The role of slavery in the British Colonies in America

The role of slavery in the British Colonies in America differentiate depending on the region.

All regions used slaves for labor but in different ways. The region of New England possessed slave labor but was not dependent on it (Schultz, 2017).  New England would turn molasses into rum and then ship it to Africa, where they would then receive slaves as trade along with gold. The Middle Colonies used slaves to work in agriculture and, like New England, they traded rum for slaves and gold. 35,000 of the Middle Colonies population were slaves. The Chesapeake region Owned slaves and of the 500,000 population, 190,000 were slaves. These slaves worked mainly on tobacco plantations (Schultz, 2017). In 1760 slaves made up 40% of the Chesapeake region’s population. The Southern Colonies had a population of 215,000, of which 95,000 were slaves. The bulk of the working class was made up of slaves from Africa (Schults, 2017).  Shultz (2017) stated, “Slave labor was the key to the development of cotton” (p.70).

Each region enjoyed a vibrant economy based on commerce, agriculture, and industry (Schultz, 2017). In this enjoyment came more slavery, due to slavery being legal in all British colonies at this time. The harsh slave system only grew due to The Great Awakening because of the growth of churches, the rise of new churches, the development of colleges, religion and science, and the decline of authority (Schultz,2017). Bly (2017) stated, “New Englanders were the first to reflect seriously on the moral implications of slavery” (p.337). Not that this changed much due to politics, but they were the first ones to take a step back and start to understand how morally wrong this was.


Bly, A. T. (2017). New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America. African American Review, 50(3), 336–339.

Schultz, K. M. (2017). HIST, Volume 1. [Savant Learning Systems]. Retrieved from