Pathways to Freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad
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What is slavery?

Slavery is a system of labor in which people are forced to work for someone else without pay and without the freedom to leave if they want to. Enslaved people have to work and live as their masters tell them to. They have no freedom to make their own decisions about where they will live, what they will do, or where they will go.

In the United States, slavery began during the early colonial years, in the early 1600s, and lasted until the mid-1860s. It lasted almost two hundred and fifty years. The system of slavery here was particularly harsh. Enslaved persons were considered property, like cows and sheep, or like the furniture in someone's house. They could be bought and sold just like other property. This meant that families could be separated. Children could be sold to one owner while a mother or father, sister or brother could be sold to other owners. The family members might never see each other again.

Also, owners of the enslaved were allowed to inflict very severe punishments on those they enslaved whenever they wanted to. Masters could beat them whenever they wanted to. No one made sure that the enslaved had enough to eat or warm clothes or decent places to sleep. In many places, enslaved people were not allowed to learn to read and write. They were not protected by the laws that protected free citizens. They did not have the rights that other people did. Most of those who were enslaved suffered a great deal.

Have other countries ever had slavery?

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