THE REPENTANCE PROJECT / AN AMERICAN LENT
The International Story of Slavery
WEEK II / DAY IV
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Scripture / Exodus 2:23-25
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel — and God knew.
Our History and Its Legacy
When many of us think about slavery, we usually think specifically about slavery in America. This is understandable. We are Americans after all; it is part of our history. Relative to the entire Transatlantic Slave Trade (which lasted from roughly 1545 to 1860 — over 315 years), our American history is actually a rather small slice of the total horror of the story. “Of the more than 10 million enslaved Africans to eventually reach the Western Hemisphere, just 388,747 — less than 4 percent of the total — came to North America. This was dwarfed by the 1.3 million brought to Spanish Central America, the 4 million brought to British, French, Dutch, and Danish holdings in the Caribbean, and the 4.8 million brought to Brazil.”
That quote is taken from The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes: 315 years. 20,528 voyages. Millions of lives. More powerful than the quote is the two minute animation along with it that shows every one of those voyages from the West Coast of Africa, mostly to the Western Hemisphere, including America. Further, conservative estimates say that well over a million Africans died during this journey, some estimates are much higher. These numbers do not include people who were taken to other parts of the world at that time.
The first African person to arrive in the former British colonies in America was on August 20, 1619, in Jamestown, VA. Over time Richmond in the north, as well as Charleston and New Orleans in the south, became primary ports receiving these ships which had crossed the Middle Passage.
With the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves in 1808, America ceased participating in the Transatlantic Slave Trade for a variety of political, moral, and economic reasons. One of the primary reasons was that the domestic slave trade had become so lucrative due to human breeding and domestic sales that receiving more Africans from Africa was flooding the market for slaves. Additionally, it was finally recognized by some that forcibly taking a person from their continent for the purpose of slavery was a violation of human rights. (This sounds like such a modern way to put it. In part, at least, slaves were now more broadly recognized as humans). Despite the stop to the Transatlantic Slave Trade, slavery itself was still not banned in the Southern states, although it had been banned in all the Northern states before 1800.
America today would not be recognizable without the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It generated enormous commerce and wealth for some, enabled much faster land development for agriculture and infrastructure, and created great prosperity for many, which is still being enjoyed today.
Reflection and Response
Watch the two minute video referenced above. Then take some time to imagine yourself as but one of the people on just one of those many ships. From the moment you were taken in Africa and then taken from Africa, the many weeks ocean voyage, to the moment you landed in America, to when you finally arrived at your final destination in a place you did not know, what would you have felt?
Watch this five minute TED video on The Atlantic Slave Trade — who it benefitted, who it destroyed, and its ongoing impact in Africa, as well as how it gave rise to notions of race that we still have today.
Allow your heart to grieve in God’s presence. Talk to God about what you’re feeling.
Written by Bill Haley