Presentation on theme: "The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the Abolition of Slavery Anti-slavery medallion created by Josiah Wedgewood in 1787. Incidentally, Josiah Wedgewood."— Presentation transcript:
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the Abolition of Slavery Anti-slavery medallion created by Josiah Wedgewood in 1787. Incidentally, Josiah Wedgewood was Charles Darwin’s maternal grandfather.
The Origins of the Trans- Atlantic Slave Trade Europeans begin importing slaves from Africa by the end of the 14 th century. Sir john Hawkins became the first English slave trader in 1562. By 1650, newly established sugar and tobacco plantations in the Caribbean British colonies and on the American mainland made slavery extremely profitable.
By 1699 one out of every four ships that left Liverpool harbor was a slave ship. Diagram of the “triangle trade”
The Triangle Trade The British dominated the slave trade during the 18 th century until its end in the 19 th. British traders brought manufactured goods to Africa (first passage). They sold those goods for slaves and brought them to the Caribbean and mainland American colonies (middle passage) With their profits, the traders bought raw materials like sugar, tobacco, molasses and spices, to sell in England (third passage).
Olaudah Equiano Equiano published his book The Interesting narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African in 1789. It went through 25 printings before his Death in 1797. Who are we looking for, who are we looking for? It's Equiano we're looking for. Has he gone to the stream? Let him come back. Has he gone to the farm? Let him return. It's Equiano we're looking for. - Kwa chant about the disappearance of an African boy, Equiano
Equiano’s Interesting Narrative Equiano describes his terror as a young boy taken aboard a slave ship. He believes white men are demons who plan to eat him. His account balances a sense that Europeans had such advanced technology that they seemed like magicians with a sense that they are less civilized than Africans – more cruel, less concerned with cleanliness and much less modest concerning women.
Equiano’s Story One powerful aspect of Equiano’s account involves his struggle for freedom. One master, Michael Pascal, promises to free him, only to sell him at the end of a voyage. Another, Robert King, offers to free him for a fee of forty pounds, but is shocked when Equiano actually earns that much. He has to be persuaded by another man to honor his agreement. After he wins his freedom, Equiano is often cheated by whites and is under constant threat of being re- enslaved.
Mary Prince Mary Prince, a West Indian slave, published her narrative in 1831, a few years before the abolition of slavery. Her story forms a catalogue of horrors. Prince describes the separation of slave families and the brutal treatment of fellow slaves, like her friend Hetty, whose beating resulted in a miscarriage, as well as her own sufferings at the hands of cruel masters – she is beaten for breaking a jug and for letting a cow loose -- and in the terrible labor in the salt ponds.
She argues that what she describes was “nothing very remarkable…;for it might serve as a common sample of the common usage of slaves on that horrible island (Turk’s Island, about 200 miles northeast of Bermuda).” Prince ended her narrative with these words: – “All slaves want to be free; to be free is very sweet…I can tell by myself what other slaves feel, and by what they have told me. The man that says slaves be quite happy in slavery – that they don’t want to be free – that man is either ignorant or a lying person. I never heard a slave say so.”
Opposition to Slavery Opposition was led by Quakers and Evangelicals, who opposed slavery on moral and religious grounds (though it must be added that some, like Equiano’s master Robert King, owned slaves themselves). In 1772 Lord Mansfield ruled that there was no legal basis for slavery in England. This decision did not effect slavery in the British colonies, including America. In 1778 the Knight v. Wedderburn case results in a similar ruling about slavery in Scotland.
The Zong Scandal In 1781 the captain of the slave ship Zong ordered 133 weak and diseased slaves to be thrown overboard into shark infested waters so that he could collect on an insurance policy. The scandal helped galvanize English opposition to slavery.
William Turner’s “Slavers Throwing the Dead and Dying Overboard, Typhoon Coming on,” 1840
Abolition During the Romantic Period Opposition to slavery during the period 1791 – 1807 came from different and often opposed political groups. In 1787 the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was formed by evangelicals and Quakers. Their motives were religious and moral. Radicals like Anna Barbauld, Mary Wollstonecraft and Tom Paine (and the young Wordsworth) connected the issue to the new philosophies of the rights of man, exemplified by the French Revolution. Their motives were political, an extension of the notion of the “rights of man” as Paine and Wollstonecraft called the movement.
Wordsworth on Slavery In Book 10 of the 1805 Prelude, Wordsworth wrote that he had returned to England (in 1792) and found: “…the air yet busy with the stir Of a contention which had been raised up Against the Traffickers in Negro blood…” Though William Wilburforce’s bill for abolition (1793) failed, Wordsworth hoped “That if France/ prosper’d good Men would not long/Pay fruitlesss worship to humanity,/And this most rotten branch of human shame,/…Would fall together with its parent tree.”
Toussaint L’Ouverture Wordsworth’s optimism was initially confirmed; France became the first European country to ban slavery (in February, 1794). But Napoleon Reestablished the trade in 1802. He tried, unsuccessfully, to put down the slave revolt in Santo Domingo (Haiti) which lasted from 1791 – 1803. That revolt led to freedom for the slaves in that colony.
Ironically, Thomas Jefferson, a supporter of the French Revolution and outspoken defender of liberty (though himself a slave owner), sent material aid to help the French put down the rebellion. France did not abolish slavery until 1848, well after England ended slavery in its colonies (1833).
The French Slave Trade France accounted for about an eighth of the slave trade. Its three Caribbean colonies, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Saint-Domingue (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) took in as many slaves as all of Spanish America and more than all the states in America combined, excluding Louisiana, which until 1803 was a French colony.
Abolition and the French Revolution In England, the French Revolution and the wars that followed had the effect of weakening the abolition movement. As people became focused on an external enemy – France – they became less interested in moral and ethical arguments, especially when proponents of slavery argued that if England abandoned the trade, the French would pick up the slack.
William Wilberforce The leader of the English abolition movement was William Wilberforce, an independent member of parliament, and evangelical. While Wilberforce was from a wealthy business family, he was repulsed by slavery on religious and moral grounds. Religious people in England, even those who were politically conservative, made common cause with liberals and radicals over the issue of slavery.
Hannah More More was a conservative, but deeply opposed to slavery. Her “Slavery, a Poem (1788)” condemns the slavers for their greed, what she called their “sordid lust for gold.” At the same time, she sees the African slaves as “dark and savage, ignorant and blind,” so her empathy is tinged by pity and a sense of her European superiority. Blake explores this attitude in his poem “The Little Black Boy.”
Phyllis Wheatley was taken to Massachusett s as a slave in 1761. Her master and mistress saw her potential and encouraged her education. Wheatley was the first African American to have a book of poetry published. Many whites would not believe that a slave could really write poetry and she had to defend her authorship in court, where a group of Boston luminaries questioned her, and impressed, certified that she had indeed written the poems.
'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too: Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. Some view our sable race with scornful eye, "Their colour is a diabolic die." Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain, May be refin'd and join th'angelic train. On Being Brought from Africa to America Phyllis Wheatley, 1770
Slavery and Christianity As Wheatley’s poem reveals, Christianity had a complex relationship with slavery. Pro-slavery advocates argued that the slave trade brought possible salvation to the slaves, who were heathens and savages, connecting Christianity with the theoretical underpinnings of the trade. Even an abolitionist like Hannah More took a condescending attitude toward the slaves and read their conversion to Christianity as a good outcome of a terrible institution.
British Radicals and Abolition The abolition movement is a good example of the saying that politics makes strange bedfellows. Radicals like Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Thomas Clarkson made common cause with conservatives like More, William Pitt and Edmund Burke, and independents like Wilberforce over abolition. Barbauld and Clarkson supported the French Revolution, which appalled both More and Wilberforce.
Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, who worked to gather evidence of the horrors of slavery, and their allies began introducing abolition bills in 1791. The slave trade was finally abolished in England in 1807. Thomas Clarkson However, slavery was not abolished in the British colonies until 1833, and in America until 1863, though its effects lasted well after the Civil War ended in 1865.
Thomas Clarkson’s Descriptions of the Slave’s Experience In his History of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade” Clarkson describes the capture of Africans, how they are loaded onto slave ships under terrible conditions of crowding and filth, their nightmare journey across the Atlantic and their sufferings once they reached their destination.
Slaves on a Ship The infamous “middle passage.” It is estimated that between ten and twenty percent of slaves died before reaching the plantations for which they were bound. Conditions aboard a slave ship were deplorable. Slaves were crammed into tiny spaces with little food, no sanitation and stagnant water. They were shackled to prevent them from jumping overboard.
Pro-Slavery Arguments In his history of the abolition movement, Clarkson lays out the four basic arguments offered in parliament by his pro-slavery opponents: – 1. Africans were savages who engaged in human sacrifice and were better off in slavery, where they could become Christians (e.g. Phyllis Wheatley’s poem “On Being Brought from Africa to America). – 2. Abolition would lead to thousands of murderous ex- slaves roaming loose. – 3. Abolition would destroy the planters and the British economy. – 4. Abolition was unnecessary; all that was needed was proper regulation of the trade
Clarkson’s Counter Evidence Clarkson rebutted the pro-slavery arguments by providing large amounts of detailed evidence to show that conditions for slaves were deplorable. For example, he refuted statements about how slaves danced happily on the middle passage by providing eye witness testimony that slaves “were forced to dance by the terror of the lash, and sometimes by the use of it.” Evidence often came from sailors who had worked on slave ships and had seen the brutality first hand.
Slaves Taken Down Into the Hold of the Ship The slaves had no idea where they were going and why. They found it hard to believe that they had been taken to work in fields because field work in Africa required few hands. Olaudah Equiano, author of a famous slave narrative, wrote that he was sure his white captors were Cannibals.
Slaves forced to dance for exercise aboard a slave ship Arguments made by Clarkson were based on extensive research and eye witness accounts. These were reiterated in slave narratives like those of Equiano and Mary Prince.
Poets like Hannah More and Robert Southey helped to popularize key scenes and horrors: – women and children stolen from their families (240,245) – slaves fettered and forced to eat and dance aboard slave ships (241, 248) – slaves separated from their families (241) and forced to do back breaking work (241)
Abolition of the Slave Trade Did Not End Slavery The slave trade was legally abolished in England in 1807. Slavers were fined 100 pounds for each slave aboard their ships. The trade continued illegally. Slavers who were interdicted often dumped their living “cargo” overboard. However, slavery continued to be legal in the British Empire until 1833. Slavery continued to be legal in France until 1840 and in America until 1863.
Amazing Grace Much of the evidence for the brutality of the middle passage and the terrible conditions of slavery came from former slavers who had repented their actions. The most famous of these was John Newton, a ship’s captain and slaver who had a religious conversion. He wrote the famous hymn “Amazing Grace.”