Charleston, July 4th, and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, a half-million people of African descent lived not as equals in this country, but as slaves. In the Southern colonies, where slavery was an essential component of cotton and tobacco production, 40 percent of the population was owned by European-descendant masters. American independence leaders George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and George Mason — each of whom owned slaves — denounced the ownership of one human being by another as “repugnant,” a “hideous blot,” and frankly “evil.”
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