Origins of Slavery

The surprising story of the origins of slavery.

Primary Source Research “A Girl Like Me”


What’s in a name?
. Aristotle called slaves human instruments signifying their use as tools.
. Fifth-century Anglo-Saxons called their slaves Welshman, after the people they captured.
. The word ˜slave is adapted from Slav, originating from the time when the Germans supplied the slave markets of Europe with captured Slavs.

So much for the original slaves being “people of color”




 In November 1998, the British science journal Nature published the results of Dr. Eugene Foster’s DNA Study. This study resulted in a great deal of controversy on the issue of Thomas Jefferson’s paternity of the children of his slave Sally Hemings. There are many people who feel this DNA study, either alone or combined with other historical evidence, resolves the issue once and for all. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation issued a report in January 2000 concluding that there is a strong likelihood that Thomas Jefferson was the father of at least one and perhaps all the children of Sally Hemings. These resolutions and conclusions are based on subjective and incomplete historical information. This web site was created to provide the misinformed public with the other side of the story and to highlight information that tends to exonerate Thomas Jefferson of these allegations.  In May 2002 the Monticello Association (descendants of Thomas Jefferson) voted to not admit descendants of Sally Hemings into their organization. The decision came after their careful review of all available information resulting in the conclusion that there was not sufficient evidence to prove Jefferson fathered Hemings’ children. On February 24, 2003, The Thomas Jefferson (Memorial) Foundation revised their statement regarding the children of Sally Hemings: “Although the relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemings has been for many years, and will surely continue to be, a subject of intense interest to historians and the public, the evidence is not definitive, and the complete story may never be known. The Foundation encourages our visitors and patrons, based on what evidence does exist, to make up their own minds as to the true nature of the relationship.”Their previous statement dated July 15, 2002, read as follows: “It likely will take newly uncovered historical evidence or scientific methods still unknown to determine beyond doubt the truth about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, and the complete story may never be known. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation stands by its original findings – that the weight of evidence suggests that Jefferson probably was the father of Eston Hemings and perhaps the father of all of Sally Hemings’ children – but is ready to review new evidence at any time and to reassess its understanding of this matter in the light of new information.”

Click here to hear from Fountain Hughes, his grandfather was owned by Thomas Jefferson, Fountain was also a slave

This is from the Library of Congress… an incredible resource for digital curriculum.


African = African American?

Similarities?  Differences?  An integrated group?   Black?


At a Glance

  • In 1990, fewer than 5,000 Minnesota residents had been born in Africa. A decade later, that figure had increased to more than 34,000.
  • By 2002, nearly 9,000 additional immigrants arrived in Minnesota directly from various African nations.
  • In fact, 13% of Minnesota’s foreign-born residents in the 2000 Census were from Africa—a higher percentage than any other state in the country.
  • Most of these individuals have come to the United States as refugees fleeing civil strife in Liberia, Somalia, and the Sudan. Other relatively large African populations recently arrived in the U.S. include Nigerians, Ethiopians, and Eritreans.

Why Somalis Come to Minnesota

The modern nation of Somalia gained its independence in 1960. For much of the next three decades, Somalia was entangled in Cold War politics. Civil war erupted while the Soviet Union was collapsing; atrocities and natural disasters—famine, flood, drought—forced more than a million Somalis to seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia. Somalia has not had a recognized government since 1991.

Most Somalis who now live in Minnesota came to the United States as refugees.
About one-third of Minnesota’s Somali residents came directly from refugee camps; others settled first in another state and then relocated to Minnesota. The reasons for this are many, but -pri-marily (1) the existence of an established Somali -community, which meant that health care, educational, and other -systems were already prepared to address the particular needs of Somalis; and (2) the availability of unskilled jobs that don’t require English fluency or literacy.


Minnesota is home to the country’s largest population of Somali residents. Most Somalis live in the metro area, particularly in Minneapolis: nearly a third of Minnesota public school students who speak Somali at home attend Minneapolis public schools. Smaller numbers of Somalis have moved to Rochester, Owatonna, and other suburban and Greater Minnesota communities.

Some Somalis in Minnesota came from coastal, agricultural and/or nomadic regions in Somalia; others were urban residents.


Because resettlement of Somali refugees in Minnesota began as recently as the mid-1990s, the economic impact of this population is growing on a smaller scale than that of other, longer-established immigrant groups.

At present, Somali influence on Minnesota’s economy primarily includes filling positions that don’t require strong English skills, providing businesses and services to other Somali immigrants, and a variety of entrepreneurial efforts. Today more than 120 African-owned businesses can be found along Minneapolis’ Lake Street -corridor.

Underutilization of professional skills is a problem for many African immigrants. Professional licensure obtained abroad is often not recognized in the U.S. As a result, many former doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, and lawyers are earning a living through manual labor, which, while providing an important service, prevents Minnesota from benefiting from their professional skills.

Life in Minnesota: Challenges and Considerations

Worship Accommodations
Most Somalis are Sunni Muslims. In Minnesota—especially at school and in the workplace—Somalis find they must negotiate for time and space to pray (at five -predetermined times a day, facing Mecca), for permission to wear the hijab (a head covering, a religious observance of modesty for Muslim women), and for understanding as they fast from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan (a lunar month near the end of the calendar year). Islam also prohibits charging or paying -interest, which makes it difficult to purchase homes or otherwise participate in Western economic life.

Community Diversity
While Minnesotans may view Somali -immigrants as a monolithic group, Somali society is actually -composed of multiple groups, affiliated by language, culture, -geography, or other commonalities.
Mental and Emotional Health—In addition to learning a new -language, a new culture, and otherwise wrestling with the ordinary challenges of life in a new country, they must confront the physical and emotional effects of their experiences in Somalia and refugee camps. A number of self-help organizations have been established by recent immigrants to assuage the effects of these experiences.