Slaves Came From Africa Essays Examples
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White man’s methods of breaking blacks for slavery
Thesis: White slave traders tapped on an already existing practice among African communities and boosted slave trade across the Atlantic with their cruel handling of blacks.
Equiano’s life in Africa
Son of a chief in West Africa
Lived in an isolated village
Never saw a white man until on the slave ships
Equiano’s aspects of slave kidnapping, transport, and sale
Acceptance of slavery encouraged kidnappings
Whites merciless with the slaves
Sale of slaves broke families and the worth of blacks
Equiano’s insight view about economic success and profitability of the Atlantic slave trade
Africans played a significant role
White man’s brutality kept slaves from escaping
Slaves transport as cheap as possible
Summarizing life of Equiano
Restatement of thesis
Slavery is historical.
Africans betrayed each other.
Whites readily accepted slavery for economic purposes.
Equiano Olaudah on the Origin of Slavery
The source of the slavery system has its roots in the African continent where whites acquired a significant mass of black slaves. Expectedly, once in the European countries, black people reasserted their positions to that set by their white masters, who as a necessity destroyed any chances of rebellion by force. For instance, there existed laws that made slave rebellions illegal and punishable as their owners saw fit, thus securing the economy for the whites and their supremacy in society. However, for slaves coming from Africa, such laws were unnecessary because of their firsthand experience with the white men’s malicious traits on the slave water vessels. Equiano Olaudah, an ex-slave, manages to shed light on the acquisition of slaves by traders and their experiences at the hands of the whites. From his kidnap to his experiences in the ongoing Atlantic slave trade, Equiano’s life story provides details about life on slave ships and their eventual sales during auctions. White slave traders tapped on an already existing practice among African communities and boosted slave trade across the Atlantic with their cruel handling of blacks.
Before his kidnap in the 1750s, Olaudah Equiano enjoyed life as “the son of a West African village chief”.Expectedly, his views of the country come from that of a person placed high in the social hierarchy and in turn, provide a comprehensive coverage of the people’s customs and culture. Because of the village's secluded location, outside interactions were rare except for the occasional traders passing through their land and skirmishes with other communities. Trading formed part of his peoples’ economy alongside crop cultivation on the farms, where the African villagers worked hard. Socially, Equiano describes a closely-knit community where everybody knew everybody and the people engaged in different activities including songs and dances whenever there was cause for celebration. Expectedly, the chiefs governed the people alongside judges who rendered the punishment a crime befit. Nonetheless, it was until his arrival at the coast that Equiano saw his first English man.
About slave trade, the people exchanged prisoners of war and people “convicted of kidnapping, or adultery, and some other crimes” as slaves. Accordingly, the African populace already practiced the trade before the coming of the white man. Otherwise termed as “barter trade” the natives exchanged goods for other goods with slavery forming part of the merchandise. Equiano’s father, who was a nobleman, was also a slave-owner, a fact that proves the peoples’ acquaintance with the practice. As mentioned above, only those found guilty of a heinous crime, especially murder, became slaves. However, some contradicted such rules and resorted to kidnapping their fellow blacks to meet the high demand of slaves by the white men. Equiano’s experience with the kidnappers gives evidence to their treacherous ways including targeting children and villages set a big distance from the seas to prevent chances of escape. Their experiences with the traitorous African blacks only marked the beginning of the slaves’ turmoil, and the horror of the Middle Passage proves it so.
Aboard the ships, according to Equiano’s narrative, slaves found themselves below deck regardless of their numbers and the disgusting conditions of the holding cells. Different experiences struck immense fear and trepidation among the blacks while ensuring their compliance with whatever their masters wished. Foremost, the environment in which African blacks existed aboard the ships was deplorable to the extent of some opting to commit suicide as a means of escape. Restricted in chains below deck without any means of gaining fresh air the slaves remained “choking in the stench of their own excrement” with slimy wet floors as their resting places. Expectedly, many of them died from diseases while others remained sickly throughout the journeys. Secondly, the whites’ barbaric nature did not end with the blacks but included some of the white people as well. On one particular incident, Equiano recalls a white man dying after a flogging by his comrades. Coming from a community of a unified people whose punishments included a trial by tribal judges, the slave’s shock, and fear are understandable. Finally, on one occasion, rather than feed the starving blacks, the white crewmembers tossed fish back into the ocean after having their fill. For the near death African blacks, such an action was the worst and a confirmation of the cruel nature of the Caucasians.
On land, the situation was no different and in some cases outrightly put the black man beneath the Caucasians in the social order. To sell the slaves, traders allowed “auctions by one or another of the houses that specialized in the business” to maximize profits. Consequently, as one would an animal in the markets, slaves jumped up and down to show they are of fit health after much probing by potential buyers. If the ships dehumanized the African blacks, the treatment of the whites demoralized them and further reinstated their new roles in bondage. After all, from the transport methods to their purchase by white people, none of the slaves maintained their humanity and instead, became mere properties. Accordingly, a majority of black families parted ways at all stages of the slave possession process. For instance, Equiano and his sister parted after kidnapping while some died of the poor conditions aboard ships and the rest parted after purchase.
The experiences of the blacks served as acculturation catalysts through which the whites forced newly acquired slaves to abandon their heritages and self-worth. Evidently, if it were not for the Africans already practicing slavery, with blacks willing to sell their fellow natives to each other, then the Atlantic slave trade would not have flourished. In addition, it is plausible that the people trading with the newcomers had no inclination of the white peoples’ real nature or the far distance of their countries. Either way, many more blacks went through the Middle Passage with a fat percentage dying before reaching their destination. Perhaps one can argue that the traders maximized profits by ensuring there was no maintenance of their acquired merchandise. No food or proper sleeping quarters and keeping as many blacks as possible in cramped places, it is miraculous that blacks made it from the ships at all. Therefore, the whole process of slave acquisition and selling sustained the institution of putting blacks in bondage by ensuring white supremacy in the United States.
Nonetheless, Equiano “through luck or fate ended up more fortunate than most of his people” who died still in bondage. Unlike most slaves put to toil in fields with cruel masters, Equiano was lucky enough to have a considerate master that later allowed the man to purchase his freedom. In addition, despite being a slave, Equiano received payment for some of his services while serving on the ships of his white masters. Hence, despite arriving from Africa as a slave, Equiano died a free man with a family to call his own.
Conclusively, the cruelty of white slave traders and an already existing slavery system in Africa played significant roles in the Atlantic slave trade. In other words, slavery is not a natural occurrence but the interference of the white man in the lives of African blacks in their home countries. By extension, the fact that African slave traders betrayed each other by introducing a standard system within their culture to the white man is also a historical factor and by no means qualifies as a natural occurrence. Hence, black inferiority is not natural, and the need for free and hard laborers within the white man’s societies upheld the institution for years.
Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings: Revised Edition. London: Penguin Classics, 2003.
Foner, Eric. Give me Liberty. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011.
—. Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc, 2005.
Thomas, Hugh. The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440 - 1870. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997.
Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005.
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