Why 18th Century individuals considered African people racially inferior

To what extent did 18th-century individuals in Europe, England and America think of enslaved African people as racially different or inferior? Cite evidence from her chapter.

Individuals in 18th-century Europe, England and America thought of enslaved Africans as the Other. Even though many argued for the abolition of slavery, African people were still considered racially inferior to whites. As a result of this perceived inferiority, many prominent whites argued that white people should not mix with black people. For example, Jefferson stated that African people “are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind” (Outram 70). Thus, he argued that freed slaves should be removed from society, “before any sexual relation with white people can occur” (Outram 71).

18th-century individuals in Europe, England and America tried to use science and classification to find justifications for their beliefs. For example, they examined Africans’ outside and inside appearance, i.e. skin color, skeletons and craniums, but did not find the justifications that they were searching for (Outram 69). The problem with their methodology was that they assumed that their conclusions about the inferiority of black people were correct and went around trying to find proof. What they needed to do instead was to examine the evidence first and then draw conclusions (this is the way real science rather than pseudo-science is conducted).  If they had only examined environment and culture of European versus African societies then they would reach the conclusion that the differences were mainly environmental rather than intrinsic (fortunately, they did this later).

Outram, Dorinda. The Enlightenment. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.

Anti-Slavery Mobilization

According to Outram, why did it take so long for “anti-slavery mobilization” to get off the ground?

The slave trade is a major factor in making plantations economically viable. Slavery was “embedded in powerful, highly organized economic structures. Slave labor returned high profits to those in the slave trade, and also to those involved in colonial plantation production” (Outram 64). Abolishing slavery meant that plantation owners would now have to pay for people to work the fields. Even low wages cost something for the owners. Thus, there was a great economic interest in paying the workers as little as possible (and preferably nothing). This is why today, and over the last century, most large companies are anti-unions. Unions drive up costs (by putting pressure on the owners to pay their workers higher wages). Economic was the main reason why the anti-slavery mobilization movement took so long to get off the ground. “Objective changes in the organization and economic importance of African slavery in European colonies in this period did not make any easier the path to their resolution or to the abolition of slavery” (Outram 63). In other words, toomany people were invested in it. Furthermore, economics was also the main reason why the South fought to keep slaves the longest and why America was the last country to abolish slavery (we had the most to lose financially from its disappearance).

Outram, D. The Enlightenment. 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University. 2005. Print.