Race, Gender, and Class in Colonial America | History of the American Left



it can be difficult to know where to start a history of America as most people hopefully know there's been civilization here for thousands of years well before anyone arrived from Europe but all the culture all the people of that civilization were essentially wiped out over the course of the last four to five hundred years one of the largest genocides in the history of the world in the face of this it is difficult to talk about any proud history for any group evolved in the European colonies however as we traced back to history at the left past the 20th century it becomes a problem that is essentially unavoidable so as we start this series I just wanted to make that clear while I will try to avoid present anyone who actively participated in genocide and will point out when certain events and trends help perpetuate it it is important to keep in mind that most people we will talk about we're doing little to stop it now to fully understand the English colonies it's important to understand the conditions they were created under the first was colonial competition essentially Spain and Portugal were making a killing with their colonies in the Americas and England one to get in on it some of these colonies like Plymouth in Virginia started out as joint stock companies meant to raise money others like Pennsylvania and Maryland were proprietary colonies granted to individuals or families by the crown and others like Delaware in New York were initially conquered from the Dutch in the late 1600s and converted to English colonies but the end goal of all of them was to expand English influence both physically and economically but competition was not the only factor if it was we could very well still be living under British rule today the second major condition that drove these colonies was widespread political and social unrest in the couple hundred years leading up to its first colonies England had been seen the first changes that would eventually lead to capitalism the process of enclosure had taken the livelihoods of thousands of substance farmers and forced them the take of wage labor instead meanwhile the Protestant Reformation had created a religious upheaval and a resultant crackdown by the English government all this would result not only in a civil war in England but also a sizable group of people looking for somewhere else to go that brings us to the colonies themselves well I could start by talking about the secret floating communist utopia founded by the lost Roanoke colonists it'd probably make a bit more sense to start with the founding two colonies of the north and south Plymouth and Jamestown both were started by the Virginia joint stock companies so they both had investors that they were accountable to but the circumstances were quite different Jamestown is mostly a financial venture both the colonists and the investor throughout the strike at Rich Plymouth on the other hand was a religious venture that just found an investor to bakit this along with their different geographies with the two different types of colonies Jamestown after some initial difficulties began to focus on some big crash crops like tobacco while Plymouth after some initial difficulties relied more in substance farming and supported itself with fur fishing and timber what these all had in common was a need for labour anythin only expanded as more colonies were founded now the English colonies could have theoretically done what the Spaniards did and simply enslaved the Native Americans that were already there however the mostly Protestant settlers thought that this form of slavery was an evil catholic invention and they would not stoop to it though try to convert Native Americans and of course Massacre them and actually also enslaved them but they were never able to do it on the scale that the Spaniards did instead in the early colonies most people relied on indentured servants luckily for them there was plenty of labor despair in Europe the economy was suffering most of the condo is at war and people were eager to get out of there of course they didn't have any money to do so and so the indentured servitude system was developed workers would move to America for free and then work without pay for a certain period of time before being sent loose with a small sum of money and maybe a bit of land now the system was riddled with fraud people would be kidnapped contracts would be arbitrarily expanded to avoid payment and work assumingly died before getting their freedom before a group of poor working-class people in Europe who had been robbed of any chance at land in their home countries there's an opportunity worth the risk these indentured servants made up about 80 percent of everyone who came from Europe before the Revolution they ended up forming both a sizable class of small landholders for those who are able to find land after their contract was up and another sizable class of wage workers who'd work some of the growing cities on the coast not all of these indentured servants were English there were people from Ireland Scotland Germany Poland and Netherlands and basically any other country in the area in fact the first recorded strike in American history was undertaken in 1619 Jamestown not by English settlers but by Polish craftsmen who believed their labor entitled them to a right to vote in colonial matters as connection between labour and voting rights we proved to be a long-lasting trend in America but they're even plenty of indentured servants that work from Europe the first Africans were brought to Jamestown in 1619 and to start out with they were treated at least legally the same way as many of the white indentured servants with this slight distinction that they'd been kidnapped by than being brought over willingly there was racism to be sure but not to the extent they do develop later on now the English colonies could have theoretically done what the Spaniards did and simply jumped right into the slave trade that already existed however the mostly Protestant settlers thought that this form of slavery was an evil Catholic invention and they would not stoop to it they believed that their mission was not to enslaved Africans but to convert them to Christianity sure they would passed laws that would allow slavery but it wasn't at a default position and it wasn't hereditary well this plan hit a snag almost immediately it served in the second half of the 1600s when conditions started to improve back in Europe the existing colonies were already short on labour and even more were being founded to the lack of willing immigrants meant that the colonists started to turn to the unwilling immigrants being shipped in from Africa meanwhile some of the Africans already in America had bought into the Europeans just want to convert us thing and were petitioning courts non-stop to ask for their freedom believing the baptism brought with it liberation from slavery this was all combined with larger class conflicts many of the white indentured servants who hadn't gotten land and even some who had were naturally resentful of the existing social order turns out they found more in common with their fellow indentured servants even if they were black and with a wealthy large landowners in charge of the colonial governments in Virginia this broke out in full force with Bacon's Rebellion were in 1676 a group of mostly working class and small land holdings Virginians rose up against the colonial government burning down Jamestown and driving the governor out of office it should be said that this was not necessarily a positive development while the group was worried about corrupt and undemocratic rule perhaps the largest complaint that the group had was that the government was not letting people kill enough Native Americans the event before moving the town Ashley started with a massacre of the akanishi tribe but for the ruling class it showed the potential for interracial solidarity and the government cannot have that all these developments were actively combated in the new state legislators across the colonies the way that American slavery developed was not some automatic or pre-written process but a specifically planned method of suppressing and subjugating black workers while also weakening the power of light workers the development of racial red eteri slavery was most clear in Virginia in 1662 the legislature decided that black people faced the possibility of life servitude and that any child born to an enslaved woman would also be a slave in 1667 Virginia lawmakers made it official that baptism did not bring freedom to blacks in 1691 they banned interracial marriage and in the slave codes of 1705 free men of color lost the right to hold public office all black people were denied the right to testify in court cases and all black and Native American slaves were considered real property these laws coincided with colony's increased participation in the slave trade between 1660 and 1700 the number of slaves in the south won from around 1500 to over 20,000 which was around 7% of the population to over 20% even in the middle of North colonies where slavery was less common the safe population almost doubled in these 40 years interestingly many of these laws also touched on the topic that I have not brought up yet gender one of the most consistent trends in the early colonies was their immense gender imbalance while some of the upper-class had rough gender parity for the most part there were way more men than there were women in the northern colonies that meant ratios of about 2 to 3 men for every woman and down south and when as high as six men to every woman in some places this created a lot of effects that men especially in leadership were not happy with first of all in the colonies women were able to wield much more social and economic power than they ever had been back in Europe they were able to marry and leave marriage with greater ease and when their husbands died they legally maintained their properties and possessions providing even greater material independence these factors also led lower-class men to engage in activity that was looked down upon in the 1600s there was a good deal of interracial marriages between lower-class white men and Native Americans or Africans not exactly what you want when you're trying a new racial hierarchy some men even engage in homosexual or polyamorous relationships shocking the sensibilities of Protestant settlers others dropped out of the world of relationships and child-rearing altogether forming America's first community of in cells not only were these developments well at side the ideal of what had been created during the Protestant Reformation and late Middle Ages they were also detrimental to the early economic development occurring in the colonies in his video which is gender and Marxism Ollie thorn of philosophy tube describes how forcing women into the role of unpaid baby makers allowed an easier reproduction of the workers needed to maintain farms and factories this led to the ideal of what we know today as the nuclear family a man who would go out to work and a woman who has stayed home and raise the kids so a quick aside here while I'm describing some material reasons that racism and sexism developed to the forms that we were familiar with today I have to make two qualifications first these things did already exist in some form before this time women were treated to Slusser under feudalism – and while racism may not have been systematic in the way that it is today it certainly still existed second just because something developed in a material way does not mean that it can be simply defeated by reversing those material changes racism goes deeper than a wealth gap and sexism goes deeper than reproduction so what I'm trying to say is avulsion capitalism won't fix racism and trans women are still women but anyways moving on contrary to what some folks might want you to believe these family values did not come naturally they had to be forcefully implemented though even in colonial times there were some exceptions to the strict role of women as child raisers there were still labor shortage in most places and having some women work helped make it less severe but one of the first laws racialized in slavery in 1642 did so by making black women along with black and white men title but not white women this was essentially an attempt to cut non slave woman out of the larger working population but even this was one of the more mild laws marriage consent laws were passed to give parents greater control over their daughters and in the courts restrictions on birth control and abortion were enforced through existing common law but the most famous use of legal power to enforce gender norms came with a witch hunts in New England even in their limited amount the attempts to push certain behaviors was clear accusations would most frequently arising as unmarried woman lower-class woman or recent widows and the accusations themselves under the broad category of witchcraft tended to be things that went against gender roles the witching or abusing children and young women were poisoning their husbands this was of course aided by rough conditions perhaps a bit of LSD and a bizarre religious customs of the time but the gendered implications were clear by the 18th century the gender roles that would hold for the next three centuries were well established so at this point the American colonies were now firmly a society of their own apart from England a firmly racist sexist and stratified society but a society nonetheless and from this there began to develop the route that would eventually grow into a left-wing movement of course in the early stages it is essentially impossible to identify any movement and stretch all across the colonies while many broad changes were happening similarly across the colonies the responses to these changes were not really that coordinated Africans would attempt to hijack slave boats before being brought to America and would petition for the freedom or try to escape after be enslaved women would try to take advantage of the legal status of widows or fight back against unjust court cases and lower wage workers would from time to time combined into brief unions to make demands but none of these involved into larger movements and most were quickly put down there were individuals like Roger Williams the founder of the Rhode Island colony who would push for fair treatment of Native Americans and also push against the legalization of slavery in the colonies but none these individuals early on were able to really push back in a way that could be considered a movement the first movement politics began to arise in the colonies in the start of the 1700s and perhaps the most prominent of these movements was abolitionism we'll be talking a lot more about this later on but the first figure started to appear at this point some people might like to play up the white Savior narrative but the truth is that this was an interracial project from the beginning black people were always fighting slavery as I mentioned earlier but around the turn of the 18th century some more white people started to get on board oddly one the first prominent abolitionist was a judge during the Salem witch trials Samuel Sewall overcome with guilt at the realization of what had been a part of so well turned to social activism he wrote a book the selling of Joseph which argued using terms have become very familiar later in American history Liberty is in real value next on to life no not to part with it themselves nor deprive others of it the most well-known white abolitionists however were the Quakers the Quakers had split off from the Church of England during the English Civil War and come to America to seek religious freedom many ended up in Massachusetts which was as we all know from American history textbooks founded to meet that very purpose however the Puritan colonists weren't a big fan of that type of religious freedom so they banned Quakerism and hung for Quakers that refused to leave the same happened in distilled Dutch colony of New Amsterdam where became illegal not just to be a Quaker but also to even harbor one luckily many were eventually able to settle in Rhode Island in Pennsylvania but at this point many of the Quaker settlers were quite poor and used to oppression both didn't immediately translate into strong abolitionism about 10% of Quakers owned slaves around 1700 there were still several Quakers that were willing to take up the cause some took a traditional approach Anthony Ben is a or antoine ben is a if you want to be fancy had many actual connections to the black community in philadelphia and spent a large part of his life combating the rise of scientific racism that began to develop in the 1700s he also fought to get the Quakers to officially ban slavery within the religion and founded the first anti-slavery society the first school for black children and the first public school for girls another prominent activist was John Woolman in his writings he tied slavery into a larger story advocating not just against forced bondage but against poverty and oppression in all forms in a plea for the poor he began to lay out a basic Retief capitalism they're not quite offering a complete solution the money which the wealthy received from the poor who do more than a proper share of business and raising it is frequently paid to other poor people for doing business which is foreign to the true use of things other Quaker abolitionists were more colorful characters for example Benjamin lay would make his case against slavery not only with pamphlets both public demonstrations too he would storm into Quaker meetings and splatter a Bible with pokeberry juice to represent the blood of slaves or stand barefoot in the snow to show their suffering at one point he kidnapped the son of a slave owner to show him the pain that came from the separation of families at slave markets better to die by the sword than by famine he would quote from the scripture trying to encourage slave rebellions and many slaves are willing to take that up the many Africans had been converted to Christianity in the 1600s an attempt to make slavery seem more like a humanitarian mission it was the first Great Awakening in the 1700s that brought widespread Christianity to the growing slave population especially in the south and this brought with it a stronger sense of religious purpose to the struggle against slavery slaves began to identify with the Israelites in Egypt and start to fight back there were slave rebellions in Virginia in 1663 New York in 1712 and kind of in 1741 and South Carolina in 1736 and the slave rebellions weren't all-black they would frequently include Native American slaves or white indentured servants underlining the need for the ruling class to keep the lower classes segregated by race racist pseudoscience like polygenism and phrenology exploded in popularity among the wealthy elite trying to find a scientific justification for their bigotry meanwhile slave owners would try to convince smaller land owning whites that if they freed their slaves free blacks would provide undue competition now competition was actually something that a lot of lower-class people were worried about not necessarily competition from freed slaves but competition in general as hundreds of thousands of new immigrants came to the colonies the Co started to get a bit crowded and a bit more industrial small towns like Boston and Philadelphia became booming ports which created a growing class of day laborers journeyman and artisans which would form the base of a new urban working class but the development also created a desire among some people to move west it is essentially impossible to cover American history without talking about the frontier as to defined what made America is so different from many other countries though it was wrapped up in brutal colonial expansion the frontier also offered a lasting hope for settlers no matter how cramped or unequal things got in the East there was always the opportunity to seeker for train out west this was obviously romanticized a good deal but there was also an element of truth to it in the late 1700s 60% of all Americans owned some sort of land with that number going as high as 80 percent in some areas this was unheard of in Europe while these high levels of individual land ownership would theoretically lead to a very individualist culture it we did the opposite in many small communities on the frontier the book Commons democracy published just a few years ago works through early American literature to uncover a long-forgotten tradition of informal egalitarian democracy that was extremely common on the frontier in early America rather than living in individualized isolation frontier settlers lived in tight-knit communities where decisions were made democratically and labor was frequently done communally in Chapter three of letters from an American farmer which is famous for coining the term melting pot and Praetorian Americans as industrious self-interested individuals the author describes that another one of the key parts of being an American is an ascension into self making community for a class of people that escaped a Europe that was full of political conflict and economic and closure just to come to America to find the same process already underway it was only natural that European immigrants would turn towards common aid however these communities were not just European while some of the communities on the edge of recognized British territories push for ruthless expansion and Native American genocide at those preferred peace with the local tribes and when intermarry and live among them there is a reason that so many white Americans today identify as like 1/64 Native American so throughout all this I hope to show this society that was developing in colonial America on the one side there were the attempts to establish a more unjust society the establishment of racial slavery and the deepening of the patriarchy the establishment of a firm large land holding class and the deepening of inequality that followed the rise of large port cities but on the other hand there was an egalitarian tradition the beginning of the abolition movement the Democratic communal tradition of the settlers on the frontier and the small acts of solidarity between indentured servants Native Americans and slaves in the face of rising racism and legal discrimination colonial America has is still the case with modern America was hold these contradictions even a country that was formed as brutally as United States was giving birth through tradition of a Gallic arianism that has lasted to this day and like all contradictions he's eventually had to resolve themselves and the chance for that resolution served to arise in the 1760s with the outbreak of the revolution in the colonies the American Revolution is frequently brushed over in left-wing circles not being a true revolution in the sense that it did not change the structure of material relations in any meaningful way but through the war the events and the ideas surrounding it and the form of government that rose from it this mishmash of different people's in a contradictory society were transformed into one of the most dynamic countries that the world has ever seen the story of the American Revolution is the transformation of the monarchic colonies into a capitalist republic and that'll be the story in the next episode so until then my name is Carl and this is Commons Academy

1 thought on “Race, Gender, and Class in Colonial America | History of the American Left

  1. I'm still amazed you don't have more subs yet. Have you considered posting your stuff to r/thebakery?

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