The rice brought to America and grown in South Carolina was originally domesticated and grown in Africa (Carney, 2001). Before Columbus set foot in the New World, rice was already grown in Europe and Asia (Carney, 2001). Ships traveled the Indian Ocean introducing rice to Asia and later to Europe (Camey, 2001). When rice was introduced in the New World, colonial farmers grew it in the south helping to establish the southern plantation and the use of slaves (Camey, 2001).
By 1670, farmers in South Carolina embraced rice as a crop for exporting (Camey, 2001). The Carolinas suited the environment and growing necessities of rice (Camey, 2001). Farmers needed rice seeds, so ships would travel to Africa to pick up rice seeds (Camey, 2001). Along with seeds, ships would come back to the Carolinas with African slaves (Camey, 2001). This transporting of seeds and Africans was one factor that helped to establish the slave trade (Camey, 2001).
During the slave trade, ships would take native West Africans, transport them across the Atlantic, and sell them in America as slaves. Some of these slaves once grew rice in Africa and were well accustomed to farming rice and the irrigation system that rice needed to provide a high yield (Camey, 2001). Slaves with knowledge on how to grow rice were forced to work rice farms (Camey, 2001). In South Carolina, rice needed an intricate irrigation system for the rice to have enough moisture and nutrients to grow (Camey, 2001). The irrigation systems included grading the landscape so water could flow to the fields and drain from the fields (Camey, 2001). The irrigation systems used in South Carolina were similar to the irrigation systems used in Africa (Camey, 2001).
Africans taken as slaves and sold in the New World also brought malaria with them (Mann, 2011). During the slave trade, people did not understand how diseases like malaria were spread (Mann, 2011). Malaria is spread by mosquitoes, which easily breed in rice fields (Mann, 2011). Due to genetics, most West Africans are immune to malaria (Mann, 2011). They can still carry it and spread it to others, but they do not show symptoms of the disease or die of it (Mann, 2011).
Rice fields were the perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes (Mann, 2011). Needing the ground to continually have moisture, rice fields often have puddles of sitting water perfect for mosquitoes to lay their eggs and for larvae to hatch. This helped to cause an outbreak of mosquito related illnesses like malaria in the New World (Mann, 2011).
South Carolinian farmers realized their slaves were not coming down with the fever like many of their friends, wives, and children were (Mann, 2011). This caused the need for more slaves to be brought from South Africa, since these people did not become sick from malaria (Mann, 2011).
This chart shows the circle that helped to feed the slave trade. Africans worked the rice fields which helped to raise rice profits which led to the need of more slaves.
Bringing rice to the New World created a circle of events that the New World is still dealing with today. With rice came Africans who cared for the rice. With Africans came malaria, which many slaves were immune to but white farmers were not. This was one of many factors that helped to sustain and keep the slave trade going (Mann, 2011). The slave trade and slavery are often blamed as a factor for racism that still exists today in America. What if rice had not been brought to the New World? Would the slave trade have lasted so long? With fewer breeding grounds, would mosquitoes not have flourished and spread malaria in the New World? One can only imagine how history might be different if rice had never been brought to the New World. Rice has had lasting effects on the New World and has changed the history of the New World.