new society and creating new world building new coaches in effect becoming knew people but the vast majority of black folk will come in the city and its history in this story comes bombs they come without their freedom come to a
land other people create in the interest of their own freedom and prosperity but they come without their own freedom that is unwilling to give up on that of course but i think everyone has to be in the broader sense see the story of the african slave trade as as a story of a forced migration surge creating new world building new coaches in effect become do well those conscious and unconscious decisions in the late seventeenth century by americans to to move from indentured servitude to racial slavery mean that that they're setting their own history and of course where freedom has been overturned on slavery where the political economy of a major portion of these companies depend on slavery when the freedom of some less and to turn down the bondage of others it means that eventually whether they're conscious or conscious of this or
not it means the end of the eighteenth century in this century becomes the age of revolutions the american colonies is a jewel in the british empire is living this contradictory history in our society is becoming ever more prosperous our bodies is increasingly routine a labor system and a major section that's human bondage and that's racial slavery thats dependent upon are a widespread atlantic trade in people and for that economy remain prosperous and to continue to grow for for virginia in the rest of the south to continue to grow cash crops and be successful and they got increasingly i keep finding a supply of african labor this
well to the virginia plants are the eighteenth century he hopes that the world is creating is that is that is always a world order a world where we're at the labor is now their labors and planters and other planners i would guess the virginia plant an eighteenth century hopes that what he's creating as a world we can be equipped to his children om that's organic markets orderly in the sense that that produces know the producers and the workers among the workers what they also are aware that they're creating there's no question they're aware is a labor force living in bondage and potentially a labor force of rebels the company
the virginia plan at century hopes that is creating this organic world of order but he's also increasingly aware that he is creating and secure world a world where where the labor's the people he owns me indeed the rebel column get tired or slavery the pledges was primarily primarily a local fair it was a local problem their principal interest was their own farm or implantation their own neighborhood maryland county they were particularly interested in the security of their own place to the extent they could create a world of paternalism of these reciprocal relationships between masters and slaves and if it could work then they were relatively secure and confident they had created a world over time the ticket bequeath to the rich and to the extent that the paternalistic whirl
would break down that they could not have confidence in the loyalty of the cooperation of their slaves on a daily basis on a yearly basis then maybe knew they lived also an intrinsic your world the world that they have to keep trying to tinker with tinker with it fix it in order to keep it would really do this well could there have been an america of slavery the answer is of course not at this is of course no cheese wait to play could have
been an american slavery the answer is of course now because historical circumstances were such that it created the necessity of the bomb labor system of some kind to run the plantation system so an even larger question is perhaps to understand how and why slavery is so significant to the growth of the american continent of the growth of the american nation and i think you've got a try to imagine how that would toll even understand the first two hundred years of the north american society of the british and then the americans without a slave labor system how and when we begin to understand the developing political ideologies that lead to the american revolution and then the legacies of the american revolution out without the story of slavery the denial of those screens upon which this is the nation was founded it's impossible in many ways to understand the growth of the american society of american social structure
ultimately facing questions because what happens in the south is the south eventually in the wake of the american revolution certainly beginning of the nineteenth century becomes a slave society that as a society where were the social order the social structure of the political culture the economy itself is deeply rooted in the slave labor system in almost any category one look about the growth of american society over the first two hundred to two hundred and fifty years we were talking about a fence social structure or political ideology slavery is at some point slavery in the problem of race or some point at the heart of the problem and in a sense one has to realize that slavery is not just a marginal subject is not just the story that's at the side of the story of race is not just a marginal subject or what their side of the story is at the center of the development of american society as formative years and it's certainly at the center of
a story of the coming of the american revolution to the area slavery is terribly important in american history if for no other reason that it forces us to realize that our history as a nation is like the history of other people and other nations we have a history of contradictions within this is a job yearly progress toward a prime minister for all the tragedy worse american history is uncertain we have to face the story of slavery as a part of
our past in the same way that we face every other part of our history is part of who we are it's as much a part of who we are as a victory and world war two great inventions it's important because it helps explain the changes in the stages of american history it's important because it helps explain the economy it's important because it helps explain their political ideology we can understand what american history is about its american history is about the development of a certain kind of political ideology in the world we can understand that to understand also how that ideology was also deny that has that story
just as the slave trade may have corrupt almost everyone touched slavery itself over time on the ground in the south may have had a similar impact both slaves and slave owners the relationship a master and slave overtime becomes a kind of coming relationship both lawyers both sides of the manipulation and in some ways what slaves have to learn as a kind of a systematic deception to survive and then to learn how to steal them and entered to learn a lie that may have learned the value of deception and in some ways that maybe indeed be evaluated may not i'm here than the masters of course have to after to learn to trust their own habits to have to learn to trust their own system to have to learn to trust slaves and they are there times you know the people that are putting their trust them and not be trustworthy so there's a kind of an erosion of
Africans in America
Episode Number
The Terrible Transformation
Raw Footage
Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 1 of 4
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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David Blight is interviewed about how the age of discovery led to expansion requiring labor, the formation of the Royal African Company, and the meaning of British participation in the slave trade, the transition from indentured servitude to slavery, slavery and the growth of American society, erosion of human relationships
Race and Ethnicity
American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition, Civil War
(c) 1998-2017 WGBH Educational Foundation
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Identifier: Blight_David_01_merged_SALES_ASP_h264.mp4 (unknown)
Duration: 0:27:46
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Chicago: “Africans in America; 101; The Terrible Transformation; Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 1 of 4 ,” 1998-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020,
MLA: “Africans in America; 101; The Terrible Transformation; Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 1 of 4 .” 1998-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <>.
APA: Africans in America; 101; The Terrible Transformation; Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 1 of 4 . Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from