Top 20 Poverty Facts That You Need to Know — The Borgen Project

Top 20 Poverty Facts

Poverty can be found citywide, statewide, nationally and globally. Poverty can develop in the smallest or most unexpected locations — familiar places, not simply distant third world countries separated from the cozy upper-middle class Western lifestyle. This is a global issue that must be dealt with by the international community. Some efforts are being made to that effect, but not enough. Here are 20 poverty facts:

Top 20 Global Poverty Facts

  1. Nearly 22,000 children die each day due to living in poverty.
  2. There are 2.2 billion children in the world, and 1 billion of them live in poverty.
  3. A third of all poor in developing countries are children aged zero to 12.
  4. Global poverty has decreased by half over the last decade; however, 71 percent of the population still live in low-income or poor ($10 a day) conditions.
  5. The average income of extreme poverty in a developing world rose from 74 cents to 87 cents per day from 1981 to 2010.
  6. A quarter of humanity, 1.6 billion people, lives without electricity.
  7. Nearly 2.8 billion people rely on wood chips, crop waste or animal dung for cooking and heating their homes.
  8. In 2011, about 800 children under the age of five died every hour.
  9. Those children could have survived via simple affordable intervention, such as clean drinking water or vaccinations.
  10. According to an Oxfam report, if the world’s 100 richest people pooled their collective earnings in 2012, they could have ended extreme world poverty four times over.
  11. Eight in 10 Americans were completely unaware that global poverty was decreasing in recent decades. More than two-thirds of the American population thought global poverty had been rising in recent decades.
  12. One frappuccino at Starbucks costs more than the median income for people in the developing world ($3 a day).
  13. For every $25 spent on repaying debt only $1 goes to aiding a developing country.
  14. Approximately 790 million people in developing countries, two-thirds of whom live in Asia and the Pacific, suffer from chronic undernourishment.
  15. Five countries house three-fifths of the world’s extreme poor: Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India and Nigeria.
  16. About 30 percent of the world’s extremely poor live in India.
  17. The 12 percent of the world that uses 85 percent of Earth’s water do not live in a developing country.
  18. Some 54 percent of Americans are considered to be living below the poverty line.
  19. The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), released in 2014, has been praised for being the “most accurate reflection of the world’s poor” by including quality of life indicators.
  20. By maintaining the current rate of progress, poverty should reach its target eradication around 2025-2030.

Even though the efforts and statistics appear bleak, progress is making headway. These 20 poverty facts demonstrate a push in the right direction that the world’s poor need.

15 Facts About Maggots

Few things trigger revulsion like the sight of maggots writhing through rotting food or decomposing road kill. But maggots, which are the larval stage of flies and other related insects, are actually one of nature’s unsung heroes. Along with bacteria and other insects, they quickly break down dead things. Maggots provide other beneficial services as well, from helping solve crimes to healing wounds.

Of course, not all maggots perform such brilliant feats; some, for example, are pests that eat crops. But they don’t deserve the universally bad rap they’ve been given. So the next time your stomach lurches at the sight of maggots squirming, here are 15 examples to help you remember what amazing creatures they actually are.


Flies generally lay their eggs on things that will make a good food source for their offspring, so when maggot larvae hatch they can get to work feasting right away. Over several days they will eat, poop, grow, and sometimes even molt. At that point, the typically creamy colored maggots will pupate, meaning they’ll squirm off to a reasonably dry place, stop moving, and grow a dark shell.

Inside that shell, they transform from a mushy mass to a fully formed insect. In about 10 days, maggots will emerge from the pupal casing as hairy, bug-eyed flies and scamper off to mate, starting the cycle all over again.


They have no legs, but their front ends have mouths with hooks that help them grab at decaying flesh and other delectable food items. Despite their endless appetites, however, they lack a sophisticated digestive system. So as they move through a corpse or rotten food, they secrete fluid containing digestive enzymes to help them dissolve their foul meal.


In 2013, researchers from the University of Lausanne published a study reporting that fruit fly maggots—normally vegetarians—actually have cannibalistic tendencies. Once a maggot is injured, it’s fair game for a feeding frenzy. Why would a normally vegetarian species do such a thing? Scientists don’t have clear answers yet, but their research studying maggots could help answer basic evolutionary questions about cannibalism.


Maggots feed in massive groups, and all those digestive juices and movement can really heat up their immediate environment. They deal with this by retreating to cooler spots when the temperature becomes uncomfortably hot. But research suggests that if you put enough maggots in a confined space and wait, eventually the temperature will rise to the point that they’ll start to die—somewhere between 104F° and 122F°.


Maggots aren’t the most sophisticated creatures, but research shows some have the ability to smell particular aromas, as well as react to light. Fruit fly maggots can’t see distinct images, but they have eye-like photoreceptors known as Bolwig organs that help them detect brightness. More recently, researchers discovered they also have light-sensing cells along their body. Both help to protect them from too much light, which can be deadly for young fruit flies.

Meanwhile, other researchers have focused on studying maggots’ sense of smell. According to Matthew Cobb, a biologist at the University of Manchester in the UK, maggots have just 21 odor-receptor neurons, compared to 1300 in flies and millions in more complex animals like rats and people. In spite of this, maggots are still able to detect a surprising number of odors.


Science has come a long way since the 18th century. Then, people commonly accepted the theory of spontaneous generation—a belief that life could develop from non-living things, despite the fact that some two centuries earlier, in 1668, Italian physician Francesco Redi conducted a low-tech but effective experiment that showed otherwise. Redi demonstrated that maggots turned into flies, which laid eggs that turned into more maggots. He observed that maggots only appeared on meat that’s left uncovered, allowing flies to lay eggs that later hatched.


We all know from our favorite TV shows that establishing the time of death is a fundamental part of a murder investigation. The time of colonization—as in, the moment at which flies arrive and begin feeding and laying eggs in decomposing flesh—helps forensic entomologists more accurately assess time of death.

It only takes a few minutes for some species of flies to begin arriving and laying eggs. So by noting the various species present and studying the age of the maggot offspring squirming around in a body, it’s possible to determine the minimum amount of time that’s passed since death.


Surprisingly, some species are quite effective at helping wounds heal and inhibiting infection. So-called maggot debridement therapy isn’t a new technology; it’s been observed for centuries that soldiers injured in battle often healed faster when their wounds were infested with maggots. Orthopedic surgeon William Baer, who had observed this himself in World War I, presented a groundbreaking study in 1929 showing that children with osteomyelitis (bone infection) and soft tissue wounds could be successfully treated with maggot therapy.

During the subsequent decade, thousands of doctors used maggot therapy. But the rise of antibiotics, coupled with challenges in obtaining medical-grade maggots grown in completely sterile conditions, saw the treatment dwindle. That’s changing, however, with the rise of antibiotic resistance and an increased prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes that lead to non-healing wounds. Today, maggot therapy is making somewhat of a comeback.


Maggots used in debridement therapy feed exclusively on rotting flesh. They help clear out the dead, bacteria-infested tissue of a wound so that healthy tissue can thrive and the wound can close. They leave healthy flesh alone. But there’s more to it than that. Maggots help curb inflammation by suppressing a part of the body’s immune system response.

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Inhibiting the immune system might sound counterintuitive, but it turns out that maggots secrete a fluid capable of breaking down proteins that can trigger an overactive immune response. That overreaction by the immune system can lead to chronic inflammation, which in turn slows down healing and can increase the likelihood of infection.

In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of medical maggots. They are typically placed in small, permeable packages and applied to the wound so that they can do their thing without crawling away (or into the body).


If you’ve ever waited too long to take the trash out in the middle of summer, you may have lifted up the lid and been repulsed at the sight of maggots writhing through last week’s leftovers. But they are actually excellent for creating rich, nutrient-laden compost.

Black soldier flies (rising stars of the maggot world—see below) are particularly speedy eaters. They work their way through organic food and animal waste so quickly that bacteria don’t stand a chance. This cuts down on odors produced by bacteria. So, bonus: your compost won’t smell as bad when these maggots are at work en masse.


From Colorado to South Africa, the maggot market is heating up—and helping to solve the problem of overfishing. Right now, the protein in most feed for commercial chickens, pork, and fish farms comes from ocean fisheries like sardines and herring, many of which are collapsing. That’s a huge problem, because other marine species depend on these tiny fish as their major food source. So instead of making commercial animal feed from fish meal, some forward-looking entrepreneurs are turning to farming maggots.

On a maggot farm, female black soldier flies lay about 500 eggs apiece [PDF]. This produces an army of hungry maggots that eat their way through mounds of food waste. And boy, do they eat fast. Once these plump maggots reach the pupa stage, they can be harvested—crushed, dried, and turned into animal feed. Besides protecting marine life, this keeps more food waste out of landfills, decreasing methane emissions and water pollution.


Ever enjoyed a dusting of Pecorino cheese on your pasta? On the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, a sheep cheese called casu marzu starts out in much the same way as Pecorino (a cheese made from sheep’s milk). But then, three weeks into the curing process, the top crust is cut off, and the ripening aroma beckons to “cheese skipper” flies to come and lay their eggs.

A few weeks later, maggots hatch and begin working their way through the stinky cheese. And that’s where the magic—if you can call it that—happens. The maggots break it down with their digestive enzymes, making a special contribution to the cheese’s texture and flavor. And that’s when it’s ready to eat. The flavor of casu marzu has been described as something like a strong gorgonzola or Stilton. The European Union has outlawed it, but a handful of farms on the island still make it in the traditional way.


In the tropics of Central and South America, Dermatobia hominis botflies frequently lay their tiny eggs on mosquitos. When a host mosquito lands on a warm human, body heat triggers the eggs to drop onto the skin. After they hatch, the itty bitty larvae worm their way deep under the skin and grow tiny spines that allow them to hang on tight. The parasites also release a painkilling agent to make their presence less noticeable. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

It gets worse. Harvard entomologist Piotr Naskrecki got infected with botflies while leading a nature photography workshop in Belize. It wasn’t the first time, either, so he knew what to expect. As Naskrecki describes in his blog, he decided to let two of the larvae develop under his skin. He knew in a few weeks the larvae would grow to the size of a peanut, and pop out of his body to continue their transformation as pupae. You know, no big deal.

His reward was getting to photograph and film the invaders as they emerged from his skin, and document their transformation into flies. If your stomach is still feeling steady, you can watch the video here.


Rat-tailed maggots—how’s that for a name—are capable of surviving in very dirty water, like that found in stagnant ponds, lakes, and drainage areas. They get their name from their very long tails, which are actually a sort of tube that allows them to breathe under water. They are the larval stage of a drone fly, which is also known as the bee fly because of its resemblance to a honey bee.

The larvae’s tough outer covering may help protect them from bacteria present in the dirty water. But recently, scientists have discovered that there’s something else going on: the surface of their bodies is actually covered in nanopillars, spiny projections that make it difficult for bacteria in the water to congregate on the larvae. The researchers theorize that these may inhibit bacterial infection, which would explain why the maggots thrive in stagnant, dirty water where other species cannot.


Not all maggots feed exclusively on dead flesh. In the Galapagos Islands, the larvae of an invasive parasitic fly called Philornis downsi are threatening local bird populations. At least 16 of 20 species endemic to the Galapagos are in trouble because of the fly, including the famed Darwin’s mangrove finch. The flies can lay a couple hundred eggs in a bird nest. When the maggots hatch, they crawl up into baby birds’ orifices and suck their blood. Eventually the chicks die, and the maggots then feed on their corpses.

A team of scientists is working on eradicating P. downsi in the Galapagos by breeding masses of sterile male flies that can be released on the islands. As the sterile males mate with females, the population of flies should begin to drop.

20 Facts About Dogs & Dog-Eating in China

Yulin’s dog-eating festival has caused online outrage. But it is said that what dragon steak is in heaven, dog meat is on earth. Time for 20 facts about dogs and dog-eating in China.

Yulin’s dog-eating festival has caused outrage, both within China as internationally. But it is said that what dragon steak is in heaven, dog meat is on earth. Time for 20 facts about dogs and dog-eating in China.

O ver the past week, the Yulin Dog Meat Festival has been trending on China’s social media. The recurring festival, that is held in the south of China starting from June 21st celebrates the Summer Solstice by eating lychees and dog meat. Approximately 10,000 dogs are slaughtered during this festival; an abundance of food stalls in Yulin sell dog meat specialties.

Dog lovers and animal rights supporters have cried out against the event; many of them came to Yulin to protest against the practice of eating dog meat. Yulin locals resent these demonstrations and stand up for their legal right to eat dog meat. Online discussions have flared up in the light of this event, with strong sentiments against the eating of dog meat. Time to list some facts about dogs and dog eating in China.

1. The practice of dog eating is an ancient tradition. In China, it can be traced back to around 1700 B.C., starting in the north (Liu 2006, 102) .

2. 13 to 16 million dogs are eaten in Asia on a yearly basis. Dog flesh can be found on the menu in North-Korea, South-Korea, Vietnam and China (Podberscek 2009, 616-617) . (Image below: stew made of dog meat).

3. In ancient China, a dog could have three different functions within a household. It could be a watchdog (to guard the farmhouse), a hunting dog, or a dog that would be slaughtered to eat (Liu 2006) .

4. Although dog-eating originally was a northern Chinese tradition, it was brought to the south around the 6th century. It became popularized due to northern nomadic groups that travelled south, bringing all kinds of customs with them – including dogs and their meat (Liu 2006,102) .

5. The dog is one of China’s twelve zodiac signs . People who are born in the year of the dog are generally believed to be loyal, faithful and unselfish. They can also be pessimistic, anxious, and doubtful about many things in life.

6. Dogs and dog meat were considered important offerings in ancient China. It was common that the deceased were buried together with their dog to accompany them to the other world. Dogs were also sacrificed as food for the gods (Liu 2006, 102-103) . This shows that since ancient times, the dog was considered both a foodstuff and a friend in Chinese culture. (Image below: ceramic crouching dog, excavated from Henan burial site, dating from Han Dynasty, 206BC-220AD, Henan Museum).

7. The importance of dogs in rituals of sacrifice is evident through Chinese scripture: the Chinese character for ‘offer’ (献, xian) incorporates the character for ‘dog’ (犬, quan) (Liu 2006, 102) . (Image below: the character ‘xian’).

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8. Around the 10 th century, the meaning of dog meat started to change for many Chinese, who no longer perceived dogs as food. It is likely that the popularization of Buddhism caused this general change in attitude; Buddhism does not advocate the killing of any animals, but particularly rejects slaughtering dogs for their meat. Because of the dog’s general traits, such as loyalty to its owner, it came to be believed that killing dogs was bad karma (Liu 2006, 104) . (Image below: a Buddhist nun with her dog at Seda monastery, ABC 2013).

9. Eating dog is considered taboo in Manchu culture. When the Manchu came to rule China from the 17th century, the eating of dog meat was labelled ‘barbarian’ and the practice was banned. Southern Chinese continued eating dog flesh (Hopkins 2004, 20) .

10. Because followers of the Kuomintang (‘China’s National People’s Party’) were very much anti-Manchu, they symbolically would start their meetings by cooking dog meat (Hopkins 2004, 20) .

11. Although dog eating has become relatively rare in China, the idea that dog meat is ‘tasty’ is ingrained in its culture and language. One famous saying goes: “Dragon meat in heaven, dog meat on earth” (天上龙肉,地上狗肉) (Liu 2006, 105) .

12. Not long ago, dog flesh was also eaten in some parts of America, Africa and Europe. In Germany, dog meat was eaten until the early 20th century, and in 1996 it was still served in some areas in Switzerland. In the Phillippines, dog eating became illegal in 1998 (Podberscek 2009, 616-617; Roberts 2004, 20) .

13. Today, dog meat is still mostly eaten in the south of China. Some say people in the south of China will eat almost anything. An old Chinese joke goes: “Anything with two legs is edible except your parents, so is anything with four legs, except the bed” (Yue 1999, 1) .

14. Beijing currently still has 122 listed restaurants that serve dog meat or are specialized in it. (Image below: dog meat hanging outside a Beijing restaurant in 2009. Picture taken by author).

15. Dog meat is commonly praised for its good taste and health benefits. It is believed to be good for one’s ‘ yang ’, which stands for the hot (in contrast to the ‘ying’, which is cool). It is said to provide warmth in the winter and to have medicinal value. Not only is it presumed to be good for the liver; it supposedly also enhances the male sex drive (Roberts 2004, 20; Liu 2006; Hopkins 2004, 20) . (Image below: dog meat hot pot).

16. Although dogs were rarely seen in Chinese cities up to the late 1980s (Roberts 2004, 124) , they have now become a popular pet. In China’s urban areas, one will often see dogs with colored tails or ears – a fashion trend.

17. In 2006, 50,000 dogs were beaten to death during a five day crackdown in Yunnan after three people died of rabies. Only 3% of China’s dogs are vaccinated against rabies, and 2000 people die because of it every year. During the Yunnan crackdown, authorities halted people who were walking their dog. The dogs were beaten to death on the spot (NBCN 2006) .

18. In 2012, the city of Harbin issued a law banning 49 different breeds of larger dogs, including Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Chow Chows. If people had not disposed of their dogs by November 2012, they would be taken away by authorities. Weibo netizens collectively posted pictures of their dogs wearing an “SOS” sign as an outcry over the regulation (Ministry of Tofu 2012).

19. Eating dog flesh is only allowed in Mainland China; in Hong Kong, consuming dog meat has been illegal since 1954. In Taiwan, it was banned in 2001.

20. From shoes to dresses, from hats to sweatbands. You can find over 23,000 different items to dress and accessorize your dog when searching for dog’s clothing on China’s Taobao.


Hopkins, Jerry. 2004. Extreme Cuisine: The Weird & Wonderful Foods that People Eat. Singapore: Periplus.

Kaiman, Jonathan. 2014. “Chinese dog-eating festival backlash grows.” The Guardian. June 24 (Accessed online June 24, 2014).

Liu Piaobing 刘朴兵. 2006. “Luelun Zhongguo Gudai de Shigou zhi Feng Ji Renmen dui Shiyong Gourou de Taidu 略论中国古代的食狗之风及人们对食用狗肉的态度 [A Discussion of China’s Ancient Dog Eating Practice and People’s Attitude Towards Eating Dog] (In Chinese). Yindu Xuekan 殷都学刊:102-106.

Ministry of Tofu. 2012. “Dog owners irate, tearful over Harbin’s crackdown on large dogs.” Ministry of Tofu. April 12 (Accessed June 23, 2014).

Podberscek, Anthony. 2009. “Good to Pet and Eat: The Keeping and Consuming of Dogs and Cats in South Korea.” Journal of Social Issues 65(3): 615-632.

Roberts, J.A.G. 2004. China to Chinatown: Chinese Food in the West. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Young, Connie. 2014. “Canine controversy: Chinese festival serves up dog meat.” CNN. June 23 (Accessed online June 24, 2014).

Yue Gang. 1999. The Mouth That Begs: Hunger, Cannibalism, and the Politics of Eating in Modern China. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

10 Interesting Facts You Never Knew About Slavery

Slavery is one of the most controversial topics out there today. Although we all agree it was terrible, we probably never learned enough about it in school. Slavery was much more complicated than we think, and contrary to what most people believe, it was not all about blacks. Whites were also kept as slaves.

Nevertheless, slavers did all they could to justify the practice, including creating a dedicated Slave Bible. That did not stop the slaves from running away, though. However, the daring escapes often ended after the slaves were tracked and attacked by dogs bred only for that purpose.

10 Slavers Used A Different Bible That Justified Slavery

Some masters educated their slaves and converted them to Christianity. However, they could not allow them to read the Bible because it contained several passages that countered slavery. Slavers found a way around this by removing most chapters of the Old Testament and a huge chunk of the New Testament.

The result was a stripped-down Bible that they called “Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands,” or as we say nowadays, the Slave Bible. The masters cleverly left portions of the Bible that made slavery seem normal—like the part where Joseph was kept as a slave in Egypt.

However, they removed other portions, such as where the Israelites fled from their oppressors in Egypt, which the white slavers feared could encourage the slaves to rebel. In fact, slaves in Haiti had rebelled against their white masters and chased them out of Haiti three years before the first Slave Bible was issued. [1]

The creator of the Slave Bible remains unknown. Some sources indicate that the book could be the handiwork of the white plantation owners who used it to discourage their slaves from revolting. Others think it was the white missionaries who wanted to teach the slaves only the chapters that supported slavery, just so they could think that their situation was normal.

9 Vicious Dogs Were Bred To Hunt Runaway Slaves

Runaway slaves were usually difficult to track and dangerous to approach and capture. Plantation owners later found a solution: breeding vicious dogs solely to track, attack, and capture runaway slaves.

“Negro dogs” were strong and aggressive breeds like bloodhounds and bulldogs which could tear a man to pieces. In fact, slavers often allowed the dogs to viciously maul captured runaway slaves. However, they quickly subdued the dog before it killed the slave.

One infamous Negro dog was the Dogo Cubano (aka the Mastin Cubano, Cuban Mastiff, or Mastin de Cuba). The dog was bred by crossing a Spanish war dog with the English mastiff and scent hound. The animal was engineered to catch runaway slaves, although it also guarded livestock and engaged in dogfighting. Unsurprisingly, the dog went extinct after slavery was abolished in Cuba. [2]

Negro dogs were trained with real slaves. They never saw a black slave until they were required to pursue him during training. The dogs followed the scent of the slave after picking up the individual’s distinctive smell from some clothing items. Then they went after the slave and aggressively attacked him. Successful dogs were rewarded with chunks of meat.

8 The First Slave Owner Was A Black Man

We were taught that slavery began in the US when the first 20 slaves arrived in Virginia in 1620. That is only partly true because these individuals were not really slaves. They were indentured servants—that is, people required to serve a master for a few years before regaining their freedom.

Indentured servitude was common at the time. Many people, including poor whites, often sold a few years of their own lives to a master. However, blacks were often sold into indentured servitude but regained their freedom after fulfilling their agreements.

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Anthony and Mary Johnson were two of the early indentured servants who arrived in the US in the 1620s. They later got married and held their own indentured servants.

One of their servants was a man called John Casor. In 1654 or 1655, Casor and Anthony Johnson ended up in a Virginia court due to a disagreement over Casor’s indentured servitude. Casor claimed that his term was over because he had completed the agreed-upon seven or eight years plus another seven years. Anthony insisted that Casor was still his indentured servant.

The court determined that Anthony could hold Casor in lifelong servitude, which effectively made him a slave. White owners of indentured servants soon approached the courts with similar claims and were able to convert their indentured servants into lifetime slaves. In 1661, several years after the judgment in Casor and Anthony’s case, Virginia officially legalized slavery.

To be clear, the Virginia courts had condemned one John Punch into lifetime servitude a few years before Casor was declared a slave. Punch and some white servants were charged with escaping from their masters without completing their contracts. Only Punch (a black) was punished with lifetime servitude. [3]

7 Whites Were Also Kept As Slaves

When we talk about slavery, we often think of transatlantic slavery—that is, the slaves who were transported from Africa to the US on ships traveling over the Atlantic Ocean. But that was just one form of slavery. Other kinds took place elsewhere and included whites as victims.

One form of slavery was run by the Barbary corsairs, the infamous slave raiders of the Ottoman Empire who lived along the coasts of today’s North African countries around AD 1600. The Barbary corsairs were often Muslims, although they also included English and Dutch pirates.

Unlike the transatlantic slave trade, the Barbary corsairs did not discriminate against their victims. They raided anyone, including fellow Muslims. The men were kept as slaves, while the women were sold as concubines. The male children were forcefully converted to Islam and eventually conscripted into the slave corps of the Ottoman army.

The Barbary corsairs started off by capturing passengers traveling on ships in the Mediterranean. They later switched to raiding coastal villages in England, France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal. In 1631, they captured the entire population of Baltimore in Ireland as slaves. The raids became so frequent that many European coastal townspeople fled inland to escape the pirates. [4]

The Barbary slave trade slowed down in the 17th century when the European navies started to attack the Barbary pirates on the high seas. By the 19th century, the US and European navies were already striking the pirates right in their territory. This forced them to stop enslaving European Christians, although they continued to raid other territories.

6 Slave Owners Bred Slaves And Used Them As Currency

The 1808 proscription of the transatlantic slave trade was supposed to be a win for the black slaves and the antislavery movement in the US. However, if anything, it was a win for the proslavery movement. Before the act, slavers depended on individuals captured or purchased from Africa. After the ban, they turned to slaves bred in the US.

Slave breeding was the act of encouraging slaves to give birth to as many children as possible. Many slavers maintained breeding farms where they kept a few male slaves with many female slaves. Their offspring became slaves at birth and remained on the farms until they were old enough to work.

Slave breeding became the mainstay of states like Virginia, which quickly became a top exporter of slaves to other colonies. Slaves were the state’s major product at the time. They quickly became a sort of currency and were more valuable than gold. In 1860, slaves in the US were valued at a total of $4 billion.

For comparison, all currency in the US was worth $435.4 million at that time, while all circulating gold and silver was valued at $228.3 million. Some slavers also mortgaged their slaves and then formed banks that converted the mortgages to bonds that were sold across the world—even in regions where slavery was illegal. [5]

5 Fleeing From A Master Was Considered A Mental Disorder

Samuel Cartwright was a medical doctor in the proslavery South. He supported slavery and even used medicine and science to justify it. In 1849, he was appointed the leader of a Louisiana state committee tasked with documenting the diseases of African-Americans.

Cartwright submitted his report, which was titled “Diseases and Physical Peculiarities of the Negro Race.” He claimed that blacks were inferior to whites. According to Cartwright, blacks had small brains, immature nervous systems, and sensitive skins, all of which made them good slaves. He added that a black would never be happy unless he was a slave.

Cartwright added that slaves sometimes got afflicted with drapetomania, a mental disorder that made them flee from their masters. Drapetomania was formed from the Greek words for “crazy” and “runaway slave.” The disorder was supposedly caused by masters who treated their slaves like humans.

Cartwright wrote that slaves planning to run away often got “sulky and dissatisfied without reason.” However, they and captured runaway slaves could be cured by “whipping the devil out of them” and amputating their toes. [6]

4 Laziness Was Also Considered A Mental Disorder

Cartwright did not stop at drapetomania. He also claimed the existence of another fictional mental disorder that he called dysaesthesia aethiopica, which supposedly made slaves lazy. Cartwright declared that dysaesthesia aethiopica often set in when the skin became less sensitive. This supposedly made the black slaves work sluggishly, as if they were half asleep.

Cartwright claimed that dysaesthesia aethiopica affected more free blacks than slaves because the free blacks didn’t have masters to care for them. However, he added that this illness could be cured by washing the desensitized skin with soap and water. Then the skin was cleaned in oil before the slave was made to work under the sun. Cartwright added that the slave would be very grateful. [7]

3 Convict Leasing Replaced Slavery After The Civil War

Slavery was completely illegal at the end of the US Civil War. This became a problem for the South, which quickly became unstable because its economy depended on slavery. Former slavers found solace in the Thirteenth Amendment—the same one that abolished slavery. The law permitted slavery and involuntary servitude as “a punishment for crime.”

Southern states started to arrest blacks indiscriminately. Many were even arrested for the unbelievable crime of being unemployed. The “crime” was punishable with a huge fine, which the blacks could not pay because they were unemployed. So they were imprisoned and leased to private businesses, which used them for manual labor. This was the convict-lease system.

Over 200,000 blacks became victims of the convict-lease system. Conditions were terrible, just as they were at the time of slavery. The leased convicts did dangerous jobs under inhumane conditions. They were also whipped, chained, and stabbed. Blacks quickly became so infamous as convicts that the words “convicts” and “negroes” were considered synonyms at the time. [8]

2 Freed Blacks Were Kidnapped And Resold Into Slavery

The Underground Railroad appeared several years before the Civil War. It was a network of homes and hideouts run by free blacks and white anti-slavers to help runaway slaves escape from the proslavery South to the antislavery North.

The Underground Railroad was soon countered by the Reverse Underground Railroad, which worked the other way around. Runaway slaves and free blacks were kidnapped in the North and sold in the South as slaves. Kidnapped free blacks often had difficulty proving they were free because the courts often rejected their papers over forgery concerns. [9]

Other free blacks could not testify that a fellow black was a free man because the law forbade blacks to testify against whites in courts. Only a white could prove that a black was a free man. However, many whites would not participate because they would be hated for helping a black man and sending a white man to prison.

1 Africans Sold Africans Into Slavery

Africans sold other Africans into slavery. The slave ships traveling to Africa had to get their slaves from somewhere. Most traveled to the coasts of Africa where they purchased slaves from native tribes living in the area. The slaves were often prisoners of war captured after raids on rival tribes.

The African kings on the coast traded slaves for European weapons, which allowed the kings to move further inland. There, they captured new territories and slaves, which they also exchanged for weapons. And the deadly cycle continued. The slave trade was the reason why many West African tribes engaged in a series of deadly wars a few centuries ago.

When African trade with the Europeans started in the 16th century, it didn’t involve slaves. At first, African rulers only traded ivory and gold for European goods. However, they soon started trading in slaves. [10]

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