Watching the excellent film 12 Years a Slave shocked me, yes I'd watched Roots, The Colour Purple etc but somehow this film touched me in a way no other film about the brutality of slavery has. So I decided to research some facts about a part of history which seems to have been forgotten and only comes to light with films like these. What I found disgusted me, made me angry and in someway made me feel guilty. So I feel compelled to share it with you.
The level of slave exports grew from about 36,000 a year during the early 18th century to almost 80,000 a year during the 1780s.
The Angolan region of west-central Africa made up slightly more than half of all Africans sent to the Americas and a quarter of imports to British North America.
Approximately 11,863,000 Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, with a death rate during the Middle Passage reducing this number by 10-20 percent. That works out more than the combined fatalities of American troops during WWII: (291,557). Civil War: (212,938) WWI: (53,402). Vietnam War: (47,355) Korean War: (33,746) Iraq War: (3,249) to-date Afghanistan: (2,104) These figures certainly puts things into perspective as to the horrors of slavery and so far all I’ve covered the numbers who died during transportation at sea .
As a result between 9.6 and 10.8 million Africans arrived in the Americas..
About 500,000 Africans were imported into what is now the U.S. between 1619 and 1807--or about 6 percent of all Africans forcibly imported into the Americas. About 70 percent arrived directly from Africa.
Well over 90 percent of African slaves were imported into the Caribbean and South America. Only about 6 percent of imports went directly to British North America. Yet by 1825, the U.S. had a quarter of blacks in the New World.
It was difficult for me to comprehend the brutality towards slaves whilst watching the film. Slaves were punished by whipping, shackling, hanging, beating, burning, mutilation, branding and/or imprisonment. Punishment was most often meted out in response to disobedience or perceived infractions, but slaves were also sometimes abused to assert the dominance of their master or overseer. Pregnant women received the most horrendous lashings; slave masters came up with unique ways to lash them so that they could beat the mother without harming the baby. Slave masters would dig a hole big enough for the woman's stomach to lay in and proceed with the lashings.
The mistreatment of slaves frequently included rape and the sexual abuse of women. Many slaves were killed as a result of resisting sexual attacks. Others sustained psychological and physical trauma.
This photograph shows the Scars of a whipped Mississippi slave photographed in April 1863
Slavery in the United States encompassed wide-ranging rape and sexual abuse. Many slaves fought back against sexual attacks, and some died resisting them; others were left with psychological and physical scars. Rape laws in the south embodied a race-based double standard. Black men accused of rape during the colonial period were often punished with castration, and the penalty was increased to death during the antebellum period; however, white men could rape female slaves without fear of punishment. Men were also sexually abused by slaveholders. One problem in documenting such abuse is that men did not bear mixed-race children. Both masters and mistresses were thought to have abused male slaves.
In many households, the treatment of slaves depended on the slave's skin colour. Darker-skinned slaves worked in the fields, while lighter-skinned house servants (sometimes the children of the master or his son) had better clothing, food and housing.
This might seem hard for some of you to understand but at the moment I almost feel guilty simply because I’m White!!!