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SLAVE ORIGIN

Slaves were taken from the following areas:

-Lagos -Elmina -Whydah -Gold Coast -Senegambia

-Guinea Coast -Badagri -Ivory Coast

Raiders would enter villages quietly, in the night and set fire to slave houses. In the confusion and panic they easily collected the villagers, tied them in pairs around the neck using forked sticks and placed them into slave coffles. This was done quickly as they feared the villagers might have had reinforcements. The slaves were then taken to the coast. Along the way, the oldest, youngest, weakest and sickliest slaves were cut from the coffles and left to die or find their way back to their village’s remains. After several weeks journeying, they made their way to the slave market where they were to be sold to dealers (traders). They were then bargained over by agents of European trading companies. Deals however were not made until each slave was checked by the company’s surgeon. Those who were deemed worthy were branded with a hot iron in the name and coat of arms of the trader’s company.

THE MIDDLE PASSAGE

The slaves were then loaded aboard slave ships and taken on the journey known as The Middle Passage. This was the one-sided slave trade that linked West Africa, Europe and America.

Auctions and Slave Sales

When slave ships would arrive in the West Indies, they would advertise their ‘cargo’ in the local newspaper or on plaque cards. This advertisement outlined the number of slaves for sale, their age, gender and their country of origin.

On arriving to the port, slaves were prepared for sale. Captains did their best to make slaves look as attractive as possible. They were fed on fresh fruits to improve their skin and other foods to increase their weight and strength. They were stripped, shaved and rubbed with palm oil to give them a healthy look. Scars and wounds were hidden using a gunpowder, lime juice and iron rust mixture. The slaves were auctioned using a very unorthodox method of dividing the slaves into groups based on price and at the signal; planters would rush onboard to get the best quality slaves. After the auction, slaves were branded yet again with their master’s mark and given Osnaburg clothing (pants and a hat for men, a petticoat and scarf for women). They were then taken to the plantation where they were adjusted to a new and strange way of life.

THE PLANTATION

Plantation lands were divided into several sections: cane fields, pastures, woodlands, provision grounds, work yards and living areas. Most plantations had 3-5 cane fields, each surrounded by a closely trimmed hedge or stone wall to exclude cattle. Each year one field was left fallow, another grew a second crop of rations and the others were planted with new canes. These fields were split by narrow roads of smaller square plots, 6-9 hectares. This made the overseer’s job of controlling the slave gang’s work rate and organizing the movement of the cane to the work yard much easier.

The work yard stood in the middle of the cane fields. It consisted of the mill, boiling house, curing house, blacksmith’s and carpenter’s sheds. Close by stood cattle pens, poultry houses and a small “hospital which also used as a jail for runaway slaves. There were sometimes a distilling house and a trash house in which the crushed cane stalks were dried to burn in the furnace.

The bottom storey was made of stone and used as a storage shed, storm cellar and a stronghold in case of a slave revolt. The living quarters were on the second floor. One large central hall served as the dining room, sitting room, office and occasionally a banqueting hall. Around this were the bedrooms. The kitchen and servants quarters were in a separate building. The Great House’s Position highlighted the planter’s desire for comfort and also his suspicion of the slaves. It commonly stood on a mound 1km away from the heat and noise of...
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