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The South gave marriages between enslaved persons no legality, and children could be sold away from their mothers. Enslaved persons owned no property and had little legal protection against irresponsible or cruel slaveholders. Slavery and Southern Plantations Slave labor was adopted for the southern plantations, where the work was done in fields and easily overseen. Southern colonial laws declared Africans to be enslaved for life. It was illegal to teach Africans to read for fear that learning would spoil them for physical labor.

A new form of Christianity—Protestantism—developed and grew throughout northern Europe. In other parts of Europe, most people remained loyal to the Roman Catholic Church. Emerging Nations During the 1400s, strong monarchs brought unity to the countries of England, France, Portugal, and Spain. All four lands had seaports on the Atlantic Ocean—soon to become a great avenue of trade and exploration. Europeans, once isolated and bound by a rigid feudal system, were developing a spirit of curiosity and adventure.

Expedition after expedition, the Portuguese inched their way down the west coast of Africa. By the time Prince Henry—known as “the Navigator”—died in 1460, his ships had reached just beyond the westernmost tip of Africa. By this time, the Portuguese had established trading posts and sugar plantations on the West African coast. They acquired gold, ivory, pepper, palm oil, and slaves from African merchants. Using war captives as slaves had long been a practice throughout the world. The Portuguese used enslaved Africans as servants in Portugal or as laborers on their West African plantations.

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