The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude”, a statement that was true during the time of slavery as it is now in the time of its abolishment. Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property and are forced to work. Slaves are held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth ,and deprived of the right to leave ,to refuse to work, or to demand compensation .The slavery system that existed in the British Caribbean was termed Chattel Slavery where slaves were held and treated like cattle ,the property of their masters and worked, often to death. The abolition of slavery in the Caribbean was the result of numerous factors in and outside of the region .Despite economic benefits it afforded the individual slaveholder and his country, the brutality of slavery gave rise to resistance. Resistance is grouped into two categories: active and passive .Passive Resistance is the nonviolent resistance to a system and involves acts such as slow working, pretending ignorance and deliberate carelessness to name a few. While Active Resistance however, is more vigorous and has immediate results and included such actions as refusing to engage in copulation with the master, damaging and destroying owner’s property, stealing and the most active of all murder and revolt. Such acts however, were rarer because of the penalties associated with them.
Women in Slavery
History has made it clear that enslaved women played an important role in the various forms of resistance against slavery similar to that of men. They resisted in ways which were characteristic to them as women as well as utilizing methods practiced by both sex. This is evident where they could and did use periods of childbearing to do the least work and in the common practice of running away. The African Mother country played a vital role in instilling courage and aggressiveness in the enslaved women that aided in their rebelling spirit. The majority of enslaved women entering the British Caribbean were no younger than 14 and no older than 40 as specified by the traders who wanted ready labor. As a result the thousands of young African girls and women who entered the new World had already been through the African tribal ceremony with an instilled sense of worth and pride that was later passed on to their children and proved a major deterrent to slave-owners. Men were physically stronger than females and could perform more strenuous tasks than women. The enslaved women were therefore in a shorter supply in the slave population and were therefore in great demand thus strengthening her sense of her importance. Women were seen by Olaudah Equiano, , an African writer whose experiences as a slave prompted him to become involved in slavery abolition movement, as being fierce and strong willed and which is a fact that was evident throughout the period of slavery. Herbert Aptheker a noted historian stated that “to justify slavery ‘the colossal myth’ of the ‘sub –humanity’ of black people had to be demonstrated by all black and white alike. To preserve this idea slaves therefore frequently came into conflict with the system”. Slave women did not conform to the image created for them by white society and in so doing presented a strong challenge to the slave system and all that it represented. Often this involved breaking the laws of slavery.
Women and Passive Resistance
Passive resistance was the main type of opposition practiced by the enslaved women of the British Caribbean. Fear of retribution was a strong deterrent for many female slaves but still a larger few rebelled against the system of enslavement. One planter in St Ann, Jamaica, wrote angrily in his diary, “I have this day seen as evident wish to get the children with Yaws… under the idea that they will be permitted to sit down and mind their children… I shall certainly allow no time of mine to be lost in their attendance…”...
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