HW 1-30

Arguments For and Against Slavery While It was Being Practiced 

As part of their conquest of the Americas, the European colonial powers launched the “transatlantic slave trade” through which they brought millions of African slaves into the territory. This practice of enslaved labor continued for roughly 350 years.

In this assignment, our goal is to try to understand how slavery, which today is universally regarded as both immoral and illegal, could have been supported and practiced by prominent leaders and mainstream societies on such a large scale. We also want to understand the arguments that were being made against slavery at the time it was being practiced.

To gain insights into this debate, you are to read the following brief pieces of primary source material. 

Pro-Slavery 1: Excerpt from a speech by John C. Calhoun in 1837

What arguments does Calhoun make in support of slavery?

Pro-Slavery 2: Excerpt from a book by George Fitzhugh in 1854

What arguments does Fitzhugh make in support of slavery?

Anti-Slavery 1:  The essay “African Slavery in America” by Thomas Paine in 1775

What arguments does Paine make against African slavery in America?

Anti-Slavery 2: Read “Benjamin Banneker’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson” in 1791

What arguments does Banneker use to try to persuade Jefferson that slavery should be discontinued?


After reading these four articles, prepare a brief written summary of the arguments made by each author. These four summaries, collectively, should be no more than two pages in length. You will submit this document in our next class, and it will be the third Homework Brief in the course.