: A History Of The Atlantic Slave Trade. Essay, Research Paper
Reynolds, Edward. , Stand the Storm: A History of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
My Responses from Reading Stand the Storm
With my sallow understanding of slavery, I imagined slavery only happening in the New World, where they obtained a better treatment than the book recorded; at least, slaves would have enough nutritious food on their trip to North and South America. After reading this book, Stand the Storm, the pains of African slaves conjured up on my mind, and I thought their suffering and humiliation was difficult to compensate with any amount of money. This book portrays thorough history and impacts of how African slaves were captured and sent to North and South America. One thing was true that slave trade favored the economic development of Americas to expand in a fast pace. However, it was absolutely an evil economic activity that brought great suffering and incredible distress to many thousands of the Africans. In this paper, I would like to probe deeply on how the Africans slaves were treated in their tribes. Also, in that sense they were captured to serve as slave on their own continent of Africa. Comparing with North and South America, I will find out the differences of practicing slavery between both places, and the ways of the African salves adapted to the new environment and conditions in the New World.
Slavery was common in many African tribal societies long ago before the Europeans introduced slavery to the New World. In Africa, a slave was generally known as servant or property of his host whose social status was lower than the other society members’. In the most inferior case, especially in Eastern Nigeria, they could be pawned by their masters, or even acted as a medium of exchange. Their lives were worth nothing that could be completely controlled by their masters; it meant he could take it or leave it. Once slaves were captured or traded to another kinship society, they would probably be treated as outsiders who had no social status and identity. Even worse, they no longer obtained any social rights and obligations. Still, they would probably be assimilated to be a new kin that depended on whether they were utilized or not. However, in some cases, like the tribes in Gold Coast and Kongo, the life of slavery was as ordinary as the rest of society. Sometimes, they could have their spouse and children sharing equality of identity with their masters. For instance, ??he eats with him from the same dish, and has an equal share of all his simple enjoyment.? (Reynolds 13) The social status and identity of slaves were varied in different parts of Africa.
The variety forms of utilization of slavery were available in different tribal societies. In fact, some of the usages were beyond my imagination. For example, it was common for the tribes in Western Sudan to employ slaves as its warriors and military officers to deal with military affairs because their original kinship tie was not available, and as an outsider, they could only contribute their loyalty to the new kinship master. Besides, for religion purpose, slaves were used as offerings in the ritual of human sacrifice among the tribes in Nigeria, such as Igbo. In order to increase the productivity, agricultural and gold mining were extremely popular throughout Africa. To reflect one?s ascendancy and high social status, domestic slaves were employed to serve as a mean of property. Particularly, females worked as domestic slaves who usually married to her master or became his concubine. In a certain extent, slaves could be used as bank notes. Their indifferent hosts or masters exchanged goods or paid debts with them. Actually, whatever the purpose, any forms of slavery finally revealed the exploitation of human beings? body and soul.
Inasmuch many purposes that a slave could perform, a large number of the Africans was recruited or kidnapped to become slaves. Most of the slaves were grabbed during wartime, and they were sold to a distant place as soon as possible since they were the prisoners of war who thirsted for escaping from their enemies. Hence, it was common for the slavers to sell prisoners among many tribal societies. Moreover, over border kidnapping often happened between strong and weak tribal groups. To have more slaves working for them or for sale, the strong groups would bombard the weak ones and raid their kin. Another reason that made a host of the Africans being slaves was natural disasters, such as famine, drought, massive spreading of diseases and attack of locust. They were willing to become a victim of slavery because they yearned for finding a shelter to fend for themselves and their children; at least, their masters would provide them food and place to rest. No matter how people were reluctant or willing to become slaves, it is sad to know they were joining the cruel enslavement indeed.
The most apparent difference between the Africans and the Europeans on practicing slavery were kinship assimilation and conversion to Christianity. As I mentioned before, the alien slaves would have an opportunity to gain a new kinship identity within some African tribal societies. However, in the eyes of the Europeans with a strong sense of social class, the African slaves were slaves whose identity and social status absolutely could not be the same as them. In this sense, the African slaves in America were like the downtrodden untouchables always bullying by the nobility. Besides, owning to religion, all of the slaves who were sent to the New World had to be baptized or Christened; that was a rule to ensure their arrival to America. However, for those Africans, they did not believe in God, and they even did not know what Christianity was. On that score, the poor African slaves were bereft of their rights of free religion and traded to the New World, which was a tragic place for them, by the profit-oriented Europeans.
All along, the Europeans treated the African slaves like a dog. Although slaves in Africa needed to work harshly, some humanity was retained. For instance, ?the kings have slaves?to whom they gave wives, ?also, furnish them with food and drink.? (Reynolds 8) In contrast, in the Middle Passage, thousands of Africans were chained in pairs, and kept in extremely narrow ship compartments without any utilities. Furthermore, on the board, the nasty ?African meal?was served to the Africans, so most of them would rather to starve themselves to die from malnutrition. To halt this from happening, ?hot coals were put on a shovel and placed so near the lips of a recalcitrant slave that his mouth was scorched and burned?, a mouth opener, was used to force food down a slave?s throat.? (Reynolds 49) In addition, sexual harassment always happened to the African females. In reality, those women could not reject the sailors to harass them; otherwise, they would be whipped severely. These inhumane treatments reflected the Europeans as cold-blooded, and those Africans were being persecuting when they first stepped on the ship to America.
Another phenomenon that often occurred in the Americas rather than in Africa was escaping. It was no doubt that the slaves in other African tribal societies also escaped to their homes, but in the Americas, the situation was extremely different. The African slaves escaped from their working fields to the nearby mountains, and they formed several small societies there as their gathering places. Also, most of them would hold their wedding and tribal religious ceremonies within these secret tribal groups. Tribal dancing and songs were practiced as well. In fact, it was so painful that for these Africans lived in such a clandestine life to exchange a little bit freedom from enslavement. They were fear to be discovered by their brutal masters in every minute since harsh punishment would be used to punish those escapers.
For the similarities, it is so simple to think of the meaning of slavery. In Africa, slaves were at the lowest level in society, and they were the properties of their masters or host. Meanwhile, they worked as a servant or a medium of exchange. In the same way, the Europeans had such ideas towards the African slaves in the New World. Also, harsh punishment was applied to the escapers and lazy slaves. Not only that, the rationale of slavery inheritance was more or less same in two places. Children of the enslaved father and mother were regarded as slaves. Assumed that an enslaved woman married her master, their children would be considered to be free. However, in most of the cases, children were entitled to have an enslaved identity when their fathers were slaves.
In order to adapt to the new environment in the Americas, African slaves tried their best to mix their own tribal culture into the American society. Hence, they could create a unique life-style that really belonged to them, even though they still hindered by the Europeans. Besides the secret tribal societies that have been mentioned before, certain aspects of adaptation were crystallized clear; they were religion, family, and songs. African religion survived in the heart of every African slave under the influence of Catholic and Christianity. Instead of praying the God, they worshiped their ancestor during All Souls? Eve. Furthermore, the Africans imaged the similarities and created relationship between African gods and Christian saints. For instance, Saint Bouleverse was believed to have the capacity for good and evil that just similar to African gods. Actually, they created their Africanized Christianity. Most of the Bible stories were interpreted into their own imagination and meanings; for example, ?They identified with Israel?s Babylonian captivity and longed for prophets of salvation to lead them back to freedom.? (Reynolds 115) Additionally, the African slaves respected and concerned family value very much because most of the slaves had a handicapped family. Since a score of male slaves were traded to the New World, as well as female slaves were always raped by their masters and other male slaves, family was a significant center force for the slaves to support their survival through the hardships and to link their kinship together. Likewise, songs were another important clue to grasp how the African slaves subjected to change their lives in order to adapt to the new environment. Their songs were regards as work songs and social songs since they resorted to singing to express their souls, sadness, discontent of life and work, and tradition. Generally, most of the slave songs had a secret message behind them; in some cases, these songs were used to help guide them to a safe place when escaping. Moreover, the songs acted as the linkage among the slaves working in the same place because they had to cooperate to create and follow the particular rhythm and chant together. As they sang, ??I?m going down and lay my head on the railway track, When the train come along, I?m gonna snatch it back.? (Reynolds 118)
These three aspects, religion, family and songs, were only some of the obvious adaptations among African slaves in the New World. In order to survive until last minute, the Africans altered their life completely along with their sweat and blood.
In my opinion, this book is quite heart stirring; also, the visions and rituals are depicted in full and complete details. Certainly, it gives a clear insight to the readers of how the African slaves were subjected painfully by the Europeans in the New World. Moreover, I was surprised that slavery did exist and start first on the continent of Africa, as well as their functions were different from those in the Americas. However, no matter where the enslavement existed, slavery is realized and confirmed as the human exploitative system up to the present day, in which numerous Africans used their sweat to replace for their tear.