Slavery in the Caribbean: Effects on Culture, Race and Labour
Origins of slavery
The Caribbean slavery began in the 16th and 17th century during the emergence of piracy. The basis for the modern Caribbean dates back to the slave trade and slavery. During the 16th century, outsiders settled in the Caribbean. This was a period characterised the European powers struggling for trade supremacy and the utilization of newly found resources. During the end of this century, sugar export emerged as a highly profitable trade as the cultivation of sugar developed into the main industry. The earnings from this trade were essential as they assisted in funding the Britain's and other European country's industrial revolution. Growing and producing sugar was not an easy task (Dowling, 2005).
This is since the plantations were large and needed to use the combination of agriculture and the sugar cane's mechanised processing. This meant that the semi-industrial process needed an intensive labour force. This was the main reason behind the massive expansion of the 17th and 18th century slave trade. The trade became popular and led to slavery in the Caribbean spreading its roots. The plantation owners decided to import people from the West Africa coastal regions as the native people were unsuitable for slavery in the Caribbean. This resulted to Africans forcefully becoming slaves and enduring torture in order to cope with the increasing slave demand (Dowling, 2005).
Promotion of slave trade
The emergence of piracy resulted to the promotion of the slave trade and sugar plantation. In order to promote the trade between American, European and Caribbean countries, the farm owners had to utilize a large workforce. This workforce was to cultivate a considerable amount of sugar cane along with other crops. The increase in the demand of sugar cane was proportional to the need for workforce. People began to understand the usefulness of resources in the Caribbean as more sugar and various relevant firms emerged. This resulted to the procumbent of labour force from outside. The main reason was that the indigenous people were unfit for slavery since they resented such an act. The promotion of the Caribbean slaver was due to the fact that the African natives were readily available and the possibility of assimilating in a new land (Engerman & Solow, 2004).
Treatment of slaves
Once the slaves arrived in the Caribbean island, they would be prepared for sale to the local buyers. The selling process would result to separation of children from their parents, and wives from their husbands. The plantation mainly relied on the imported slaves as it emerged into an agricultural factory that concentrated on an individual cost-effective crop for sale. The enslaved Africans had to engage in various laborious tasks that were all backbreaking. The fieldwork was exhausting since the labours would spend long hours in the sun, where the overseers supervised the. The overseers were quick to whip anyone they felt was not working properly. The tasks varied from planting cane, manuring, harvesting cane using bare hands, weeding and clearing land. The plantation relied on this workforce rather than on the family labour (Engerman & Solow, 2004).
II. Slave trading and sugar plantations
The beginning of sugar cane plantation in the 1640s, to St. Kitts along with its successive rapid growth resulted to the increase of a plantation economy. This economy only depended on imported labour from enslaved Africans. As a result, the plantation owners desperately sought after the Africans, who worked in unpleasant conditions of humidity and heat. These planters believed that the Africans were suitable for these conditions compared to their own citizens. This is since the climate was similar to the climate of the African's home in West Africa. These Africans were also cheap to maintain compared to the paid wage labourers and the European servants (Tomich, 2004).
Emergence of a slave society
The Caribbean island is a diverse area, which represents the effects of slavery, combination of much cultures and slavery. The arrival of the Europeans in the Caribbean has seen the island undergo a constant change. The loss of the indigenous people along with the plantation system introduction resulted to immediate and permanent repercussions to the island. The plantation system led to the development of a society that entailed a large enslaved, low class people and a powerful, rich upper class people. The plantation system became a social class of the free coloureds. This led to a confusing and later a separation between the slaves and the whites, which resulted to the end of the slave trade (Tomich, 2004).
Slave turnover ratio
Towards the end of the 17th century, the magnitude of the black population increased dramatically in the Caribbean due to the slave trade. When sugar took over from tobacco in the 1960s, the enslaved Africans resulted to only 20% of the Caribbean population. By the 1678 census, the population of the Black population had increased to 3849 against the white population of 3521 people. When the production of sugar established fully in the 18th century, the Blacks formed approximately 80% of the population. The plantation owners felt threatened by the vast increase in Black population due to this they treated the black population harshly. The plantation owners felt a need to control the large but potentially rebellious and discontented workforce (Dowling, 2005).
Degrading plantation system
The conditions were not friendly inside the plantation works especially the boiling house and the heat. In addition, the Blacks worked for long hours especially during the harvesting time. The rate of death increased in the plantations due to disease, overwork, work conditions, brutality and poor nutrition. The plantation owners preferred importing other new slaves to providing the existing slaves with conditions and means for survival. This resulted to the passing of the Amelioration Act in 1798, which required the plant owners to improve on the enslaved workers conditions (Kiple, 2002).
III. Treatment of slaves
Plant owners treated the enslaved workers harshly. The workers had to survive the harsh conditions that surrounded the journey from West Africa commonly known as the middle passage. The conditions led to the death of many slaves due to ill treatment and disease. Some even committed suicide through jumping into the sea (Kiple, 2002).
Horrors of slavery
The plantation factory was a technically sophisticated organism that made use of power technologies such as isolation, psychological despondency, surveillance, cultural alienation and physical abuse. All this was in an effort develop the economic production. The slave women would use their sexuality in order to acquire material rewards from the whites, fellow slaves and occasionally they would use it to gain their freedom. These sexual relations ranged sordid to violent sex. This physically and psychologically devastating sexual economy that surrounded the female plantation slaves depicts the incomparable circumstances required for survival (Beckles et al., 2000).
Hardships of slavery
Conditions, during the voyage, were intolerable as the slaves were wedged into a hull while chained together to stop revolts. Incase one of the enslaved person fell sick from smallpox or dysentery the traders would throw them overboard. The slaves that survived the voyage faced abuses on the plantations. Most of the plantation owners returned to Europe and left their farms under the care of overseers, who were often unsavoury. The slave families split up as the women men and children worked with little or no food. These slaves were diseased, undernourished, and this forced them to work during 'their' free time in order to cater for their needs (Beckles et al., 2000).
IV. Resistance Movements
The obeah religion movement
This religious sect also made up the resistance movements in the Caribbean anti-slave movements and the slave owners feared this movement. They acted as inspirational leaders during the slave rebellions; there influence had a great impact in Jamaica. They used the knowledge of herb as a tool for active resistance in the Caribbean and in America. Their knowledge of poison also helped in the anti-slavery movement against the slave master especially by women who poisoned their masters. This was a dreadful tool for resistance by the blacks both in Jamaica and in America resisting the oppression by their masters. Slave masters drafted laws forbidding the possession of articles believed to have the knowledge on drugs and use of herbs to make poison. This did not deter the people from the active resistance and on March 1, 1738, Jamaican maroons forced the whites to sign a treaty with the black slaves. This was the first step to end slavery in the Caribbean before it ended officially many decades later (Knight et al., 2007).
Civil Rights Movements and Women Resistance Movements
Civil rights movements made up by African-Americans who experienced the slavery rule also formed a strong resistance movement,…
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