Slavery and the Making of America is a four-part series documenting the history of American slavery from its beginnings in the British colonies to its end in the Southern states and the years of post-Civil War Reconstruction. Drawing on a wealth of recent scholarship, it looks at slavery as an integral part of a developing nation, challenging the long held notion that slavery was exclusively a Southern enterprise. At the same time, by focusing on the remarkable stories of individual slaves, it offers new perspectives on the slave experience and testifies to the active role that Africans and African Americans took in surviving their bondage and shaping their own lives.
Runtime: 55 minutes
Slavery and the Making of America - Slavery in the Spanish New World colonies - Netflix
Slavery in the Spanish American colonies was an economic and social institution central to the operations of the Spanish Empire - it bound Africans and indigenous people to a relationship of colonial exploitation. The Spanish colonists provided the Americas with a colonial precedent for slavery. Early on, however, opposition from the enslaved of Indians and from influential Spaniards moved the Crown to limit the bondage of indigenous people, and initiated debates that challenged the idea of slavery based on race. Spaniards regarded some indigenous people as tribute under the encomienda system during the late 1400s and part of the 1500s. Spanish slavery in the Americas did not diverge drastically from that in other European colonies. It reshuffled the Atlantic World's populations through forced migrations, helped transfer American wealth to Europe, and promoted racial and social hierarchies (castas) throughout the empire. Spanish enslavers justified their wealth and status earned at the work of the mines at the expense of captive workers by considered inferior beings with limited capacities and holding them as personal properties (chattel slavery), often under barbarous conditions. In fact, Spanish colonization set some egregious records in the field of slavery. The Asiento, the official contract for trading in slaves in the vast Spanish territories was a major engine of the Atlantic slave trade. When Spain first enslaved Native Americans on Hispaniola, and then replaced them with captive Africans, it established unfree labor as the basis for colonial mass-production. The tale of Spanish exploits in the Americas, amplified for propagandistic reasons, earned such notoriety that European rivals called it the Black Legend. And in the mid-nineteenth century, as most countries in the hemisphere moved to disallow chattel slavery, Cuba and Puerto Rico - the last two remaining Spanish American colonies - maintained slavery the longest. Enslaved people challenged their captivity in ways that ranged from introducing non-European elements into Christianity (syncretism) to mounting alternative societies outside the plantation system (Maroons). The first open black rebellion occurred in Spanish plantations in 1521. Resistance, particularly to the enslavement of indigenous people, also came from Spanish religious and legal ranks. The first speech in the Americas for the universality of human rights and against the abuses of slavery was also given on Hispaniola, a mere nineteen years after the first contact. Resistance to Amerindian captivity in the Spanish colonies produced the first modern debates over race and the legitimacy of slavery. And uniquely in the Spanish American colonies, laws like the New Laws of 1542, were enacted early in the colonial period to protect natives from bondage. To complicate matters further, Spain's haphazard grip on its extensive American dominions and its erratic economy acted to impede the broad and systematic spread of plantations similar to those of the French in Saint Domingue or of the British in Jamaica. Altogether, the struggle against slavery in the Spanish American colonies left a notable tradition of opposition that set the stage for current conversations about human rights.
Slavery and the Making of America - Liberation of British and American slaves in Spanish Florida - Netflix
Since the beginning of the 18th century, Spanish Florida attracted numerous African slaves who escaped from British slavery in the Thirteen Colonies. Since 1623 the official Spanish policy was that any and all slaves that touched Spanish soil and asked for refuge would be made a free man, alphabetized if he wasn't, helped to establish his own workshop if he had a trade or given a lot of land as his own to cultivate as a famer. In exchange they would be required to serve for a number of years in the Spanish National Guard and convert to Catholicism. Francisco Menéndez escaped from South Carolina and traveled to St. Augustine, Florida for freedom. Once the slaves reached Florida, the Spanish freed them if they converted to Roman Catholicism. Most settled in a community called Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the first settlement of free slaves in North America. The former slaves also found refuge among the Creek and Seminole, Native Americans who had established settlements in Florida at the invitation of the Spanish government. In 1771, Governor John Moultrie wrote to the English Board of Trade, “It has been a practice for a good while past, for negroes to run away from their Masters, and get into the Indian towns, from whence it proved very difficult to get them back.” When British government officials pressured the Native Americans to return the fugitive slaves, they replied that they had “merely given hungry people food, and invited the slaveholders to catch the runaways themselves.” After the American Revolution, slaves from the State of Georgia and the Low Country escaped to Florida. The U.S. Army led increasingly frequent incursions into Spanish territory, including the 1817–1818 campaign by Andrew Jackson that became known as the First Seminole War. The United States afterwards effectively controlled East Florida. According to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, the US had to take action there because Florida had become “a derelict open to the occupancy of every enemy, civilized or savage, of the United States, and serving no other earthly purpose than as a post of annoyance to them.”. Spain requested British intervention, but London declined to assist Spain in the negotiations. Some of President James Monroe's cabinet demanded Jackson's immediate dismissal, but Adams realized that it put the U.S. in a favorable diplomatic position. Adams negotiated very favorable terms. As Florida had become a burden to Spain, which could not afford to send settlers or garrisons, the Crown decided to cede the territory to the United States. It accomplished this through the Adams–Onís Treaty in 1820.
Slavery and the Making of America - References - Netflix