history slavery

Read our whole series on the history of slavery here.

The history of slavery is a large and untellable story, full of tragedy and cruelty that spans both centuries and continents. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the exact year that slavery began, historians can trace the roots of this inhumane practice back roughly 11,000 years. Keep reading to learn about the origins of slavery, how it developed across ancient cultures and what you can do to help end a form of modern-day slavery for known as restavek.


The Origins of The Slavery Practice

The precise beginning of slavery is difficult to track because its origins predate historical recording and the written word. Due to the sociological makeup of the groups, we know that slavery wasn’t a part of hunter-gatherer societies, so the first identifiable evidence of slavery comes from the Code of Hammurabi out of Mesopotamia. This ancient text refers to slavery as a common practice throughout the region which had been in place for thousands of years at the time it was written.


Slavery Throughout the Ancient World

The practice of human slavery grew as the world became more civilized and organized cities and farms were developed. Sumer or Sumeria is still thought to be the birthplace of slavery, which grew out of Sumer into Greece and other parts of ancient Mesopotamia. The Ancient East, specifically China and India, didn’t adopt the practice of slavery until much later, as late as the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC. Historians debate whether or not the practice of slavery in India existed before this time, but many believe argue against its existence as there is no word in ancient Sanskrit that can be translated as “slave.”


The Life of a Slave in Ancient Times

Slavery in ancient times typically came about as a result of debt, birth into a slave family, child abandonment, war, or as a punishment for crime. At the outset, the slave trade wasn’t very popular and was certainly not a booming global business. Rather, slavers would often seek out a buyer who could use the specific skills of a slave, matching supply with demand on a local and personal level. According to historical texts, the lives of slaves in ancient times were typically better than that of peasants in the same era, as they had regular care, food, shelter and clothing. Slaves rarely attempted to run away unless their masters were atypically cruel.


Help Us End Child Slavery in Haiti

Although it is currently illegal in every country on the planet, modern day slavery still exists across the globe. Restavek Freedom exists to end a modern day child slavery practice known as restavek. The restavek system of slavery exists due to the poverty of the island nation of Haiti. Parents who cannot afford to feed and care for their children will often send them to live with wealthier families in hopes of a better life. All too often, however, these children become slaves in the family tasked with their care. Rather than spending their days at school and at play, they complete hard labor on meager rations with little love or support from those they live with.

Restavek Freedom is one of the top charities located in Haiti working to end this despicable practice. You can partner with us to end slavery in Haiti through financial support, child sponsorship and by drawing attention to the plight of children living in restavek through social media and community activism.

To read more about the history of slavery, visit restavekfreedom.org/the-history-of-slavery.