Slavery was a practice and institution where sentient beings were bought, sold, and held as property of other sentient beings. Beings subject to slavery were called slaves and said to be enslaved. Slaves were forced to perform labor on behalf of their owners, also called masters.
Indentured servitude was a nominally distinct practice in which sentient individuals performed labor for a fixed time period or until a specific amount of debt was paid off; after which point, they would be freed. However, in practice, indentured servitude typically amounted to slavery. Beings working in indentured servitude were called indentured servants, though that term was often a euphemism for "slave." Another euphemism for "slave" was the term "sentient property," which the Czerka Corporation used in official documents to grant a veneer of legitimacy to their practice of slavery.
Children born to enslaved (or indentured) parents were considered to be slaves (or indentured servants) to the same master as their parents. Slave owners could free their slaves at will, and even marry them, although marrying one's former slave was extremely uncommon. Notably, Cliegg Lars purchased, freed and then married Shmi Skywalker, the mother of Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker.
Slaves and indentured servants could be put on trial for revolting against their masters.
Slavery in the Old Republic
- "Long have Sith empires been built upon the backs of slaves."
- ―Darth Sidious
Traditionally, ancient empires controlled by the Sith relied on slaves for labor. During the reign of the Old Republic, Zygerria controlled a powerful Slave Empire that stretched across a number of sectors, making the planet rich and powerful. They and their customers prospered off slavery for thousands of years, but the Jedi Order eventually fought and destroyed the Zygerrian slave trade. When slavery was outlawed in Republic territory, the Jedi Knights liberated numerous beings, and the trade was pushed into the underworld.
Fall of the Republic
- "I can't believe there's still slavery in the galaxy. The Republic's anti-slavery laws—"
"The Republic doesn't exist out here. We must survive on our own."
- ―Padmé Amidala and Shmi Skywalker discuss slavery on Tatooine
Although the Galactic Republic had outlawed slavery, locations outside Republic jurisdiction were able to continue the practice. The Outer Rim planet of Tatooine had a slave population living in Mos Espa, and slaves had transmitter chips implanted into their bodies that would explode if the slave attempted to escape. By 40 BBY, Hosnian Prime was known for hosting a factory complex run by the arms manufacturer Czerka Arms, whose activities included the use of slavery, taking forcefully all the workers they wanted. Also, the Neimoidians used indentured worker drones, whose growth was deliberately stunted. Such drones were even employed by the Trade Federation's senatorial delegation in the very heart of the Republic's Senate Building. In 32 BBY, Erdan was a slave in Mos Espa.
During the Clone Wars, fought between the Republic and Confederacy of Independent Systems, the Grand Army of the Republic was made up of loyal clone troopers, Clone Sergeant "Slick," however, came to believe that the clones had been enslaved by the Jedi Order, though he was taken into custody during the Battle of Christophsis. By 20 BBY, Queen Miraj Scintel took advantage of the fighting to revive the Zygerria's ancient slave empire. Striking a deal with Separatist leader Count Dooku, Zygerrian forces under Commander Darts D'Nar enslaved the Togruta colonists on the Expansion Region world of Kiros. In response, the Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, and Clone Captain "Rex" undertook an undercover mission to Zygerria in an attempt to investigate the Zygerrians and free the Togruta colonists.
However, they were captured by Queen Scintel, who planned to enslave her Jedi captives. Since this went against the Sith's planned Great Jedi Purge, Scintel was murdered by Count Dooku. Jedi and Republic forces subsequently managed to rescue some of the Togruta slaves from the slave processing facility on Kadavo. In addition, Republic forces destroyed the Kadavo slaving facility.
Age of the Empire
- "I'm not completely comfortable with the idea that the Empire is using slaves, sir."
"Terms are not always as they seem, Commander. They are called slaves, but they may in fact be indentured servants. They may be prisoners working off their sentence. They may have sold themselves into slavery as a means of repaying debts to others on their world. I have seen all those situations at times."
- ―Eli Vanto and Thrawn discuss slavery
During the early years of the Galactic Empire, Zygerrian raiders attacked Syngia Station in the Sertar sector and enslaved many of the inhabitants. Penn Zarang, who later became an Imperial cadet at the Arkanis Academy, survived the slave raid by hiding in a maintenance conduit. The murder of his father and the death of his mother while en-route to Zygerria convinced Penn to become an Imperial cadet. The raid occurred at a time when the Imperial Military had not expanded into the Outer Rim.
During the Age of the Empire, slavery once again became commonplace, particularly among alien species, which were considered inferior by the human-dominated Galactic Empire. With the rise of the Empire, the softening and eventual repeal of laws outlawing slavery led to the classification of some species, such as the Wookiees, as non-sentient. As a result, the Wookiees were pressed into slavery building much of the Imperial war machine, or serving in the notorious spice mines of Kessel following the Empire's conquest of their homeworld of Kashyyyk. Another example were the reptilian Bodach'i species who were enslaved and forced to work in the species mines of Kerev Doi as "reparations" for their homeworld's repeated defiance of Imperial decrees. In addition, the Empire used slaves from several alien species to keep Weapons Factory Alpha, the largest weapons factory in the galaxy, on Cymoon 1 running day and night.
After being given command of the Imperial-class Star Destroyer Chimaera, Commodore Thrawn discovered that the Empire was trafficking Wookiee slaves after responding to a distress call from the troop transport Sempre. The slaves had been liberated by an attack force consisting of the frigate Castilus and two squadrons of V-19 Torrent starfighters. The insurgents then launched an attack on Baklek Base. Thrawn led a successful military operation to neutralize the insurgents, forcing their surrender. When Lieutenant Commander Eli Vanto expressed his unease about slavery, Thrawn tried to rationalize the Empire's actions.
The tentacle-headed Twi'lek, mostly their females, were often captured and sold into slavery as they were considered beautiful. Many females of other races, not just the Twi'lek, were often forced to wear revealing outfits and to dance for their owners. In many other cases, those that were not actually slaves in name nevertheless worked in near slave-like existences, forced to endure grueling jobs to eke out a meager living while also often having to contend with corrupt Imperial officials. Identity contracts, commonly called "ident pads", were used to identify individuals as indentured servants or slaves.
Slavery under the Grysk Hegemony
- "They are a terrible enemy, Eli. Your Empire—your former Empire—forces its will on its slaves through soldiers and weapons and warships. But the Grysks… three can command a nation. A hundred can rule an entire world. Billions of beings, their hearts and souls broken, ready to fight and die at the order of a handful of aliens. No resistance, no revolt, no dissent, no hope."
- ―Navigator Vah'nya to Eli Vanto
During the Grysk conquests in the Unknown Regions and the subsequent Imperial–Grysk conflict, the Grysk Hegemony kept large numbers of slaves to further their conquests and even fight their battles for them. Often, the Grysks enslaved entire species, by finding their weaknesses and breaking their souls. The Grysks sought to conquer the Chiss Ascendancy by enslaving and torturing the Chiss' beloved ozyly-esehembo navigators. Among the species enslaved by the Grysks were the Darshi and the Scratchlings.
After the rescue of navigator Un'hee, who had been enslaved to the Grysks, by Imperial forces; her fellow navigator Vah'nya touched her mind through Second Sight. Vah'nya told Lieutenant Eli Vanto that she experienced the Grysks probing Un'hee's mind and soul, twisting and tarnishing the young girl's deepest desires and fears to force her to perform their will. She convinced Vanto that such enslavement was a fate worse than death, and asked Vanto to kill her and any other ozyly-esehembo if they should fall into Grysk captivity. Killing a Chiss navigator was a capital offense in the Chiss Ascendancy, so deeply ingrained in Chiss society that no Chiss could even conceive of killing a Chiss navigator. Vanto promised that, if it came to it, he would kill captured ozyly-esehembo to spare them the misery of Grysk slavery, and do so in a way that would kill as many Grysks as possible along with the navigators.
Galactic Civil War
- "But since that has ended, the breeding programs have become problematic. We have a surplus of slave labor—but what to do with it? Could the Wookiees be farmed for their meat? Presently it's stringy and tough, but maybe if they could be fattened up, or modified in some way—crossbred with another species, perhaps, like the Talz."
- ―Commandant Theodane Sardo
Following the Battle of Endor, the New Republic's provisional Galactic Senate in Chandrila diverted substantial resources to compensating alien species that had been enslaved by the Galactic Empire. In 5 ABY, Han Solo and Chewbacca led a successful slave uprising on Kashyyyk against Grand Moff Lozen Tolruck, the leader of Imperial territory G5-623. One of Tolruck's subordinates, Commandant Theodane Sardo, toyed with the idea of farming enslaved Wookiees for their meat. As part of the plan, the former Imperial loyalty officer Sinjir Rath Velus disabled the inhibitor chips controlling the Wookiee slaves with a hyperspace transceiver spike. Following a battle on the ground and space above Kashyyyk, the planet was liberated by New Republic forces led by Admiral Ackbar and Princess Leia Organa. Wookiee and New Republic forces later liberated more Wookiee slaves, including Chewbacca's son Lumpawaroo, in mopping-up operations against Imperial holdouts on Kashyyyk.
Post-Galactic Civil War
- "I do not understand why you keep these... people, Agent Terex."
"Oh, each of these folks is particularly, specifically useful to me, Phasma."
- ―Captain Phasma questions Agent Terex about his slaves
Despite the New Republic's ban on slavery, slaves were still known to be exported from seedy places like Chrome Citadel to Nal Hutta under the classification of "live cargo." In addition, individuals were still known to be indentured as servants. During an undercover mission to Sibensko, Senator Leia Organa assumed the identity of a recently-freed indentured servant.
During the search for the explorer Lor San Tekka, the First Order's Security Bureau Agent Terex owned several slaves from various species, including an Abednedo and a Rodian. He justified his behavior on the grounds that each of these aliens served a particular use and that the Empire practiced slavery, citing the enslavement of the Wookiees as one example. Captain Phasma disapproved of his ownership of slaves and regarded the First Order as purer and stronger than the Empire.
Notes and references
- Rebel Rising
- Master & Apprentice
- The Rebellion Begins
- Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Escape from Kadavo"
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Kidnapped"
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
- Star Wars: Complete Locations
- Star Wars: Galactic Atlas dates the events of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, the film in which Erdan appears, to 32 BBY.
- Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary, New Edition
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "The Hidden Enemy"
- Star Wars: Galactic Atlas
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Slaves of the Republic"
- Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy
- Star Wars Propaganda: A History of Persuasive Art in the Galaxy
- Star Wars Rebels: The Visual Guide
- Lost Stars
- Star Wars (2015) 1
- Thrawn: Treason
- Thrawn: Alliances
- Aftermath: Life Debt
- Aftermath: Empire's End
- Poe Dameron 2