Freedom From Slavery


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  • For Africans destined to be slaves in the New World, a long march lasting several months was not uncommon. This 19th century engraving by an unknown artist shows captives being driven by black slave traders. European slave traders in Africa did not seize land from natives and colonize the coast, as they did in their New World settlements. Instead, they established a special relationship with local chieftains, who allowed them to maintain trading forts along the coast. Local Africans, rather than the Europeans themselves, acquired and supplied slaves to the white traders. Image Credit: The Granger Collection, New York
  • Slaves Left to Die is a woodcut illustration from the book, The Boy Travellers on the Congo , published in 1888. Accompanying the illustration is a description of why slave owners killed captives while travelling. . . "Sometimes they left them to die or recover, as best they might, and Dr. Livingstone tells how he saw groups of dying people with slave yokes around their necks, near the road where he travelled. Some of the slave-traders were tender-hearted enough not to take life wantonly, but this was not always the case. Those who looked upon the dreadful traffic purely in the light of business made it a rule to kill every slave who could not keep up with the caravan. They did so not from any special delight in the killing, but becasue it spurred the survivors on to endure the hardships of the march, and never to yield as long as there was power to drag one foot before the other." Image Credit: Harvard College Library
  • Dejected, depressed, and despondent, captives aboard slave ships felt they had nothing to lose and so took any opportunity to revolt. According to Alexander Falconbridge, author of An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa (1788): "As very few of the Negroes can so far brook [tolerate] the loss of their liberty and the hardships they endure, they are ever on the watch to take advantage of the least negligence in their oppressors. Insurrections are frequently the consequence; which are seldom expressed without much bloodshed. Sometimes they are successful and the whole ship's company is cut off." The ship's crew in this image, apparently "cut off" during an insurrection, fire upon the slaves. Image Credit: By permission of The British Library (w/ identification of item & British Library shelfmark or Manuscript number)
  • An Englishmen tastes the sweat of the African to check his age and to make sure he is not sick. 1. Negroes displayed for sale in a public market. 2. A Negro Slave being examined before being purchased. 3. An Englishman licking the Negro's chin to confirm his age, and to discover from the taste of his sweat that he is not sick. 4. Negro Slave wearing the mark of slavery on his arm. This image was displayed along with A View of Calabar . Image Credit: Bibliothèque Nationale
  • With good reason, plantation masters feared the spread of smallpox. The introduction of the disease to their slaves could lead to an epidemic. They were therefore cautious when buying people recently imported from Africa. They avoided persons suffering from this contagious disease, but often paid higher prices for individuals with pock marks on their faces, showing that they had survived the sickness and would not become infected again. Some broadsides announcing the sale of slaves made such statements as, "The utmost care has already been taken, and shall be continued, to keep them free from the least danger of being infected with the SMALL-POX." Other broadsides, such as the one displayed here from Charleston, South Carolina, revealed that slaves to be sold had been exposed to smallpox during their voyage but had been quarantined until the disease subsided. In an effort to prevent the spread of contagious diseases, or "pestilences," among South Carolina's population, colonial authorities required incoming slave ships to unload their unfree passengers at the "pest house" on Sullivan's Island near the entrance to Charleston Harbor. CHARLESTOWN, April 27, 1769 TO BE SOLD, On Wednesday the Tenth Day of May next, A CHOICE CARGO OF Two Hundred & Fifty NEGROES: ARRIVED in the Ship Countess of Sussex, Thomas Davies, Master, directly from Gambia, by JOHN CHAPMAN, & Co. THIS is the Vessel that had the Small-Pox on Board at the Time of her Arrival the 31st of March last: Every necessary Precaution hath since been taken to cleanse both Ship and Cargo thoroughly, so that those who may be inclined to purchase need not be under the least Apprehension of Danger from Infliction. The NEGROES are allowed to be the likeliest Parcel that have been imported this Season. 1769 Image Credit: Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society
  • Living Africans Thrown Overboard Heading for Jamaica in 1781, the ship Zong was nearing the end of its voyage. It had been twelve weeks since it had sailed from the west African coast with its cargo of 417 slaves. Water was running out. Then, compounding the problem, there was an outbreak of disease. The ship's captain, reasoning that the slaves were going to die anyway, made a decision. In order to reduce the owner's losses he would throw overboard the slaves thought to be too sick to recover. The voyage was insured, but the insurance would not pay for sick slaves or even those killed by illness. However, it would cover slaves lost through drowning. The captain gave the order; 54 Africans were chained together, then thrown overboard. Another 78 were drowned over the next two days. By the time the ship had reached the Caribbean,132 persons had been murdered. When the ship returned to England the owners made their claim -- they wished to be compensated the full value for each slave lost. The claim might have been honored had if it had not been for former slave Equiano, then living in England, who learned of the tragedy and alerted an abolitionist friend of his. The case went to court. At first the jury ruled in favor of the ship's owners. Since it was permissible to kill animals for the safety of the ship, they decided, it was permissible to kill slaves for the same reason. The insurance company appealed, and the case was retried. This time the court decided that the Africans on board the ship were people. It was a landmark decision. On another voyage, on another ship, a similar incident occurred. On La Rodeur in 1812, there was an outbreak of ophthalmia, a disease that causes temporary blindness. Both slaves and crew were afflicted. The captain, fearing that the blindness was permanent and knowing that blind slaves would be difficult if not impossible to sell, sent 39 slaves over the rails to their watery death. As with the captain of the Zong, he hoped that the insurance would cover the loss. Image Credit: © Musée de la Marine / Négrier poursuivui
  • A former trafficker - Mono Region, Benin Traffickers are professionals; they know the hardships faced by the families they approach and they know how to sell dreams. The false promises they make are a necessary part of the job. To traffickers, the children they trade are commodities, their only concern is profit. This woman worked as a trafficker for 26 years taking children from Benin to Nigeria. She promised families that their children would receive an education and well-paid work, but instead she placed them with families who forced them to work as domestic maids. She became rich while the girls worked for nothing. But this all changed when a young girl escaped from her employer following a particularly brutal beating. The injured girl was picked up at the Benin-Nigerian border, and the truth of the trafficker's trade was revealed. As with most trafficking cases, the sentence - five months - did not reflect the severity of the crime. She was ordered to give the girl her unpaid wages, but she refused. Selling all her possessions in Nigeria, she escaped to Benin. Today she remains unrepentant, saying that the girls she trafficked had no future with their families, and were destined to live a life of hardship.
  • Girl selling bags of water - Libreville, Gabon For many girls trafficked from Benin, dreams of a new life soon become nightmares. Forced to sell goods on the city streets, they compete with one another for trade, knowing that they will be beaten if they don't meet their daily quota. The work is exhausting; a child selling bags of water carries a full load of over seven litres. But even though they walk crowded streets, they remain anonymous, their presence unquestioned by passers-by. Many miles from their families and with no earnings to support themselves, the girls are totally dependent on their 'employers'. Exhaustion and depression, together with physical and mental abuse forces these girls into a state of subservience. Many lose hope of ever returning home.
  • Pirogues - Libreville, Gabon Traffickers move their victims away from their homes and families, taking them to towns or cities, or across borders to other countries. By removing them from their communities, they make their victims vulnerable and so easier to exploit. For children trafficked across borders, boats are often the cheapest form of transport. Between Benin and Gabon hundreds of children are trafficked in pirogues , dug-out boats like these. Terrified, the children are loaded onto the boats, over 100 to a vessel. For many, it is the first time they have seen the sea. The journey to Gabon can take weeks; it is a distance equivalent to traveling from London to Edinburgh three times. Reports tell of lack of food and water, and children dying from thirst and exhaustion. Others die when boats capsize in rough seas.
  • Aminata - Libreville, Gabon Aminata is ten years old. In March 2000 she was found under a public bench in Libreville, Gabon's capital. Her legs showed fresh scars from a recent beating. Thousands of miles from her home in Togo, she was clearly terrified and bewildered. She was taken to Centre d'Accueil, a centre run by volunteers, and slowly her story began to unfold. Aminata had been living with her family when a woman called Fatima visited their home. Arrangements were made and Aminata left with the woman. It was the start of a long journey, first by car and then by boat. Once in Libreville she was forced to sell cakes on the street. Her 'employer' took all her earnings and left her with nothing. After Aminata had been rescued and brought to the Centre d'Accueil, she was visibly traumatised. As with many children whose lives have been controlled by their employers, it has taken time for her to adapt to the freedom and safety of the rehabilitation centre.
  • Radio Gerddes Afrique, 89.5FM - Oueme Region, Benin In most towns, cities and villages in Benin, people listen to the radio. Ten per cent of the population owns radios (only one per cent owns television sets), and listening to the radio is a popular communal activity. Radio Gerddes Afrique's programmes "get people accustomed to the rules of life, and help them solve their problems in life". The programmes raise awareness of the dangers of trafficking, and promote schemes to help people lift themselves out of the poverty trap.
  • Freedom From Slavery

    1. 1. Slavery Then And NOW
    2. 3. African Captives Yoked in Pairs
    3. 14. Sources: PBS. Resource Bank: Teacher resources. Retrieved August 18, 2008 from, PBS web site: Sheil, M. Antislavery.. Child Trafficking. Retireved August 19, 2008 from Anti-slavery website: