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How America’s First Settlers Invented Chattel Slavery

Dehumanizing Native Americans and Africans with Language, Laws, Guns, and Religion

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David K. O'Rourke

From New England and Virginia to New Spain and the current Southwest, North America’s founding householders – English and Spanish alike – took the limited European practice of coerced labor and, over the course of two hundred years, transformed it into a depersonalized and brutal chattel slavery unlike anything that had existed in Europe. What system of language and logic, what visions of religious and civil society, allowed men who saw themselves both as Christians and cultured humanists to dehumanize and enslave people whose cultures and accomplishments were evident to nearly all? In this book we observe the progressive development of a mindset that allowed the settlers to see both Native Americans and Africans as «others» who did not merit human status.