A Walk in the Path of a Slave

Like I promised last week, this post is focused on the typical experience of slaves in the slave trade era. They sound hard to believe, but these are facts to prove how terrible slave trade was and to showcase a bit of history. They bring in the slaves from the hinterland, particular Yoruba lands, because there were several wars going on the in yorubaland at that time (this is why there is vibrant Yoruba culture in some parts of Brazil, United States and some other countries in South and North America till date). There was active slave trade in several places along the coastal area of West Africa and it was very lucrative back then.

They buy the slaves from the Chiefs using trade-by-barter exchange system; the exchange rate was 40 slaves for one umbrella; 10 slaves for one china ceramic saucer/bowl and 10 slaves for a bottle of gin. They keep them in three rooms for men, women and children. The rooms are called Baracoon meaning slave store room. It was called a store because slaves were seen as commodities. They packed them tightly in the rooms in such a way that they can only sleep while standing, no space to move around. They relieved themselves of all biological urges in the room (menstruation, urination and co). Some of the slaves would die in the store, good riddance to the slave traders as those dead would be considered unfit to survive harsher conditions on the sea and beyond anyway. The Baracoon is located very close the take-off point to Point-of-no-return.

The umbrella used in exchange for 40 slaves
Bottle of Schnapps used in exchange for 10 slaves
Heavy chains tied around the waist of the slaves
The Storehouse

When the ship arrives, they shoot three times to announce the arrival. The slaves were brought out in chains and transported across the water in the pictures above to the island (Point). Slaves transported across cannot return again. They moved them in chains across the pathway that led to the seaside. They passed by the river of attenuation, to drink the water and then continued the journey to the seaside. They would load them on the ship and made them to lie down face-up. If they encountered shark attacks on the high sea, they would throw slaves as a bait to distract the sharks.

The berth at Point-of-no-return


Footpath leading to the sea
The attenuation well

On getting to final destinations, they separate them into field workers and domestic staffs, the criteria used was generally their smartness and they castrated the domestic slaves. They also had male breeders that sleep with other females in order to breed more slaves. The breeders did not get to claim the children, they mostly did not even have idea of who slept with who to give birth to who. It was only physical resemblance when the kids were grown up that gave a faint idea.

The slave trade lasted for centuries between 1500s and 1870s and abolished through legislation in Britain and America at different times. Some of the slaves eventually returned to Africa, and retained their masters’ name as seen in names like Crowthers, Williams, Pinheiro and several others. Others never made it back.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Tunji Oladipo says:

    40 slaves for an umbrella? I wonder what the umbrella looked like. Nice one Sola, thank you for the piece. More power to you


    1. solajegede says:

      I should have a picture of the umbrella, I’ll upload that. Thanks a lot


  2. drealafonja says:

    Thank God we were not born then.


    1. solajegede says:

      Hahaha, I don’t even want to imagine


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