Presentation on theme: "Slave life. Early slavery The date of the first arrival of African slaves in Guyana is not known, but it is believed the first group were brought by."— Presentation transcript:
Early slavery The date of the first arrival of African slaves in Guyana is not known, but it is believed the first group were brought by Dutch settlers who migrated from Tobago from as early as the mid-seventeenth century. As plantations expanded on the coast of Guyana, more slaves were brought from West Africa in ships owned by the West India Company. There were occasions, too, when planters bought slaves smuggled from the West Indies by English traders. On arrival of a slave ship at different ports in Berbice, Essequibo, and Demerara, auctions were held and planters came from all over to find bargains. The slaves were exposed naked and were closely inspected by the prospective buyers to determine if they were healthy. They were made to jump, swing their arms and legs and were examined like farm animals. Entire families were auctioned, but buyers showed no concern over family bonds by making purchases which separated husbands and wives and children from parents. Friends and relatives were also separated from each other in the process.
Slavery totals In the 1830s, almost 300,000 slaves were transported, with Alabama and Mississippi receiving 100,000 each. Every decade between 1810 and 1860 had at least 100,000 slaves moved from their state of origin. In the final decade before the Civil War, 250,000 were moved. There were 304,000 slaves in 1790. By the time it was 1860 the number increased to 3,950,000. Slavery increased at the same rate as the free population.
Each adult slave was given one pound of salted cod fish every Sunday by the plantation owner. The salted cod fish was imported from North America. A child slave was given a smaller allocation. On special Christian holidays, there was an additional allowance of about a pound of beef or pork, some sugar and a quantity of rum. The slaves also obtained a clothing allowance roughly every year. The men received a coarse woolen jacket, a hat, about six yards of cotton, and a piece of canvas to make a pair or two of trousers. Women received the same allowance as the men, but children received none. The children remained naked until they were about nine years old, or were given cast-off clothing that their parents managed to find or were able to purchase.
Methods of Control Methods of Control The White plantation owners used various methods to maintain complete control over their slaves. Their principal method was that of "divide and rule". Members of the same tribe were separated on different plantations to prevent communication between them. The aim behind this was to prevent any plans to rebel if they were together. This separation, however, created a problem of communication, since the plantation would have different groups of slaves speaking different languages. Therefore, the planters had to find a way to communicate with their slaves. Soon a new language, known as Creole-Dutch, developed and this became a common tongue among the slaves. When the British took control of Guyana in the nineteenth century, English words were injected into the language and it became the basis of the Guyanese Creolese language.
Slaves were also prevented from practicing their religions. Quite a few slaves were Muslims while many others had their own tribal beliefs. But since the Christian planters saw non-Christians as pagans, they made sure that the slaves could not gather to worship in the way they were accustomed when they lived in Africa.
Church Later Christian missionaries were permitted on the plantations and they were allowed to preach to the slaves on Sundays. In time, many of them were converted to Christianity; it was the general feeling that the converted slaves became docile and were not willing to support rebellion on the plantations.
Another means of control was the creation of a class system among the slaves. Field slaves formed the lowest group, even though some of them had special skills. Then there were the factory slaves who worked in the sugar boiling process. Higher up were the artisan slaves such as blacksmiths, carpenters and masons, who were often hired out by the planters. These slaves also had opportunities to earn money for themselves on various occasions. Still higher up in this class system were the drivers who were specially selected by the White planters to control the other slaves. The domestic or house slave had a special place in this arrangement, and because they worked in the master's house and sometimes receiving special favors from the master, they held other slaves in contempt. Usually, the slaves in the lowest rung of this social ladder were the ones who rebelled and often domestic slaves were the ones who betrayed them by reporting the plots to their master.
Then there were divisions based on color. In the early days, it was relatively easy for a pure African to rise to the level of a driver. But mixtures occurred through the birth of children as a result of unions between White men and black women (mulatto), White men and mulatto women (mestee) and mulatto men and black women (sambo). Some slaves of succeeding generations thus had lighter complexions, and the White planters discriminated in favor of them. These slaves with White fathers or White relatives were placed in positions above those of the field slaves. This was the beginning of color discrimination in the Guyanese society. Of course, in all of this, the Europeans - the Whites - occupied the highest rung of the social ladder and they found willing allies among the mixed or coloured population who occupied the intermediate levels. The pure Africans remained at the lowest level.
Except for earnings enjoyed by the artisan slaves, most of the slaves depended on obtaining money by selling surplus produce from their provision grounds and also the sale of livestock that they reared. On Sundays, village markets were held and the slaves seized the opportunity to barter or sell their produce. On these occasions the slaves made purchases of a few pieces of clothing and other items for their homes. The Sunday markets were also occasions when slaves from different plantations were able to socialize and to exchange news and pieces of gossip.
There were also times of recreation. These were usually at the end of the "crop" and at Christmas and on public holidays when the slaves were allowed to hold dances which had to end by midnight. Slaves were also allowed to purchase their freedom through the process of manumission. However, by the time slaves saved up enough money to buy their freedom, they would have already become old and feeble. In some cases, female slaves who bore the master's children were manumitted while they were still relatively young.
The ante-bellum period of the old South is often considered the pinnacle of Southern aristocracy. Although the aristocrats owned a majority of the wealth and land, it was their slaves who made the plantations a success.
The Work The Work: Slavery became the most absolute involuntary form of human servitude. Their labor services are obtained through force and their physical beings are regarded as the property of others.
The work day of the slaves began even before day-break. They were marched to the fields by slave drivers who controlled them with whips. Slave drivers were themselves slaves who were specially selected by the White plantation owner. A White overseer supervised the entire operation. With farm implements allocated to them, the slaves worked in the fields and were occasionally lashed by the slave drivers if they attempted to idle. Around the middle of the day they were given an hour's break to refresh themselves. The work day ended at about eight in the evening. But the slaves who worked at the sugar mills during the grinding season were forced to work even longer hours. Slaves were punished in various ways. For striking a White man, a hand could be cut off. But whipping was the most common form of punishment and this was inflicted liberally and in the most cruel form. The whipping was done by a slave driver under the watchful eye of a while overseer, and it was not unusual for the victim to be beaten to death.
work *Most slaves were given tasks to perform according to their physical capability. *A work day consisted of 15-16 hours a day, during harvest time and, could go on during harvest and milling for 16-18 per week 7 days a week.
*Their was little sex differentiation in the field work. Women who were well- along in their pregnancies, were still sent to work at plowing and hoeing. *"Hard driving" was quite common, and consisted of working slaves past their physical capabilities, as what they regarded as normal.
*In the South there was no rest season, the climate was always considered good enough to work in and, so, everyone was economically active all year round. *Children between the ages of six and ten might be active as water carriers. Children between the ages of ten and twelve were organized into gangs and put to weeding.
Punishment Punishment was an inherent part of the slave system. Not only was physical punishment brutal but the mental and sexual abuse were also an inherent part of slavery.
The Punishments The Punishments: While each plantation had its own set of social, religious, and labor codes, all had the basic format for an instilled hierarchy in which the slave master reigned as god. He maintained the element of slave misery, by controlling the degree of pain. *Treatments were given such as mutilation, branding, chaining, and murder which were supposedly regulated or prohibited by law.
*Whippings, beatings, drowning, and hangings were as unpredictable as they were gruesome. *It was clear to plantation owners that slavery cold not survive without the whip (even though owners were forbidden to deliberately kill or maliciously mutilate a slave). Males and females were whipped indiscriminately. The severity of whipping depended on the number of strokes to the type of whip. Fifteen to twenty lashes were generally sufficient, but they could range much higher.
Other items used for punishments included stocks, chains, collars, and irons. *Slaves could also be hanged or burned at the stake. *Women could be raped by the owner of the plantation, his sons or, any white male.
On the plantation, the slaves were housed in buildings which were some distance away from the master's house. Most of these slave houses had thatched roofs and walls of old boards or of wattle and mud. The floor was the earth itself and there were no furniture except some rudimentary pieces that the slaves, over time, managed to make. While the slaves were provided with certain foodstuffs by the master, they raised their own subsistence crops of vegetables, plantains and root crops on small garden plots that the master allowed them to use. However, they could only do their personal farming on Sundays when they had no work on the plantation. They also took the opportunity to fish on Sundays in the nearby canals, the rivers or the ocean.
Standard of Living The slave standard of living started with a poor, and often, inadequate diet.
Food The Food: The food was generally adequate in bulk, but imbalanced and monotonous. *Typical food allowance was a peck of corn meal and three to four pounds of salt pork or bacon per week per person. This diet could be supplemented by vegetables from their gardens, by fish or wild game, and molasses (not usually).
*The slaves prepared their own food and carried it out to the field in buckets. *Lack of variety and vitamins made the slaves susceptible to nutrition related diseases.
The Clothes The Clothes: Slaves were not well- clothed. They had inadequate clothing for people engaged in heavy labor all year. *Children would dress in long shirts.
*Many slaves were provided with two shirts, woolen pants, and a jacket in the winter. Along with two shirts and two cotton pants in summer. Women were provided with an insufficient amount of cloth and made their own clothes. *The cloth was cheap material, produced in England ("Negro cloth").
Homes The Home: Plantation slaves were housed in slaves cabins. Small, rudely built of logs with clapboard sidings, with clay chinking. Floors were packed dirt. They were leaky and drafty and the combination of wet, dirt, and cold made them diseased environments.
Slaves posing in front of their cabin on a Southern plantation.
Disease The South was a disease environment for everyone due to the hotter weather and the swamp and marsh. Physicians were in short supply, and medical knowledge poor. There was no concept of bacterial transmission of disease, or insect borne diseases.
Life expectancy for Southerners was lower than Northerners and life expectancy of slaves was lower than whites. *Diseases included malaria, Asiatic cholera, dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, tetanus, pellagra, beri beri. *Deaths in child BIRTH WERE many due heavy excess labor.
The only thing that eased the pains of slavery was that they were allowed to have families and that they could buy their freedom, which was not likely, but it gave them hope.
Despite the squalor they were forced to live in, many slaves nevertheless attempted to eke out a life as best they could. And even though their master's claimed their bodies, slaves resisted complete domination of their mind and soul by keeping their African traditions and customs alive. Despite the squalor they were forced to live in, many slaves nevertheless attempted to eke out a life as best they could. And even though their master's claimed their bodies, slaves resisted complete domination of their mind and soul by keeping their African traditions and customs alive.
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