Sample Essay on Slavery


Slavery is a vital issue to debate about when looking at American history from the days of colonialism as well as the growth of colonies in Chesapeake and New England. Africans who were transported from Africa were exposed to tough treatment as well as manual jobs in American plantations and as servants in farm houses. The leading goal of this paper is to fathom Ira Berlin’s argument that slavery entailed an element of negotiation, regardless of how irregular was the outcome of the mediation. This, in line with Berlin validated slaves to enjoy a certain level of sovereignty.

Berlin’s context offers a less influential means of fathoming what slavery is all about. This can be attributed to the verity that he perceives slavery and the slave trade as a kind of trade between a slave and the slave owner. As far as this kind of trade was helpful to the white people, by providing them with household and farm workers, it was deliberated as an atrocity directed to Africans as they were deprived of essential human rights. Other than the hurt and desolation that the slaves went through while at the mercy of their bosses cannot be perceived to have been helpful to the slaves. According to the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, there are cases when the narrator remembers a number of slaveholders who whipped the nude backs of slaves as well as watch as flesh was cut of their body and large pints of blood was lost.

Slaves to the white society were compared to domestic animals (Douglass 49). He as well remembers a case whereby his boss perished without dotting a will.  This clarified that proprietorship of the bosses’ assets was to be relocated to his two kids. In line with words of Douglass, men were compared to horses, whereas women were seen as cattle and children slaves to pigs (Douglass 39). The white community from this viewpoint failed to see slaves as human beings rather as animals whose duty was to serve in fulfilling the desires of their owners. With the gloom as well as hurt that slave underwent in hands of the white people, Berlin’s argument of mediation and autonomy offers a less influential way of comprehending slavery.

Even though Berlin’s framework fails to offer a helpful prevalent means of comprehending slavery, it offers a hint in fathoming certain components of mediation among the slaves and their bosses. In the narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the storyteller understands that his boss offered slaves with monthly food allowance as well as annual clothing. The food stipend was a component of mediation in itself. Even though the food was in smaller amount, it was fairly ample to sustain slaves from hunger and offer them energy essential for their day to day chores in master’s plantations. The food allowance according to Douglass incorporated 8 pounds of pork or its equal amount in fish as well as one heap of corn meal. These food stipends were a kind of remuneration for the hard work that the slaves offered their bosses (Douglass 8).

The other element of mediation was that of allowance as clothing. To make sure that slaves were in decent clothes as well as safeguarded from natural disasters like cold weather, masters offered clothing on yearly basis. This in line with Douglass included two rough line shirts, a jacket, a pair of trousers for the cold weather, plus a pair of stocking and shoes. The food and annual clothing allowances of kids was presented to their mothers as well as the aging women that catered for them. To the kids who could not work, the clothing allowance was made up of two bristly linen shirts annually. Douglas approximates the general cost of the clothing of one of the slaves to be around $7 (Douglass 8).

Robert Glen, in a spoken interview, admitted that one of the core ways to the growth of the black society was the institution of unification in the mid of 20th century. Availability of education to the black American was a component of negotiation. Unification in learning institution was focused on offering blacks with equal stages to those of the white people to make them accomplish their dreams and be part of the refined community (History Interview with Robert L. Glenn by William Link para 18). In the course of slavery as well as slave trade, these slaveholders did not offer any kind of training to Africans. Actually, it was against the law for any slave to understand the art of writing and reading as they be educated and lead to the slavery of the white people. Slaves to their bosses were better if they could only meet the only duty of listening and adhering to their masters and serving towards their interests.

Glenn pinpoints the registration of Josephine Boyd, a black female, into Grimsely High School, a whites owned school, as an exceptional strategy towards the ultimate end of slavery and disparity. Although she was the only student of African descent in a school dominated by white students, her registration into the learning framework was the basis for the institution of civil rights to all American citizens regardless of their race (History Interview with Robert L. Glenn by William Link para 18- 20).

The other component of negotiation in the course of slavery was the employment of slaves into other plantations. These slaves served for a week as well as took their entire wages to their bosses who would later pay them with a certain fraction of the total amount. The master had the power to figure out the sum a particular slave employed, was to bring by the end of the week. Douglass for example states that at every week end, he would pour remuneration of his hard work to his master’s bag. Every time he made $6, his master would give him the entire amount as a kind of motivation to work harder as well as make more (Douglass 72). In spite of its bigoted nature it was seen as considerably just as a slave was an asset of his master and he would be happy with his asset.

Ira Berlin’s framework of negotiation offers a diverse tactic on slavery. This is due to the fact that it affirms that there exist a kind of pact between a slaveholder and the slave as the two parties mediated every time there was work to be undertaken. After Berlin’s assertion, an individual can contend that there are certain components of disparity amongst the slaveholders as well as the slaves. Nevertheless, slaves were eligible to certain level of autonomy as their undertakings made wealth for their owners and thus the master had to offer them the much needed care for fear that they may lose their riches if they have underperforming slaves. Therefore, because of this circumstance, the slave owners could not be responsible for their wellbeing and this is proven by the provision of the monthly food allowances as well as annual clothing. Every time a slave is employed, the slaveholder got the salaries as well as provided certain amount to the slave. Berlin’s framework hence sees slavery as an undertaking whereby both the slave owners and the slave are merited.

Via looking at slavery as engaging in certain components of negotiation, Berlin’s framework does not get hold of essential facets of slavery. A suitable comprehension of slavery engages the know-how of the wellbeing of the slaves; the form of penalty that the slave had to experience every time they went against the master’s commands. From the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the storyteller narrates of the insignificant nature of a slave’s life to his owner. He narrates a number of events when masters as well as supervisors beat up and even slayed their slaves (Douglass 15, 18). No action was taken on these murderers because of the perception that a slave’s life was useless. On top of this, Berlin’s framework fails to offer a comprehension of the awful situation whereby the slaves lived regardless of the huge amount of riches they made for their owner.

In summary, it is essential to fathom that in as far as Berlin’s context attempts to contend for the presence of certain facets of negotiation between slaveholders and slaves, thus offering certain kind of sovereignty, he does not seize the vital facets of slavery.  Slavery from Berlin’s standpoint shows the presence of an amiable relation among the slaveholder and the slave in spite of its unjust nature.  Frederick Douglass in his account on slavery tells of unpleasant as well as despondent ways of life that slaves had to undergo whilst their owners enjoyed comfortable lives due to their huge riches amassed by their slaves. Berlin’s basis thus tries to depict slavery as founded on certain favorable pacts as well as overlooks the outrages that the slave had to withstand.

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Works cited

Douglass, F. Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass. Boston. Anti-Slavery Office, pp. 8, 15,

18, 39, 49, 721845. Retrieved from

Oral History Interview with Robert L. Glenn by William Link, para,18- 20. 1987 Retrieved from