A look into the continued consequences of slavery in the colonial and pre-industrialization America.
Slavery. This distinctly human invention has built empires, maintained economies and has allowed the destruction of empires and society. Slavery has made it’s appearance in every corner of the Earth in one form or another. For some it has been brief while others it has lasted longer and some have changed a society; even affecting social and economic growth. Throughout history, slavery has occurred in order to expand territories and governments, harvest natural resources and provide soldiers. In some cases, slavery was so prevalent that there were more slaves than citizens referred to as masters. This was the case with Ancient Rome and eventually led to their downfall.
The North American continent was founded as a means to find freedom from persecution, religion and other parts of life that were not being fulfilled within an already established government. Once a foothold was established in the beginning colonies it become apparent that in order to tame the land, provide a boost to the fledgling economy and defend themselves from the new dangers that the continent held; the “Americans” would need to establish a slave trade in the New World.
This decision had the expected impact as there was an entire continent of available slaves that could be sent to America as part of an economic trade. This would eventually make an entire half of a new nation completely dependent upon a property-based labor system.
It is during this time period that the film, 12 Years a Slave takes place. The events follow a free African American man who is abducted and sold into slavery and must find a way to persevere until his freedom is regained. The American film industry has a history of producing movies that focus on the American Civil War, and other films that investigate the themes that are created in a situation such as the one described above. The previously produced themes have focused on freed African Americans serving in the army without recognition, or brother fighting brother in the war and the brutality of the life of a slave. Never has a film captured the raw cruelty, barbarism and natural crimes that had taken place during this period.
In this film, there is no salvation for these slaves. Only moving from one slave owner to another do their terms of life change. The cruelty and punishments that they endure simply as a consequence of living can be difficult to watch. The shame and sorrow that the audience may feel during this film is undeniable. The most important thing to take away from that can be taken away from the journey that one has to face during the course of this film is how the enduring legacy of America continues to this day and it is a legacy that has changed the world and continues to ruin people’s lives no matter the culture.