Print Сite this

Labor and Autonomy Among Slaves in the US and Egypt

Slavery is an old evil that has existed on earth for a long time. The most memorable episodes of slavery include the enslavement of Israelites in Egypt and the enslavement of African Americans in the United States. With a focus on the slavery that existed in the United States, what was the leeway given to slaves that would allow them to set the terms of labor and construct a degree of autonomy among themselves? In this essay, I will be discussing this issue based on my opinion. I will first discuss the circumstances surrounding slave labor followed by the space given to slaves to chart the course for their lives. In my opinion, slaves were not given any form of empowerment to negotiate the terms of labor in their interests. They however tried to come up with a sphere of autonomy to limit their reliance on their masters. The biggest problem this attempt at autonomy faced was interference by the greedy and evil masters. Below are the illustrations for these assertions.

We will write a
custom essay
specifically for you

for only $16.05 $11/page
308 certified writers online
Learn More

To begin with, the masters had the evil habit of beating the slaves. It was not uncommon to come across slaves whose backs were sore with lashes of the whip. Is it possible that one can beat his or her slave or worker and yet allow the slave or worker to work on his or her terms? If this were the case, then the beating would not have occurred in the first place. The reason why the masters beat the slaves is that the masters had the superior feeling that they owned the slaves. They therefore would not allow the slaves to do anything they wanted. They had to follow the instructions of the masters and failure to do this resulted in beatings. This is evidence that the slaves did not have the empowerment to negotiate the terms of labor.

Secondly, slave labor involved the exchange of money between the slave traders and the masters. The money that was paid differed from slave to slave. It is possible that intelligent slaves most of whom were slender cost less and were mistreated more since the masters feared that such slaves would come up with crafty plans and cause disturbances on their plantations. Big muscular slaves who were thoughtless were readily purchased by the masters who fed them well and made maximum use of their physical strength in the plantations. The payment of money for human beings meant that the masters had an immoral claim of ownership. This, therefore, gave them the evil air of power over the slaves, meaning the slaves would not negotiate labor on their terms. Negotiation of labor on the terms of the labor is possible when a laborer is a free person. This is the only time the laborer can proudly say that if he or she is not paid the amount of money he or she wants, the job will not be done. But this is not possible when the laborer has been reduced to an owned item. This is evidence that slaves were not empowered at all to negotiate labor on terms.

Thirdly, there is overwhelming evidence that the slaves did not have any empowerment to negotiate labor conditions on their terms. The evidence is in form of the inhuman actions the masters did to their slaves besides the beating already identified elsewhere in this essay. What are these evil and inhuman actions? The masters sexually abused extremely young children of the slaves. They did this to both male and female children. Cases of young boys being abused sexually by male masters were as common as the cases of girls being sexually abused by the masters. In some cases, the masters sired children with their female slaves and ended up sexually abusing these children, who are in the real sense, their children, related to them by blood. Were they not their biological fathers? Is it possible for people who are subjected to such cruel acts to negotiate labor conditions on their terms? It is not possible. The evil actions of the masters testify that they were out to break the spirits of their slaves and therefore take from them all the power to do anything reasonable for themselves. Therefore, slaves were not empowered at all to perform labor on their terms.

In addition to the above, the government that existed at the time did not have any structures that protected the rights of the slaves. The masters were recognized as the owners of the slaves and therefore had total control over them. In this situation, the slaves had no choice in terms of the place they were to work, the person they would work for, the length of time they would work, and the nature of work they would do. All these decisions were made by the masters. In case the masters misbehaved in the various ways discussed above, the slaves had no legal redress. They had to stay with their suffering till their bodies gave in and their souls went back to the Creator. Like the Israeli slaves in Egypt who had to do everything as per the doctrines and rules of the Pharaoh, the African Americans had to listen to their masters. And like the Israeli slaves in Egypt made their grievances known to God, the African American slaves had no one to report to other than their creator. This is not a position of empowerment that would have allowed the slaves to negotiate labor on their terms. What about the sphere of autonomy that the slaves would construct for themselves?

Autonomy for Slaves

If there is something the slaves tried to do with all their strength, it was to attain a level of autonomy. The thinking behind this was that if they had the chance to meet their needs instead of relying on their masters, they would limit the chances of meeting their masters who always mistreated them. The evidence for this attempt at autonomy is in the form of groups that the slaves formed. Some of these groups later became active movements that agitated for freedom. The effort to achieve autonomy was however not considered a good move by the masters may have rightly thought that the slaves would easily rebel against them if they attained a reasonable degree of autonomy. The masters made use of both physical and psychological tools to kill the spirits of the slaves. For example, they tried hard to make the slaves see themselves as less intelligent and therefore unable to care for themselves. This notion stuck even in the minds of some of the masters themselves who ended up passing it on to their sons and daughters. This led to the now virulent problem of racism. This is not any different from the ridicule the Jews got in Germany leading to the Second World War whereby their noses were considered long and ugly and their brains considered slow. This turned out to be a baseless fallacy when Jews led the way in scientific discovery, political thought, and sportsmanship.

In conclusion, slaves were not empowered at all to carry out labor negotiations on their terms. They attempted to be autonomous but their evil masters thwarted their plans.

Get your
100% original paper
on any topic

done in as little as
3 hours
Learn More

Cite this paper

Select style


StudyCorgi. (2021, November 28). Labor and Autonomy Among Slaves in the US and Egypt. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2021, November 28). Labor and Autonomy Among Slaves in the US and Egypt.

Work Cited

"Labor and Autonomy Among Slaves in the US and Egypt." StudyCorgi, 28 Nov. 2021,

* Hyperlink the URL after pasting it to your document

1. StudyCorgi. "Labor and Autonomy Among Slaves in the US and Egypt." November 28, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Labor and Autonomy Among Slaves in the US and Egypt." November 28, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Labor and Autonomy Among Slaves in the US and Egypt." November 28, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Labor and Autonomy Among Slaves in the US and Egypt'. 28 November.

This paper was written and submitted to our database by a student to assist your with your own studies. You are free to use it to write your own assignment, however you must reference it properly.

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal.