Drawing the Color Line Drawing the Color Line by Howard Zinn the second chapter from A People’s history of the United States. The authors writes this chapter to explain racism and how it started, “a continent were we can trace the coming of the first whites and the first blacks-might supply at least a few clues” he wants to use history to try to explain why it started. In this chapter Howard Zinn gives us an insight on Slavery and racism in the early 17th century of America.
This chapter does not only tell us why slavery accrued but how it happened.
The author Howard Zinn tells us how the Americans were simple prone to having slaves because of the circumstances they faced in the early 17th century. It was a period of starvation Howard Zinn tells us that “ the Virginians of 1619 were desperate for labor, to grow food to stay alive“. Among these people were also the survivors of the 1609-1610 the “starving time“.
This was a period of time were the colonist were desperate for food and would do anything for example they “dug up graves to eat the corpses”. Another incidents was when a man slew his wife and cute her into many pieces and fed upon her till he had eaten everything but her head.
This was caused because many of the settlers weren’t used to working and didn’t even know how. They didn’t want to work, there was a time were john smith had to force the colonist to work in the fields just to be able to survive.
The need for labor led the colonist to believe that Black slaves were the answer , it was natural to consider imported black slaves because by 1619 a million slaves had already been brought from Africa to South America. They were confined bellow deck all together, with no space at all. They weren’t even able to turn to the side.
The smell on the ship was horrible. It was so bad that the slaves jumped ship to drown. The slaves would be held in cages and would be chained together. Blacks slaves were the answer because they couldn’t get the Indians to work for them. They could not keep them enslaved because they were “tough, resourceful, defiant, and at home in their own land”. While the black slaves had been torn from their culture and their land. Not only were they forced into a situation where everything was different, but they were torn from their families.
They colonist even had a system that was both Psychological and Physical to try and discipline the slaves. The slaves rarely submitted willingly. The black slaves resisted and tried to run away they wouldn’t give up. Even though there was laws in trying to stop the blacks from running away, they still ran away. There were laws made that if anyone were to find black slave they should do to them what they feel be appropriate. Man slaves were killed or burnt in the book there was a case were a black slave was burnt in a slow fire for 8-10 hours.
In some cases both white and black slaves ran way together but the punishment wouldn’t be the same white would only extend there period of serving as slaves and the black salves were hanged or killed. Even then they could see racism how the whites that committed the same crime would get treated differently then the black slaves. The black salves couldn’t do anything besides being slaves, so thought the white people. Even the white servants were treated different, not only were they working for a set period of time, but they were treated as humans and they had rights, and would receive land and pay at the end of their term.
The white people justified their own slave trade because in Africa slavery existed too. This was not a good justification because a slave trader named John Newton stated that the way the slaves in Africa were treated much better and no man was allowed to draw blood no even from a slave. The colonist were cruel to the black slaves. “The reduction of the slaves to less than human status by the use of racial hatred, with the relentless clarity based on color, where the white was masters and the black was slave”. Even back in the early 17th century we saw racism.
Another example was that the color black according to the Oxford English Dictionary it meant “Deeply stained with dirt; soiled, dirty, foul. Having dark or deadly purposes, malignant; pertaining to or involving death, deadly…. liability to punishment, etc. “, and the white was often used to describe beauty. Also that the greatest fear was that the white servants would join the black servants to overthrow existing order. This all goes back to the beginning of the book and the question that the author Howard Zinn asks “ How does it start? ”, “How might it end? ” and “Is it possible for whites and blacks to live together without hatred? ”