Mary Prince’s The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself is the earliest know slave narrative by a woman, which highlights the unjust and inhumane treatment of slaves. It was published in 1831, almost 300 years after the first African slave was transported from the African coast. It is a saga of overwork, abuse and sexual violence that well over 15 million unnamed slaves had experienced during Colonial Slavery.
The practice of slavery existed in many societies, however chattel slavery developed a more brutal and racial character. Tens of millions of innocent Africans were enslaved and transported to perform unfree labor in the Americas, Asia and Europe. The population of Africa soon became the source of cheap labor needed by Europeans to accumulate capital. It is estimated Portugal was responsible for transporting over 4.5 million Africans, not counting the many millions who perished enroute to the Americas. As black historian W.E.B DeBois noted, “It was the rape of a continent seldom if ever paralleled in ancient or modern history”.
Legally owned throughout their lives, black labor created the wealth that made economic growth possible in the US and further developed capitalist production. The slaves went unrewarded for the work they were forced to regularly perform. The product of their labor was not owned by them but by their slaveowners. This surplus labor – unpaid labor – was both the source of wealth for the slave owning class and the industrializing North. South Carolina delegate Rawlin Lowndes said, “Without Negroes, this state would degenerate into one of the most contempible in the union..Negroes are our wealth, our only natural resource”.