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'Building America one slave at a time'

February 8, 2013

Black History Month at Colorado State University opens a window on the history of African slavery in the U.S. with a student-led discussion about how slaves helped 'build America, one slave at a time.'

African American men and women working in a sweet potato field.

Wednesday, February 13
4-5 p.m.
Lory Student Center, Room 204

Slaves and the building of America

Many historians assert that the vast amount of land that made up the European colonies in America would have been useless without sufficient labor to exploit it.

In a National Geographic News article by Howard Dodson titled, How Slavery Helped Build a World Economy, Dodson says that African slaves became a sought-after "commodity" in the Americas.

"Having proved themselves competent workers in Europe and on nascent sugar plantations on the Madeira and Canary Islands off the coast of Africa," Dodson says, "enslaved Africans became the labor force of choice in the Western Hemisphere—so much so that they became the overwhelming majority of the colonial populations of the Americas."

Enslaved Africans and their work

"Of the 6.5 million immigrants who survived the crossing of the Atlantic and settled in the Western Hemisphere between 1492 and 1776, only one million were Europeans. The remaining 5.5 million were African. An average of 80 percent of these enslaved Africans—men, women, and children—were employed, mostly as field-workers."

However, urban areas also made heavy use of the slave labor force. Upward of ten percent of the enslaved African population in the U.S. lived in cities.

"Domestic servants dominated, " Dodson says, "but there were carpenters, fishermen, coopers, draymen, sailors, masons, bricklayers, blacksmiths, bakers, tailors, peddlers, painters, and porters.

"Although most worked directly for their owners, others were hired out to work as skilled laborers on plantations, on public works projects, and in industrial enterprises. A small percentage hired themselves out and paid their owners a percentage of their earnings."

Tackling the topic

In connection with Black History Month at CSU, a discussion of this element of U.S. history is planned for Wednesday, February 13 in a Real Talk event hosted by the Black/African American Cultural Center.

Real Talk hosts Black History Month event

What is Real Talk? Held regularly in the Lory Student Center, Room 204, this event provides a format in which students are encouraged to share their ideas and opinons on all types of hot, trending topics that affect the African American community within the media, as well as in our communities.

The room where Real Talk discussions take place is valued as a safe place where individuals feel comfortable sharing ideas. The program is open to the campus community. We value diverse perspectives that can contribute to the discussions.

Contact: Bridgette Johnson
Phone: (970) 491-5781