Skip to comments.African Slaves Brought First Rice Riches to U.S.?
Posted on 12/20/2007 7:49:21 PM PST by Lorianne
A rice variety that made many a colonial plantation owner rich was brought to the United States from West Africa, according to preliminary genetic research.
The finding suggests that African slaves are responsible for nearly every facet of one of the first rice varieties grown in the U.S., as well as one of the most lucrative crops in early American history.
"Not only did they bring the technology, the how-to, they brought the cultivar," said Anna McClung, a genetic researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Stuttgart, Arkansas.
West Africans had been growing varieties of rice for several thousand years before the start of the slave trade with the colonies, McClung said.
Ship masters wanting to deliver healthy slaves to the U.S. bought rice in Africa as provisions for the voyage, according to experts. Once in the colonies, slaves grew leftover rice in their own garden plots for food.
In 1685 plantation owners in the Carolinas started experimenting with a rice variety that produced high yields and was easy to cook, McClung said.
The slaves used their rice-growing know-how to convert the swampy Carolina lowlands to thriving rice plantations replete with canals, dikes, and levies, which facilitated periodic flooding of the fields, McClung noted.
The so-called Carolina Gold variety quickly became a high value export crop, primarily to Europe.
"That was really fundamental for the economic growth of this country, and that hinged upon this one variety," McClung said. "So there's been this question of where did that one variety come from?"
(Excerpt) Read more at news.nationalgeographic.com ...
Having said all this, I am equally disgusted by the mockery I continue to read, on many threads about the past treatment of African slaves brought to this country. This should never have been done. I condemn those in Africa who sold their own people (as well as enslaved them themselves) as well as those persons and business owners who had no objection to enslaving others to provide them with lifes of comparative ease and/or to increase their own profits.
Such people and business owners continue to exist in our own society today: it is now the illegal aliens who are treated as slaves, much as I find their presence here disgusting, as they are lawbreakers who receive benefits to which they are not entitled.
Having said that.....I came upon the following article (I don't know who the writer is, or his bent, and have not throughly read the entire piece), which I found interesting:
During its experimental stage, planters grew rice primarily in river swamps around Charles Town. In 1700, they exported 330 tons of rice from Charles Town to England and the West Indies. Edward Randolph, Collector of Customs for the Southern Department of North America, wrote a letter to the same board explaining, "They have now found out the true way of raising and husking Rice. There has been above 300 Tons shipped this year to England besides about 30 Tons more to the Islands." During the spring of 1700, the governor of Carolina wrote a letter to the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations explaining the problems that Carolina experienced due to the overproduction of rice. He wrote, we "hath made more rice ye Last Cropp then we have Ships to Transport." [NOTE: there is no mention that slaves caused or created such rice productions or technology by this point]
By the 1730s, the major influx of slaves into South Carolina was from the west coast of Africa. Planters preferred Africans from Angola, the Gambia River area, the Windward Coast and the Gold Coast, although some slaves, mostly prisoners of inter-tribal warfare, came from as far as 700 miles into the interior of the Africa. In the coastal regions, rice growing had been a dominant part of African culture since 1500 BC. Tribal members "recruited" and sold most of the slaves for trade with Europeans. The most common reasons for selling tribal members to the Europeans were for offenses against society, such as murder or theft, offenses against the king, or even personal or tribal misfortunes such as indebtedness or tribal famine. Slave brokers, along the coastal regions of Africa, often trained future slaves in rice fields similar to those in which they would work in the new world. The sale of human lives was profitable for African tribal kings and the European traders as well as the colonial planters.
By 1730, two-thirds of South Carolina's population was slaves...
It was a plantation on the coast near Charleston that we visited. They did say the rice was grown by the know how of the slaves. The only real difference between the accounts seems to be how the rice trade started.
What we were told is that the slaves grew it to feed themselves (with the permission of the slave holder) and later the slave holders discovered what a gold mine it was. Supposedly the slaves were brought over for other purposes than rice production.
Damn, and here I was thinking America was built on okra.
Aunt Jemimah’s done it again...
Interesting, metmom. I think I’ll be putting that on my list of things to investigate/research...very soon.
All you need to grow rice is a swamp and a whole lot of seeds;
From a search:
African and Asian types of rice are grown in two ways depending on the location and climate where it was planted. There are two types of growing rice in certain parts of the country.One of it is called lowland rice. This requires rice being grown in flooded plains called paddies so its roots could be able to make use of the nutrient content from the water it was planted in. Paddy rice farmers usually plant the seeds first in little seedbeds and transfer them into flooded fields which were already plowed. Other highly-developed countries plant the seeds using a drill in fields already levelled mechanically. Afterwards,it is flooded either by rainwater or by irrigation.
If only the Africans who never left home could do as well:
The plantation we visited is called Middleton Place. ( just happened to find the brochures from the tour we took)
Not *Gone With the Wind*, for sure....
no, lol....not at all! The “master’s” house was nothing elaborate, though, either.
probably one of the Ball’s......I have a book on them...and their many slaves
maybe the best slave history to be found
We’ve visited there and heard the same stories. The slaves brought the rice and knowledge. After there was no slave labor it was no longer possible to grow the rice profitably.
Oh great, one more thing to feel guilty about.
“You’ve heard of ‘lice’, haven’t you? Africans invented that too.”
FYI, blacks rarely if ever get head lice (pediculus capitas).
Rice. Lice. It was a joke.
Sorry, being in a lice territory that grows rice there are still a lot of folks that don’t know that.
So.....why didn't the west Africans sail to the colonies, enslave a bunch of crackers, and take them back to west Africa to work on their own rice plantations??
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Note: this topic is from 12/20/2007.