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The Effects of the Slave Trade Life On Western Plantations.

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1 The Effects of the Slave Trade Life On Western Plantations

2 Aim: Examine the living conditions faced by slaves on West Indian plantations. Success Criteria: You can complete a schedule showing the daily routine of a slave. You will complete a pyramid diagram showing the structure of slave society.

3 West Indian Plantations One of the most common crops grown in the West Indies was sugar. White Europeans built huge farms or Plantations – many were as big as 900 acres. As well as the fields, plantations also had the estate house for the owner and his family, huts for the slaves to live in and other buildings which would be used to process sugar cane into sugar and for making sugar’s by product – rum. Plantations owners sought to make as much profit as possible from growing sugar.

4 Work On A Plantation Growing sugar was strenuous work and exhausting in the hot temperatures. To plant the sugar cane, deep holes had to be dug. Manure was used as fertiliser and slaves had to carry it to the site in baskets balanced on their heads – one basket would way up to 36kg (80lbs). Slaves worked from dawn to dusk, under the orders of a white overseer (supervisor) who often used his whip to ensure everyone worked hard. The busiest time was when the sugar cane was finally harvested – slaves could work up to 18 hours a day.

5 Slaves cut the sugar cane and loaded it onto carts. It was taken to the cane mill where they crushed and boiled it, to extract a brown sticky juice. They left it in barrels until the brown syrup called molasses rose to the top and was drawn off to make rum. The clearer sugar was left behind and would sent to countries in Europe to sell. Plantation owners made huge profits from the sugar and the rum. Slaves working in a sugar mill in Jamaica

6 The Gang System Slaves in the fields worked in gangs, and if the work was not up to standard they would all be punished. Men, women and children were all used in this back- breaking work. Young, old and sick slaves carried out light work such as weeding. The strongest slaves carried out the more demanding tasks, such as cane-cutting.

7 Slave gangs were constantly watched by ‘drivers’, fellow slaves who were told to use the whip against those not working hard enough. Why do you think Plantation owners used slaves against each other in this way?

8 Source A is from a Swiss traveller called Girod- Chantrans who visited the West Indies in 1785 and wrote about what he saw. They were about a hundred men and women of different ages, all occupied in digging ditches in a cane field, the majority of them naked or covered in rags. The sun shone down with full force on their heads. Sweat rolled from all parts of their bodies. Their limbs, weighed down by the heat, tired with the weight of their picks and by the resistance of the clay soil baked hard enough to break their tools, strained hard to do their work. They were all exhausted, but the hour of rest had not come. Several foremen armed with large whips moved among them, lashing those who tried to take a rest.

9 Source B was written by Bryan Edwards a plantation owner in the West Indies before retiring and writing a book of island life in A bell summons the first gang of field workers just before sunrise. They bring with them their tools, and food for their breakfast. They are supervised by a white man, and a black ‘driver’. After the roll is called and the absentees noted, they go off to work in the fields till 8 or 9 o’clock. Then they sit down to breakfast which some of the women have cooked. This is usually boiled vegetables such as yams, okra or plantains, seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper. In truth it is very tasty and wholesome.

10 Yams are a vegetable like sweet potato. Plantains are known as cooking bananas – they have to be cooked before they are edible enough to eat. Okra is another vegetable similar to green beans with seeds inside the pod

11 By this time most of the absentees arrives, and are punished sometimes by a few stripes of the driver’s whip. They get half an hour for breakfast, and then go back to the fields till noon. They get two hours to eat and rest and many of them sleep. Their lunch is vegetables with salt or pickled fish. At two o’clock the bell rings to get them back to the fields. They work till sunset, or very soon after. Sometimes they get some rum if the day has been wet or they work very hard. Film Clip

12 Living Conditions Slaves were housed in rows of small, dark, single- roomed huts. They were overcrowded and had no proper sanitation. This was in stark contrast to the large and luxurious plantation owner’s house.

13 Source C was written by Mrs Carmichael who lived in the West Indies at the beginning of the nineteenth century (1800s). She returned to Britain and wrote a book about life in the West Indies. The houses are built some of stone, some of wood, while others are wove like basket work. They thatch them neatly. The area varies from fifteen feet by twenty to twenty feet by thirty. The floor is generally earthern. The best treated slave, such as the ‘drivers’ have beds with mosquito curtains, a pillow, blanket and mattress, a good table and some chairs, and a small shed to cook in. The field hands have only a bed, table and bench with only a few cooking tools.

14 Living Conditions The slaves’ diet was poor and monotonous. The staple foods were cornmeal, beans and salt-fish. They might be given meat but it would be of poor quality. Some slaves were given a small patch of land to grow vegetables. Poor living conditions meant that disease and death was common

15 Slave Society Skilled Slaves Drivers African Priests House Slaves Herbalists, Nurses, Potters and Cabinet Makers Creoles Field Workers There were different levels in slave society. At the top came highly skilled slaves e.g. masons, joiners and metal workers who were allowed by their masters to earn some money of their own.

16 Next came the slaves who were the drivers on plantations and African priests. The priests kept their background hidden and taught African religions which were usually forbidden by their White masters. House slaves came next. Sexual abuse of female slaves was common. Some House slaves were called MULATTOS because they had white fathers and Black mothers. Then came the slaves with special skills e.g. herbalists, nurses, potters and cabinet makers Slaves born in the West Indies – called CREOLES – were usually regarded as better than those who had been born in Africa. Field workers were at the bottom of the pile. Slave owners did all they could to encourage divisions between slaves.

17 Slave Families Families were often split up when they were sold. Babies were taken away from their mothers soon after birth and sold. Some mothers deliberately aborted their pregnancies and others killed their new born babies to stop this from happening. Gradually slaves developed a system, where an older slave, called a god- parents was responsible for the well- being of a younger slave, whether or not they were related.

18 Sickness Thousands of slaves suffered terrible illnesses and died young. Half of all slave babies died within the first year of their life – this was double the rate of white babies. The slave ships brought with them tropical diseases e.g. Yaws and these mixed with European and American illnesses e.g. measles, whopping cough, with dreadful results.

19 Yaws is a tropical infection of the skin, bones and joints – it gradually destroys these parts of the body. Doctors did not know how to cure tropical diseases. When slaves died, their deaths were written in the plantation slave book. The owners had lost a piece of property which would have to be replaced.

20 Final Task Take a page in your jotter and design a summary diagram showing the key points about plantation life. Your teacher will give you some suggestions about how to set out your diagram. Use key words and phrases and pictures/symbols to illustrate your diagram.

21 Summary Diagram Your diagram should cover the key areas: Work Homes Food Slave Society Families Sickness


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