SOLUTION: HIST 40A UCirvine Cole & Edwards Great Awakening Sources Discussion

TRANSATLANTIC SLAVERY:
TURNING PEOPLE INTO
COMMODITIES IN THE
COLONIAL ATLANTIC WORLD
SEXUALITY AND RELIGIONS IN
COLONIAL AMERICA
HIST40A
Lesson 3
Note on Terminology
• In this course we will be using Black, African, or African American to refer
to people of African descent.
• When speaking of people held in slavery: enslaved is preferred over slave
because the term enslaved brings more attention to an ongoing process
of forced labor. However, it is still okay to use the word slave.
• Any other terminology may only be used if directly quoting an assigned
source. You must directly quote a source because other terms were used
in specific historical contexts and are now derogatory.
• If you’re interested in further discussions on terminology, see historian
Gabrielle Foreman’s list, “Writing About Slavery? Teaching about
Slavery” as a guide.
West Africa

The ancestral homeland of most
Black Americans is West Africa; it
was the center of the transatlantic
trade in human beings.
• West Africa was (and still is)
physically, ethnically, and culturally
diverse

West Africans began cultivating
crops and domesticating animals
between 1000 BCE and 200 CE.

By 500 BCE some West Africans
were producing iron tools and
weapons
Ancient Ghana,
4th century CE1076

West African peoples traded extensively
and homed multiple empires.

The first known kingdom in Western
Sudan was Ghana. Ghana’s kings were
known in Europe and Southwest Asia as
the richest of monarchs.

Trade produced Ghana’s wealth. They
exported: pepper, slaves (who were
usually war captives), and gold. They
also traded in: silk, cotton, glass beads,
horses, mirrors, dates, and salt.
Mali, 12301468 CE

Mali was socially, economically, and
politically similar to Ghana.

But it was larger, and centered further
south allowing access to greater rainfall
and more gold mines.

Mali was wealthier than Ghana, and
quite cosmopolitan as home to 8 million
people.

Mali attracted merchants from all over
the Mediterranean world and became a
center of Islamic learning
The Arrival of Europeans

Europeans from Portugal began arriving in West Africa in the 1430s hoping to establish trading centers to trade for gold.

West Africa’s cultural and ethnic diversity makes it hard to make generalizations about the social and cultural backgrounds of the first
African peoples brought forcefully across the Atlantic.

But by the early 16th century, most West Africans were farmers, and lived in extended families and clans, which could be patrilineal or
matrilineal. You could also find nuclear and polygynous families.


Matrilineal: descent traced through the female line

Patrilineal: descent traced through the male line
West African religions included Islam and polytheistic and animistic religions that recognized many divinities and spirits.

Polytheistic: belief in many gods

Animistic: belief that inanimate objects have spiritual attributes.



Historiography: The study of the writing of history.

In other words the history of writing history

This is an important concept because history is an ever-evolving
field.
Some reasons for changing historical interpretation:

New sources discovered that challenge the interpretation of older
sources

Changes in the way we understand social phenomena: people,
policies, class, gender, racial, ethnic distinctions

The historiography of American slavery has changed dramatically
over the course of the 20th century
At first history books as early as the 1930s and 1940s
discussed the institution of slavery as a “benevolent system”
in the same way you would talk about a stringent father, who
loves you and if there was any mention of abuse it was
because he loves you—and you his childlike slave probably
disserved it.


Some publishing companies still cling to this interpretation
Now in the 1970s and 1980s historians from a field studying
“social history” or history of common people began to focus
not only on slavery as an institution but also began focusing
on the Middle Passage, which was the journey of enslaved
people from Africa to the Americas.

Before social history historical writing focused greatly on wars and
rulers but knew little about the daily life of people
Historiography
The Atlantic as
a Space

The Atlantic world in the context of the slave trade
was both a vast body of water, and everything the
ocean came into contact with: the colonies in
North America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa.

The Atlantic as a space is home to multiple
histories, which often conflict with and complicate
one another. For example, the Puritans saw the
Atlantic as a space for religious liberty because
they used the ocean to escape from England, while
the Atlantic for many African captives caught in
the Middle Passage was a prison

The boundaries of what constitutes this space
continuously shift as change occurs. The Atlantic
World is an idea that is a modern fabrication
because it is both a place and idea.

The Atlantic is a space where based upon your
gender, class, and race you could see it as a
dramatically different world. It is literally and
figuratively a fluid place.
• There was an attempt to move to a transnational
approach when thinking of slavery in 1980s with what
historians call “The Black Atlantic”
– This concept is about African Diaspora and how the
crucible of slavery also equates to birthplace of modern
development, ideas and institutions.
– In other words, African Slavery created modernity
The Black
Atlantic
• This transnational approach of the Black Atlantic is an
important frame. Historians began writing about how
enslaved people would essentially lose their nationality and
individuality on the Atlantic.
• So historians in the 1980s extrapolated the raw
experiences of Africans who were ripped from their homes
and transported across the Atlantic. And in a variety of ways
social history is the most important kind of historical study
that has developed because it allowed scholars to expand on
the history of people.
The Haunting and Ghosts of
the Transatlantic Slave Trade
This lesson is about the haunting of the Atlantic Slave
Trade. It’s about the trade of human beings, which we
now know with exceptional precession involved between
twelve to fifteen million people from Africa being loaded
onto these sinister vessels, and some ten to twelve million
people who were delivered alive on the American side.
The couple of million people who are missing from that
second figure are those who died on the slave ships and
were tossed into the oceans, only to be eaten by sharks
that followed the ships across the Atlantic.
Here is a video displaying the magnitude of the Middle
Passage. The Atlantic slave trade lasted more than 3 centuries
and transported millions of Africans 3,000 miles across the
Atlantic to the Americas. This constituted the largest forced
migration in history.
Slavery and slave trading had existed in nearly all cultures for
thousands of years. But the experience of Atlantic slavery,
which would become American slavery, was distinctly
different than anything that had existed before.
This engraving was done by a famous British poet
and artist named William Blake Stedman depicting
an execution of a man in Suriname in 1776, later
published in 1796.
The Portuguese
and Slave
Trading

When the Portuguese arrived on the Guinea
Coast the wanted to trade for gold, ivory,
pepper, and slaves.

The Portuguese received official permission
to trade for slaves in 1472 from the King of
Benin. But the rulers of Benin, Dahomey, and
other African kingdoms restricted Europeans
to a few points on the African coast.


The African kingdoms raided the
African interior, spurred on by
interethnic rivalries, to supply
Europeans with slaves.
At first the Atlantic trade was small,
but Columbus’ voyages drastically
changed the Atlantic slave trade. Gold
and silver mines, as well as sugar
plantations in the Americas produced
huge labor demands.
This is a map of the major ports from where
captives were taken from in African.
Labor Demands in the
Americas

Sugar plantations spread from Portuguese-ruled Brazil through the Caribbean islands.

Later coffee cultivation began in Brazil.

Along with tobacco, rice, and indigo in British North-America

A harsher form of slavery appeared in the Americas; slavery in the Americas was based
on race, as only Africans and American Indians were enslaved.

Enslaved people became the personal property of their masters in the Americas and
lost legal rights.

The Spanish joined the trade in 1510, and by 1550 the Dutch, French, and English were
involved.
The Role of the
British in the
Transatlantic
Slave Trade

When tobacco became a cash crop in Virginia and Maryland in the 1620s, and as sugar
boomed in places like Saint Domingue (Haiti), the British and French fought the
Dutch for control of the Atlantic slave trade.

After a series of wars the British drove the Dutch out of the trade and emerged as the
dominant European power in the Atlantic trade by 1674.

In the 18th century, the British were the major players, the biggest players in the
Atlantic slave trade. They transported 3,000 ship captains, 30,000 officers, a few
hundred thousand sailors, and 3-3.5 million enslaved Africans.

After 1713 the British transported 20,000 slaves per year from Africa to the
Americas, and by the 1790s they transported 50,000 per year.

What we know about each group is precisely inversed to their numbers. We know the
most about the captains, a little less about the officer, a lot less about the sailors, and
we know the least, vastly less about the slaves. Let me give you an example. There’s
an excellent book by Robin Law about a major slaving ports in West Africa—Wydah in
Benin.

About a million souls passed through Wydah. You know how many personal accounts
exist from slaves who passed through Wydah there are? 2.

And this is true for each slave port. So this of course is the great challenge for
studying the subject. How do we recover the history of people who did not leave
documents of their own?
The March to
the Coast

As warfare spread to the African interior African armies
enslaved inhabitants of conquered towns and villages.

Captives forcibly marched for hundreds of miles to the
African coast where European slave traders awaited
them.

Once captives reached the coast they were kept in
factories: headquarters for European companies that
traded for slaves on the West African coast.

Families and ethnic groups were separated from each
other to prevent rebellion.

Captives were stripped naked so that traders could
inspect them for disease and physical defects. Those
deemed fit for sale were branded with hot irons to show
the symbol of the trading company.

People could be kept in prisons for weeks and months
known as Barracoons prior to being loaded aboard slave
ships bound for the Americas.
Boarding the Ship

Sailors rowed captives in canoes to large slave ships waiting offshore.

The Middle Passage could last between 2 and 3 months. However,
some ships took as long as 6 months to complete the voyage.

1/3 of captives died in the process of marching to the coast and
boarding the slave ship.

I want to discuss the slave ship as a place where important historical
processes took place.

It was a place where social and cultural processes occurred

The ship was a prison; it was a war ship; it was a factory; it was a site
that transformed people into commodities, and where the labor was
manufactured that literally fueled the world economy in the 17th,
18th, and 19th centuries.

The slave ship also served as a site where categories of race were
produced.
The Slave Ship
known as The
Brookes (1788)

A ships tonnage determined how many slaves it
could carry: 2 slaves per ton of ship.

But captains usually ignored the formula.

Most captains overpacked their ships hoping that
large numbers would offset the cost of deaths
during the journey.

Cargo space was generally 5 feet high so human
cargo was packed so that people only had about
20-25 inches of headroom; males were chained
together to prevent rebellion.

For a video recreation of sailing in a slave ship
click here
The Terror of the
Ship’s Hold

Enslaved people could defecate in tubs placed on the cargo floor, if they
could reach it. (Usually only 3-4 tubs were provided to be shared by all
human cargo).

However, given the spatial restrictions it was nearly impossible to reach the
tubs. Many defecated where they lay.

During storms the crew often neglected to empty the tubs used for
excrement, tend to the sick, provide food, or remove the dead.

Enslaved women were often victims of sexual assault on board slave ships
because sailors knew that African women brought in less money than African
men at auction.

Mortality rates were incredibly high because of the over-crowding and
unsanitary conditions, which led to epidemics.

1/3 of enslaved peoples died during the Middle Passage, or during
“seasoning” in the Caribbean.

Seasoning: The process by which newly arrived Africans were
broken in to slavery in the Americas
Arrival in
the
Americas

Landing in the Americas ended the Middle
Passage.

Ship captains required enslaved people to oil their
bodies to conceal rashes, bruises, and any other
signs of cruelty, confinement, and disease.

Ship Surgeons used hemp to block the bodily
discharge caused by dysentery.

Auctions took place on the ship deck or sale yards
onshore.

At auction enslaved people were subject to close
physical inspection of their bodies including their
teeth and genitalia.

People who did not think of themselves as
Africans but as Ebo, or Fontu, or Mandingo, at the
end of this voyage would all become “Negro”
slaves
Seasoning

Seasoning immediately followed the sale of Africans newly
arrived from the Middle Passage and marked a period that
could take up to 2 years.

Seasoning involved breaking enslaved peoples into plantation
routines.

On Caribbean Islands planters divided enslaved people into
three categories:

Creoles: Enslaved people born in the Americas

Old Africans: Those who had lived in the Americas for
some time

New Africans: Those who had just arrived after the
Middle Passage

Seasoning made New Africans more like Creoles. Creole
slaves were 3 times the price of unseasoned newly arrived
Africans.

In the West Indies this process also prepared enslaved people
for resale to North American planters who preferred
“seasoned” slaves over “unbroken” slaves directly from Africa.
Seasoning
Continued

Before 1720 most Africans in the British North American colonies had
gone first to the West Indies. After 1720 the demand for labor in the West
Indies meant that fewer enslaved people could be resold in North
America.

Because of this, post-1720 slaves imported to work tobacco, rice, and
later cotton in the British American colonies had to be broken by their
masters. But many enslaved people still came to the British American
colonies from the Caribbean.

Seasoning was a disciplinary process that intended to modify the
behavior and attitude of enslaved people to make them effective forced
laborers. Part of this process included masters giving enslaved people
new Christian, generic African, or classical Greco-Roman names.

Seasoning also included learning to speak European languages. In some
places in the Caribbean and North America slave society produced Creole
dialects that incorporated distinctive African linguistic features into
European languages producing Africanized versions of French and
English.

Planters had to rely on Old Africans and Creoles to train New Africans
because white people were a minority in the Caribbean, and later in the
cotton-producing American South.

Although plantation overseers running day-to-day operations could be
white, mixed race, or black, they imposed strict discipline punishing
those who worked too slowly or showed disrespect.
Successful Seasoning

Survival was the first indication of successful seasoning. Many Africans did not survive the seasoning process, already
weakened and traumatized by the Middle Passage.

It’s estimated that 1/3 of Africans died during their first 3 years in the West Indies

African men died more frequently than African women

The second criteria included adaptation to new foods and the new climate

The third criteria was learning a new language. Enslaved peoples didn’t necessarily have to speak English, French, Dutch,
Spanish, or Danish, but they did have to be able to speak a Creole dialect well enough to follow commands.

The last criteria was met when enslaved people ceased to be suicidal. At that point planters would assume that newly arrived
Africans had accepted their enslaved status and separation from their homeland.

However, Africans didn’t lose their memories of culture in the Middle Passage or during Seasoning. Instead, they created new
bonds with their shipmates, Creoles, and Old Africans forming new extended families. Seasoning could only modify behavior;
it couldn’t totally displace African value systems or destroy African cultural roots.
Africans
and African
Americans
in Colonial
North
America
• Black people lived in North America for
nearly 3 centuries before the creation of
the United States. From 1526-1763
enslaved Africans and African Americans
were slaves in British, French, and Spanish
colonies.
• White economic dependence on black
bodies and fear of black revolt was a
central element of daily life in the British
American colonies and provided a
rationale for racial oppression.
• White colonists branded Africandescended people as being “barbarous,”
“wild,” and “savage” to justify oppressing
them.
Race and
Black
Slavery

From 1640-1700 the British colonies from Delaware to northern Carolina, (originally
there was just one Carolina- it wouldn’t become North and South Carolina for some
time), transformed from an economy based on white indentured servant labor to an
economy based on the labor of black slaves.

There are many reasons for this transformation:

In the mid-17th century Britain’s Caribbean sugar colonies set a new precedent for
enslaving Africans

Fewer poor white people were coming to the tobacco colonies as they found better
opportunities for themselves in other colonies in British North America.

Britain gained increased control over the Atlantic slave trade making African slaves
less costly

As people began living longer in the North American colonies indentured servants
were surviving to the end of their contracts forcing masters to give away their own
money and land to servants upon their freedom. But with new life expectancy and a
decrease in the cost of African slaves masters could permanently hold on to their
labor force.

But race and class were crucial for shaping the character of colonial British mainland
slavery.

Emerging racial policy toward African-descended peoples were based on British
policy toward the Irish and Native Americans. But because the British saw Africandescended peoples as even more different from themselves than the Irish or Indians
they believed that Africans were generally inferior.

Although there were many similarities between white and black servants masters
made distinctions between them based on race. Black servants usually lacked
surnames and were listed separate from white people in census records.

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