African Slaves

external image celebrating7.jpgOlaudah Equiano (1745-1797) Freed slave, important writer and abolitionist


United States


external image Cotton-gin.jpgThis is the cotton gin, invented in 1793 by Eli Whitney. The American slave industry was beginning to die down around this time, but this new technological innovation served to give a boost to the industry that exploited and brutalized us. Since Whitney's invention made it easy to quickly separate seeds from cotton fibers, this increased the amount of cotton that could be planted and harvested on a plantation in the South, for greater economic gain. Unfortunately for us, the cotton gin increased the need and demand for slaves on plantations, and also elongated the slave industry in the United States, since cotton was so economically beneficial. Of course, the cotton industry was hugely profitable for the cruel white plantation owners, and we never saw a penny of the profit, even though we were the ones doing all the work.


We were deprived of the culture and memories of our homes, by the slave masters who saw our cultural identity as a unifying force between us that could prove to be a problem for him. However, despite the best efforts of the slave owners, we were able to retain much of our African heritage. This was done through music, the telling of folklore, language, cuisine, and other cultural aspects of our native Africa. Music was a powerful way in which we could relate to each other, as well as help us to remember our homes. The music that we slaves retained so eagerly contributed a great deal to world music of the present day, as nearly as types of popular music has influences from the African music brought over by us for centuries to the New World. Maintaining language and words from Africa was also a part of our cultural identity, as can be seen from looking at many English words with roots from African languages. Folktales and stories allowed us to entertain each other about the native land, as most of us were strangers from different parts of Africa. Folktales, stories, and slave songs also played a role in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad ("Follow the Drinking Gourd" was not just a song about a drinking gourd, to us, but the slave owners didn't notice the double meaning). We also brought a unique style of cuisine to America and other parts of the New World, with foods such as gumbos and fricassees coming from African cooking.


Many slaves were brought from West Africa, where a polytheistic faith was prevalent at the time. Beginning around the 18th century, Christianity was practiced by slaves in the New World. However, the African slaves did not completely discard their old beliefs, but instead combined their faiths with the teachings of Christianity, creating a distinct syncretic "slave religion".


1782 - The Middle Passage: We were taken from our homes in Africa, to become human cargo for months on a slave ship taking us to our oppression in the New World. Because of the bad weather on the seas, the journey took five months, five months that were by far the worst of our lives. Trapped in a tight, hot cabin with hundreds of other slaves, the smell of human waste and dead bodies was unbearable. We all were looking for places to jump off the ship and end our misery, but there was no way out of this hellish journey. After the long months at sea, with hardly any food the entire trip, we made it to land, wishing that we had caught scurvy or dysentery on that ship and died like so many of our brothers.

external image _1523100_atlantic_slave_trade.gif The trans-Atlantic triangular slave trade route

1804 - Haitian slave revolt: As slaves in Saint-Domingue, we were angry and rebellious against the class we were given in society. In the 1790s several uprisings began to occur all over Saint-Domingue on plantations. The most successful leader of these revolts was Toussaint L'Overture, who came to be our black commander against the French rule of our country. The French were weakened by a number of political and military factors, and our revolution was determined, and we finally defeated the French at the Battle of Vertieres, and Toussaint has become the leader of our independent Haitan state.
1865 - Thriteenth Amendment: After passing this amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the United States officially abolished slavery and finally recognized us as free men. However, life was not immediately better for us, even though we were technically freed from bondage. Oppression still existed for us on a large scale, since we were mostly unskilled and were subject to extreme prejudice and racism. Also, American law did not make us equal to the white man, as we were still not allowed to vote or use the same schools and facilities. In fact, it would take well into the 20th century before we began to earn the rights that we should have as humans, and racism is still present in society.

The Wall

Props to us! I am sooo excited that you mentioned us in your blog titled the "Haitian slave revolt"...we are pretty much celebrities...this is sweet! No one should have the power to force us around and treat us so inhumane and digustingly. We are in fact people. I am so glad that you are educating many about these instances. This one revolt changed our lives forever for generations upon generations...even contributing to that 13th amendment which I've heard soo much about! By putting out that revolt we helped to improve life so much and basically made everything you mention on this page able to occur!
-- Haitians --

Hey there! I know a lot of you come from our part of Africa and are probably bummed about this whole slavery thing. We just want to remind you that if you're from the sub-saharan Africa, that you should keep your culture and dont let anyone take that away. Make sure you keep cultivating yams and oil palms, like you have been doing here. It's a nice skill and you dont want to lose it. Talk to you later...

Hello there. We just want to say that Africa's horrible past with slavery is the reason for most of the problems in Africa today. We are having a horrible wars bewteen people that we wouldnt of been having if the Berlin Wall Conference never happened. This tottally sucks that why i purpose that all the African nations should get together and try to fix our problems ..we need to put the corruption aside and think of the greater good. Always here. - Ethiopians

Dear African People,
I am sorry that we, the British, have taken like all your resources. I am also sorry that our military burned your houses, raped your women, killed your children, and then left without helping you at all after we took all your goods, and technologies. Sorry again.
Sincerely, the British (a.k.a. Rober!)

You know what? You guys should just suck it up and bear the pain that God meant for you to suffer. If God loved you as much as he loves us, you wouldn't be whipped, beaten, raped, tortured, and abused every day of your lives. I mean, sure we get diseases and mass epidemics sometimes, but that just builds toward future resistance!
-The Dominicans

Hey brothers! We'd just like to say that we feel terrible about what you guys have to go through right now. Being from Africa ourselves, we know that you guys are just like us, and seeing Africans being taken away to serve as slaves is just terrible. Maybe, if you ever get back to Africa that is, you can start practicing Islam and join up with us! That would be pretty nifty...

Best of luck,
The Fulani

Brother, I don't know how you can stand this! I know the way the plantation owners have been treating you, and you know that you don't deserve that treatment. I don't understand why you didn't run away with us while you could. Sure, we were forced into the mountainous land and our living situation isn't ideal, but anything is better than what you are going through. Take some advice from me: stand up for yourself. Take pride in yourself and take pride in your heritage. I know that you practice Christianity mostly now, but please take a step back and remember where you came from. Maybe, after reconnecting with your homeland via tradition, you will have the courage to take a risk and run away from the lifestyle you are forced into.
- Maroons

Belgians: Thank you for your opportune lands and wonderful labor in full filling our needs of trade and European influence in your land... well I should say our lands now shouldn't I? Look at it this way Belgian Colony sounds much more austere and sophisticated than that of "Congo free state" just barbaric.


Bentley, Jerry H., and Ziegler Herbert F.. Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2006.
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