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tv   Lectures in History Atlantic Slave Trade  CSPAN  August 2, 2021 11:47am-1:01pm EDT

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nation's first treasury secretary, and historians discuss the economic policies and the military experience. watch tuesday night beginning 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span3. on lectures in history, univerity of pittsburgh professor dr. marcus reddiker teaches a class on atlantic slave trade and explores portuguese aspects of slave trade in 1482, and later how plantations of slave trade labor created large wealth and how they acquired slaves from the west african coast and describes the horrible conditions of slaves who were held captives on the ships and this is on the historic cathedral of learning
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on pittsburgh university's campus. okay. everybody.
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about one of those three pillars, the african slave trade. i want to begin with a quote by a very eminent african-american scholar, activist named webdubois. here's what dubois said about the atlanta slave trade. dubois wrote the most magnificent drama in the last thousand years of human history is the transportation of 10
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million human beings out of the dark beauty of their mother continent and into the newfound eldorado of the west. they descended into hell. he continued it was a tragedy that beggared the greek, it was an upheaval of humanity like the reformation and the french revolution. well, i think du bois is exactly right. this is a stunning drama of human history, the atlantic slave trade and i would ask you to notice his reference to eldorado, the mythic city of goals sought after by the spanish conquistadores when they
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came to mexico and peru. well, eldorado was finally found, not that actual city, but a slave system that would price gold and wealth on a scale previously unimaginable. so it is a story about eldorado after all. now, i've said that the slave trade is a foundation of american history. i mean that in a very literal sense. slavery as an institution, the slave trade as something that made that institution possible are utterly central to american history from the 17th century to the present. this, folks, is important to who we are.
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we can pretend that's not true. that won't help us. we're discussing the atlantic slave trade about the origins and the very nature of america as a society. this is not an easy subject to discuss as i have suggested because the slave trade and slavery more broadly are both fundamentally premised on violence and terror. you can't coerce people into hard work for their entire lives without a system of violence backing it up. now this is especially clear in the slave trade. what we're going to talk about today is difficult, it's painful, and it's not only painful because of the specific history. it's painful because of the truths that this requires us to
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face. okay? and let me be a little more specific about that. in this post-9/11 world, we talk a lot about terror, do we not? well, the question i have is do we have the courage to talk about the terror that was instrumental to the very making and building of american society. something not done by others to americans but done by americans to others. that's a big question. and i think that question lies at heart of the test of any society that considers itself to be democratic. in other words, it's easy to face all of those glorious things in your history, like the exalted ideals of the american revolution.
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the question is can you face the dark pages of your history. and i would suggest to you, we need to do that and that studying the atlantic slave trade is part of it because those slave ships that brought millions of people to the americas are still sailing. they're ghost ships that haunt us because we live with the history that they created. so let's start with the ship. i'm sure all of you have seen these tall ships, the replicas that have been built. have you seen them? they're spectacular, aren't they, the european tall ship. it's a majestic thing to see. it's a beautiful thing to see. but the beauty of it, the way
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we've transformed it into something of a fetish actually hides its history. because what i would have you know about this european tall ship is that, in fact, this is the technology that allowed europeans to conquer the rest of the world. this thing is a machine. what happened was european shipbuilders found ways to load cannon on to these highly mobile ships which allowed europeans to fan out over the face of the earth to trade and to make war to enforce their terms of trade. when you look at the earth's surface, and see how many parts of it speak european languages, think of this. this is why it happened.
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but of course there's a limit to the romance of the sea, and we're going to explore that today because even though we love tall ships, it turns out there's one we don't love. that's the slave ship. in fact, we find it very hard to talk about it. but talk about it, we must. now, i suspect that most of you would have no way of knowing that this particular tall ship was actually a slave ship. there is a way to tell. if you look closely, you'll see just above the water line on the side of the vessel in the hull, you'll find holes carved into it. these are air ports. now, if your cargo is textiles, if your cargo is sugar, if your
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cargo is timber, you don't carve holes into the side of the ship. but if your cargo is 300 human beings to be brought from west africa to some port in the new world, you've got a big problem. the problem is ventilation. how to let that so-called cargo breathe. okay. so that's how you can tell it's a slave ship. because of the holes carved in the side. well, we're going to talk about the slave trade in its largest dimensions, and we're also going to talk about it concretely. here's a famous image you may have seen. this is a real ship called the brooks. it sailed out of liverpool for about 20 years in the late 18th
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century. ships like this carried over a very long span of time beginning around 1514 and carrying on up to about 1866, that's a span of 352 years, carried millions of people into bondage. and one of my points here is we are not talking about a short burst of perroxism of violence, we're talking about something that lasted for three and a half centuries. we've got to take that on board. now, the countries that took the lead in organizing the atlantic slave trade, first of all, it was portugal. a fairly small nation of portugal was the preeminent
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maritime nation in the 15th century, and their voyages down the coast. so here you've got europe, here's portugal. see, this is really a tiny part of the world. look at it. these are the countries that will form maritime empires throughout the western atlantic. but the portuguese come down the coast, going further and further over time, making contact first in the sena gambia region, trading originally for ivory. and then slowly more and more for human beings. and then after 1492 when europeans began coming, especially to the caribbean and building their new imperial systems, more and more european nations want to get involved in this process. so portugal, spain, those are the two leaders.
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are followed in rapid succession by the netherlands, denmark, france, england, and the united states. there is really a mad rush for the wealth to be gained in the slave trade and in the building of these systems of slavery in the americas. this is really critical. now, we want to talk about numbers. numbers are important, and numbers, when it comes to the slave trade are very controversial. over many years, there have been wildly varying estimates of how many people were carried out of west africa, really from sena gambia down the coast to southern angola, and eventually,
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later on, into south and east africa. how many people were carried to the new world? well, it turns out that we know quite a bit about the slave trade because the slave trade was a big business. and we have an abundance of business records. those business records and, indeed, practically every kind of conceivable record has now been mined and put together in something called the transatlantic slave trade database. and i would recommend it to all of you. this is a really magnificent scholarly achievement. we now have records on something more than 33,000 slaving voyages. most of which began in europe, some of which began in the united states, some of which
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began in brazil. but which resulted in this massive movement of humanity across the atlantic. if you want, by the way, that url is or go to any particular search engine and type in slave voyages, you'll go there. this is a web site that is free and open to the public, and you can do remarkable things with it. i would urge all of you to think about using it for research purposes. in any case, the latest findings of the transatlantic slave trade data base are that over this 3 1/2 centuries that i have mentioned, somewhere around the 10 to 10 1/2 million people were loaded on to slave ships. and somewhere between 8.8 and 9
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million people were delivered alive on the western atlantic. you will note there's a very significant difference between these two numbers, a difference of about 1.4 million. those are the people who died along the way, whose bodies every morning on board a slave ship would be brought up from the lower deck and thrown over the rail to the schools of sharks that would follow the vessels all the way across the atlantic. so now, that's not the end of the horror. okay. those 1.4 million. because as we think about the numbers, we also have to bear in mind that an unknown number of
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people died in wars carried on in the interior of africa. an unknown number of people died after they were being enslaved and marched to the interior of the coast. another unknown number of people died in the fortresses and barracoons, awaiting their placement on board slave ships. we have very few records about what happened in any of those circumstances, but lots of scholars think that it may have required to create that 10 million, resulting in almost 9 million delivered alive, to create that 10 million, it may have required an extra 3 or 4 or 5 million deaths, in africa.
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okay, so we are talking about a human catastrophe of truly extraordinary proportions. again, over a very long period of time. but the carnage was great. now, let's talk for a minute about destinations. the primary destination for the slaves who were brought from west africa to the americas was the caribbean. the greater caribbean. early on barbados was one of the great centers of the slave trade. jamaica would end up being one of the greatest. another with the french imperial system called sandemang or today's terms, haiti, the crown jewel of the french system. to the caribbean, almost 5
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million people were shipped. almost 5 million. 4.2 million arrived alive. that's almost half. that's almost half the total. it is not an accident that this was the great center of sugar production. the sugar industry drove the slave trade for many many years. it was an especially brutal regime, as you know. the second most important destination was brazil. portuguese, brazil. also the home of a very lucrative plantation system. to brazil, roughly 3.5 were loaded on the ships and 3.2 million arrived. this is about 36% of the total, a little more than a third.
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so overwhelmingly, the caribbean and brazil are the two most important sites of the slave trade. if you're just keeping track of the numbers as i give them to you, you'll see these two areas account for the overwhelming majority of the slaves shipped to the new world, right? so where does the united states come into this. well, as it turns out, the united states was a rather minor partner in the slave trade. the current estimates are that maybe 370, as many as 400,000 people were loaded on to vessels bound for north american ports. the greatest of which, by the way, would have been charleston, south carolina. and that somewhere around 310,000 were delivered alive. now, that's about 3.5% of the
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total. the numbers may be a little higher across the board, maybe 4%. okay. but don't be deceived. the fact that mainland north america received a fairly small percentage of the enslaved africans belies the fact that it is going to become one of the most powerful slave systems over the course of the 18th and early 19th century. the main difference is demographic. the slave population in north america, owing partly to climate growing season, and the kinds of staple crops produced, the population, the enslaved population was able to reproduce itself, whereas that was very uncommon in the caribbean. so those are the numbers.
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what is the consequence of all of those numbers. here i would quote the great historian and activist c.r. james who said the result of all of this was quote the greatest planned accumulation of wealth the world had ever seen. end quote. so these millions of africans shipped on board these vessels across the atlantic come to the new world and create a plantation system which really is eldorado after all. take the sugar planters, for example. in british, society in which in the 18th century, there were enormous accumulations and concentrations of wealth. the sugar planters from places like jamaica were widely known to be the richest of them all.
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their carriages were guilded. everything they had suggested opulence, long trains of servants and slaves followed them through the streets of london. so this is wealth on a truly extraordinary level. okay. so those are the numbers. we can't rest content with the numbers. as important as they are, we have to think about slavery and the slave trade in human ways. i think sometimes we take comfort in abstraction. the great british novelist barry unsworth, in a novel about the slave trade called sacred hunger has two of its characters who are slave traders, sitting in
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their lush liverpool office surrounded by the wealth that they have made in the slave trade, and he says, you know, they really couldn't have pictured what was happening on their slave ship off the coast of africa at that moment. and even if they could, they wouldn't have wanted to because picturing things can choke the mind with horror. much better to remain safely in the realm of the abstract, to think about charts and graphs and maps. well, this is the challenge. we've got to keep the big picture of the slave trade in mind, but we also have to understand it in human terms. we have to try to understand the slave trade as human experience. and so for the next part of
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today's lecture, i want to talk about just that. the slave trade as an experience. i'm going to be drawing here on research i did for a book called "the slave ship, a human history," and the examples that i want to give you are drawn basically from the british and american slave ships of the 18th century, beginning about 1,700, and going up to the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, 1808. this is regarded by many as the peak period of the slave trade. this is the moment when more people are shipped than any other. this is the moment of the formation of the american slave system. okay. what i would have you try to do right now and for the next few minutes is to imagine what it would have been like to be one
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of a roughly 300 people who are gathered together and placed on board of a slave ship. maybe this will help you think about it. now, imagine that the 300 are going to be drawn from a number of different cultures. a number of different language groups, imagine or know that the 300 will have been enslaved by other africans before they got to the ship. but also understand that they did not all consider themselves to be africans, least of all, members of the same race. they were mandingo, fonte, ebo,
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and to a very large extent the people they enslaved were other groups, people with whom they had been fighting wars for very long periods of time. so imagine being captured in war. imagine simply being kidnapped by roving bands of mora ters, these were probably the two most common means of enslavement. imagine then being led in a human train, what's called a cothle and marked sometimes from very long distances from the interior to the coast, imagine being shackled to someone next to you who dies along the way and is just discarded. imagine arriving at the barracoon or the fortress or the ship and undergoing a truly
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humiliating medical inspection. you'd all be stripped of your clothing, men, women and children. ostensibly for health purposes but also because they didn't want any place where a weapon could be hidden. you'll be treated like cattle in a market. the slave ship captain will look down your throat, will look at your teeth, will inspect your muscles, will squeeze them. you're property. you're being purchased. imagine coming on board the ship, and imagine the moment when the vessel leaves the coast. one of the most powerful pieces of evidence i came across in my research is that when the vessel would actually leave the coast of west africa, from the lower
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deck, like this, a whale would rise up of pain at the thought of leaving the only place you had ever known and heading to somewhere unknown to you, to a fate that you could hardly grasp. in those circumstances, slave ship captains often wrote that the women slaves sang these deep and mournful songs. trying literally to remember their lives in africa, to remember who they were, to remember their families so the struggle for memory is there from the beginning. well, an image like this can help us understand all of this. i mentioned before the slave ship brooks, this is another drawing of the same slave ship.
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now, i want to tell you it's a real ship, we know a lot about it. i also want to make sure you know, this image was not drawn by slave trade merchants. it was not drawn by slave trade captains. it was actually drawn by the people who opposed the slave trade, abolitionists who wanted to see it eradicated. so they came up with what in my mind the truly brilliant idea of representing the ship in order to make people understand what that social reality was like. to make it real for people. well, i had sort of the same task in this book, "the slave ship," how to make it real. let's look at this, and i want to give you a sense of the dimensions of a real slave ship. this vessel was about 100 feet
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long, and about 25 feet wide. that's not very big. think about that. think about the fact that into that vessel of that length, 482 men, women, and children have been jammed aboard. i've counted them. 482. but what you would need to know about this image is that this is how many people the slave ship brooks could carry after humanitarian reform had been implemented. something called the dolbin act of 1788 made it illegal to carry more slaves than was permitted under law in relation to the tonnage of your vessel. so we actually have a record of this vessel, and the voyages it
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took before the dolbin act. on one of them, the number of human beings carried was not 482, it was 609. and these are the precise dimensions, by the way, this vessel was measured. on the voyage before that, not 609, but 638. and on one previous voyage, we know through the business records that the brooks carried 740 men, women, and children. that's 252 more than you see right here, and i want you to tell me where you're going to put them. this is the humane version of the slave trade here. imagine bodies piled on top of bodies. now, in order to understand how it worked, here is the lower
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deck, okay. that's what you see right there. you've got to superimpose this on top of this. this is actually a platform built into the lower deck so that you can get more people aboard. and here's how it looked. there's the lower deck. there's the platform. you see it? we know exactly what the distance was between those two decks. 5'8", which means you were under a platform or on a platform, you had about 2'8", head room. which meant that for the months that you would be on this vessel at night, sometimes 16 hours a day, sometimes in bad weather, 24 hours a day. you were in a situation where you could not sit up.
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and the vessel is rolling. there are a lot of descriptions of the way in which the skin would be worn off the elbows, the knees, and the hips. okay. this is not easy. i warned you. i also want you to imagine this reality of this many people in the tropics, in what they call the torrid zone. i want you to imagine the heat. i want you to imagine the human perspiration. i want you to imagine the smell that the human body makes under conditions of great fear. there's a particularly pungent smell that we make. i want you to imagine the fact that people got sick.
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people got seasick, but there were also epidemic diseases that ravaged these decks. if this had been truly accurate, something that would have been pictured on the lower back would have been what's called necessary tubs, the places people had to get to, stepping over unusually on bodies in order to relieve themselves. imagine the excrement. imagine the smell of death. because people died at alarming rates. for the full 350 years of the slave trade, the average mortality was about 12%. the 17th century, it was considerably higher. on certain voyages, it could be 50, 60, 70, 80%, those would be conditions of epidemic.
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and just to try to sum this up for you, it was said in charleston, south carolina, in the era of the slave trade that when the wind was blowing off the water a certain way, you could smell a slave ship before you could see it. so imagine that. i also want you to imagine the impact of this on the ability to breathe. people died after asphyxiation. i came across evidence of people grabbing ahold of the hatchway, these hatchways up to the main deck, and people would grab the hatchway, and try to get a breath of fresh air from up above. and the slave ship captain would tell the crew, beat them back down into the hole because they're blocking the air for everybody else, when, in fact,
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they were. but think of this in human terms of the availability of oxygen, and consider the sounds of the slave ship. consider what it sounded like. consider the woman screaming, consider the shrieks of the terrified, consider the groans of the dying, consider all this, and then consider this question. what would you do? what would you do in this situation. it's a very real question because people had to answer that question, each and every one of them every day when they found themselves in this reality, and i'm sure some of you people are thinking to yourself i wouldn't have accepted this. i'd rise up in rebellion, and
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people did that, that brings us to another part of the social reality of the slave ship. the slave ship was defined by terror. it was literally ruled by terror, terror and violence were used in calculated ways by the ship captain, usually selecting those few who might be rebellious, and doing truly horrific things to them as a way of terrorizing the rest. cowing the rest. ruling through the horrible example. i've argued in this book that the slave ship itself was one big instrument of terror. as such, it was made up of many small instruments of terror. one of which was the cat of nine
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tails. this was the ultimate instrument of authority on a slave ship. it's a whip. it has nine tails with knots in the end, so as to make the laceration of human flesh more efficient. some captains threaded medal through the cords to make them cut better. this would be used in many circumstances simply just to move people around. and certainly would be used in truly terrible punishments. on this side, we have a page from a book by the abolitionist thomas clarkson, a british man who devoted his life to the abolition of slavery. he went around in liverpool and collected this hardware of bondage, down below here we have
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leg shackles. usually it was only the men who were shackled, but if women showed a predisposition to resist, they too would be shackled. and usually it was one person to another person, right ankle to another person's left ankle, right wrist using manacles to the other person's left wrist. which maintains that those two people had to coordinate their every movement down below decks or the iron would eat into your flesh, would excoriate the flesh. this is a pair of thumb screws, standard equipment on a slave ship and it has only one purpose. it's an instrument of torture. anyone who was found guilty of taking part in a conspiracy or
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rebellion might be tortured using thumb screws in order to make his or her confess. the way it works, the thumbs are slipped under the metal loops, and this key is turned, producing truly unbearable agony, literally, it crushes the thumb. and then there's this piece of technology. this is called the speculum oris, something that was very important to a slave ship because, and we'll say more about this in a moment, there were lots of hunger strikes on board. but slave ship captains could not permit hunger strikes because this was valuable property, after all, so they carried the speculum oris, now you have to imagine these prongs in a closed position. they would be put down the throat of someone who was
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refusing to eat. the key would be turned. that person's throat would be opened up from within, and then gruel would be poured down that person's throat in an effort to keep his or her alive to the port of delivery. now, i asked you a moment ago, what would you do? well, those of you who entertained ideas of rising up, i just want you to know what your fate would be. anyone who dared to try to seize the ship would be made an example before all of the rest. and i just think that it challenges the human imagination to realize what kinds of things slave ship captains did to those who rebelled. i'm talking about chopping
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people up, joint by joint, i'm talking about strangling them until their eyes popped out. nothing was too horrible to do to those who dared to resist this fate. so what would you do? knowing all of that? what would you do? so here we come, i think, to one of the most interesting parts of this history, and that is to think about the choices that people made. what did they do? and let's think about the choices that everybody on board made, not just the enslaved. let's think about the sailors, who ran these ships. why were they there, what choices did they make, let's think about the captains who commanded this little kingdom, who were they and why were they
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there? well, let's think of it in human terms. this is a man named olaudah equiano, he was one of the very few people to write about the slave ship and the slave trade from the perspective of an enslaved african. he wrote a spiritual autobiography published in 1789. he recalled as a child being taken on board a ship. he was 11 or 12 years old, and he actually remembered the first moment he saw the slave ship. he said i was astonished. he had lived inland. he had never seen a ship before. and he was just amazed at this technology. then he said, very quickly my astonishment turned to terror. that's the reality.
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why was he there? because he was captured by a group called the ro, in what's presently nigeria, taken down the river to the coast and loaded on board a slave ship. his voice is really important because it is so rare. part of the violence of the slave trade is that we don't have very many records by people who knew it at firsthand, and i should mention there is a controversy now about whether equiano was born in ebo land as he himself says or whether he was born in south carolina as he himself wrote on a couple of occasions. you might want to read about that. i can give you the references. for my money, he is who he says he was. i don't think there was any way that he could have known what he knew about ebo culture growing up in south carolina. if he had groan up in virginia, he might have known because
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there was a large ebo population in virginia around the time he was born, but not in south carolina. so i think he is who he says he was. so many of you have probably heard of equiano, but i suspect almost none of you have heard of this man, james fiel stanfield, he was a common sailor on board a slave ship. he had sailed around the world. he was actually very well educated. he had been studying to be a priest in france. he was an irishman, by the way, from dublin. and he had a kind of, i guess, personal rebellion against the church. he went away. he deserted the church. he went to sea, he said around the world, and finally one time he signed on board a slave ship. we don't know exactly why he did it. i suspect he was pretty desperate for money. and this, in fact, is the main reason why a lot of sailors signed on board these ships.
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the mortality rates for sailors were just as high as the rates for the enslaved. this is not widely known. the reasons are a little different. much of it has to do with the malaria of the west coast of africa which made it the white man's grave. so it's not a place that people would usually choose to sail to unless they were very ambitious, knowing that mortality among officers and captains made it possible to move up in the slave trade, but also knowing that you were risking your life if you did so. the other thing you need to know about sailors, and why they were there is that quite a few of them were not there by choice. many of them had fallen into debt or had been thrown into jail where slave ship captains would come and bail them out
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saying i'll give your advance wages to the innkeeper if you'll come with me on this voyage. so there's a very interesting way in which sailors on slave themselves were not agents of choice. but stanfield is very interesting because what he did, he actually made this slaving voyage, it was a peculiarly deadly voyage. of the 34 crew members that went out on his voyage, four of them made it home. he was one. he left the slave trade. he left the sea. he became an actor, but then a few years later when the abolitionist movement began to emerge, thomas clarkson who i mentioned before got in touch with james stanfield and said would you be willing to write about your experiences as a sailor. and stanfield said, i would. so he wrote a series of letters
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describing the slave trade and describing its horrors for both the enslaved and for the sailors who were themselves victims of an extremely violent ship board regime. i think some of the very best writing done about the slave trade are the letters that james stanfield wrote about it. it really comes across in all its graphic horror. he was an actor. he had a sense of drama. he knew how to convey it. so he's a very important figure. the way that he joined the abolitionist movement and educated the middle class abolitionists about what actually happened on those ships. and then finally, we come to a slave ship captain, john newton. now, john newton is known to you, if not by name, then by something he wrote because john newton was a slave ship captain who wrote one of the most famous
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hymns in all of world history, something called "amazing grace." and there's a story about amazing grace out there, which goes like this. that john newton was working in an ungodly calling, the slave trade, and that he had a visitation from god, and that he left the slave trade and then later wrote "amazing grace" as an act of penance. well, it's a nice story but that's not how it happened. john newton did have a christian conversion while working on a slave ship, but he continued to work in the slave trade for several more voyages. in fact, he got a promotion to captain. he went as a devout christian to west africa, he completed that voyage, he did it again, he completed another voyage, he did it again. he completed that voyage, he was going for a fourth slaving voyage, all the while writing letters to people saying, well, i do have a godly calling now,
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as he was carrying people into this killing bondage, but then before that fourth voyage, he had a stroke. he was prevented from going to sea by his doctor. then, 19 years later he wrote "amazing grace", and then 13 years after that, he made his first public criticisms of the slave trade. so it didn't happen quite as the myth would have it. but i would also say that when john newton turned against the slave trade, he was a very effective witness against it because he knew what happened on those vessels. he testified before parliament that some captains used those dreadful things called thumb screws. i dare say he did know that they used them because if you read his journal of one of his voyages, he describes using
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thumb screws himself on children. now, the last thing i want to say about these three figures, equiano, stanfield and newton is that you can go and read what they wrote, through the pit library, we have all of these documents. you can read it for yourself. this is part of the excitement of doing history, go to the library and learn. that's my point. okay. so we spent this part of the lecture talking about this regime of violence, and terror. okay. there's another important part of this story and that is the resistance to the violence and terror. to the ship board regime, we must counter pose the fact that on the lower deck something extraordinary was going on. there was a kind of cooperation,
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a kind of communication, and a fragile process of building a new kind of community among the diverse africans who were on board these vessels. it's a absolutely fascinating thing to behold, of course we don't have evidence to study it as fully as we would like but we do know it was going on, and let me give you some examples of how it happened. first of all, even though these africans on the lower deck of any given ship would have been of numerous different ethnicities and languages, there was one language they all understood. and that was the language of resistance. when you fought back against the people who ran that ship, everybody understood what you were doing no matter who they were. and one of the things that really impressed me in the
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course of my research is that there were all kinds of resistance. i'll tell you a story of one man who embodied several different kinds. we know this because a slave ship surgeon wrote it. he said he was called to tend to a man one night who had cut his own throat. the physician said i sewed him back up as well as i could. the next morning he had cut the other side of his throat and ripped out the stitches. the surgeon had the sailors go and search the men's compartment for a hard-edged tool that he had used to slit his throat. they couldn't find anything, so what does the doctor do, he looks and finds flesh and blood under the man's finger nails. he had ripped his throat apart with his own finger nails.
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so they tied his arms behind his back, trying to keep him alive because he's a big investment. then he decided he was not going to eat anything. he went on a hunger strike, another major form of resistance. and nothing they could do could keep him from choosing not to be a slave. stories like this are very common on board the slave ship, and of course the biggest resistance of all comes in those very frequent moments when people somehow managed to get out of their chains and rise up and try to capture the ship. this resistance is very creative. it binds people together into something new, some new group. there's one other thing i would have you know about, and that is
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on the lower deck of these ships, something is being formed there that anthropologists called fictive kinship, okay, west african societies in this period were all kinship ordered societies. so when people were enslaved, literally their worlds were shattered. so what they start doing, and i find this amazing, is knitting kinship back together on the ship with strangers. they start to call each other brother and sister. they call each other shipmate, you're my shipmate, when shipmates go ashore, whether it's in virginia or jamaica or brazil, those shipmates, if they marry and have children, will have their children call other shipmates aunt or uncle. fictive kinship, it's
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extraordinary. this is going on under the most difficult of circumstances and so that's one of the things i would have you remember. violence, terror, extreme terror, and in the middle of all of that, somehow creativity. human creativity, doing something new. so here in these kinds of uprisings, on those hulls of the ship, on that lower deck, you have the origins of what is today african-american culture. that's its origin. something new built out of a motley mix of african cultures. something new, something defiant, it begins on the ship.
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okay. to conclude, one of the questions that i am sure is on your mind as a normal, sentient human being is how could anybody do this. we feel a moral revulsion and rightly so when we learn about this history. and so we wonder, how could that happen. how could it go on for 3 1/2 centuries. well, the history of slavery and of the slave trade is very complex. but this part of it, folks, is not. there's an easy answer to that question. it went on because it created profits. it went on because it made some people rich. it went on because it created wealth on an extraordinary scale. so when you think of the slave
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trade, don't think only of black and white, think of green. think of money. the slave ship was an economic institution. the plantation was an economic institution. slavery itself was an economic institution. racism grew up alongside it in an effort to rationalize its power and profit making potential. those of you who are interested in the rise of the world market, here is a crucial part of it. the rise of capitalism, where we began, free trade, free trade in human beings, and it still goes on, by the way, don't think all of this is safely over. there are slave trades in many parts of the world today. i urge you to learn about them. now, there is a new view growing
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up among historians, and i think not only historians, more broadly as well, that when we think about the slave trade and we think about slavery, we're not just talking about an unfortunate moment in human history. we're not just talking about a tragedy. we're talking about something that we can now label as crimes against humanity. write that down. crimes against humanity. a crime against humanity. is something that affects an entire society over many generations. its effects are not over when the thing itself has ended. slavery formally ended with the emancipation proclamation. 1863. but the effects of slavery
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remain, and i dare say they remain here now in our city of pittsburgh and throughout the country. they live on in discrimination. they live on in poverty. they live on in massive structural inequality. this is the after life of the slave trade and the slave system. those slave ships are still sailing. they are still haunting us. and as dubois said, this was a great drama, a violent, terror-filled drama, but also a drama featuring heroic resistance, so let's end with an image of the slave trade created by a haitian artist, a man named france zefarin, who has painted the slave trip brooks. this painting is done in the
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year 2007, it says the brooks, liverpool, you can see it right there, the crew have been depicted as animals. in the front of the vessel is the voodoo deity ague, announcing the arrivals of new souls to sandemang, which will become haiti. it says on the sail, we are in a lot of trouble. the artist has a sense of humor. note the eyes of the enslaved peering out from this dungeon like vessel, and note those who have been chained to the outside of the ship. i actually spoke to the artist about this painting. he said it is a belief in haiti today that the rebellious slaves were chained to the outside to be food for the sharks. now, i never actually came across anyone being chained to the outside of the vessel in my
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research, but i did see people thrown to the sharks while alive in order to make a point, that point being terror. so there is a very interesting truth to this, but i would have of the chains. the artist told me this is the leader of the great haitian revolution, which began in 1791 and ended in 1804. and this is a very eminent man from the same revolution, who led the rising on the north plane of haiti in 1791 that inaugurated that revolution, which itself marked, in many important ways, the beginning of the end of the institution of slavery. so, with this haitian artist, we
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see the violence and the terror, but we also see the resistance. and that, folks, is the drama that w.e.b. dubois was talking about. okay. i'll stop right there, and let's talk. questions? and let me say that if you have questions about a particular slide, we can go back to it. yes? >> you said at one point there were slaves on it. was there anyone policing that at ports? >> that's a very good question. there was a government apparatus to check this. what they would do is make the surgeons keep reports. this was a required part of the documentation of every voyage. that doesn't mean they didn't cheat. but there was also the possibility that your vessel could be intercepted by the royal navy, at which point they might ask you precisely how many
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you had on board. so, i think there was some policing of it. i think it would be fair to say that there was also quite a bit of cheating. >> yes? >> with america, how the effects of slavery still live on today, how is that compared to the south american countries and central american countries and brazil? how does this compare? >> that's another good question, and it's actually one that will be explored through the remainder of the course. one of the really interesting and ironic things about other slave systems is that in -- let's say, for example -- cuba and brazil, which were the two societies that continued to have booming slave economies long after the others -- in other
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words, slavery wasn't abolished in cuba or brazil until the 1880s, 25 years after the u.s. even though there is still a great deal of structural inequality, and some members of our own history department here at pitt have written about that very importantly. i can give you those references to you can make comparisons. even though that's the case, those countries have rather more fluid racial systems than we do in the united states. much more racial intermixture, for example, something that goes way back. and it's -- it's a very interesting question as to why this should be so. in the united states, we have had a slave system which always depended on the idea of one drop of blood, meaning one drop of african blood, and you would be characterized as african or african-american or negro or black, whatever the terminology may be. very different systems of
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classification, much more complex, existed in other parts of the americas. so, we do have to account for both the similarities and the differences between these slave systems. yes? >> what was it that made what it did, was it abolitionist or economic? >> thank you. yes, there's been a lot of debate about this. there are, of course, economic roots to the abolition of the slave trade. but i think the prevailing view among scholars these days is that abolition took place first and foremost in great britain, okay? you need to know that. they were the first to abolish the slave trade, at least of those involved in a major way. in the 18th century, the british carried as many people into slavery as anybody else. maybe the portuguese carried a few more, but they were major, major slave traders.
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and the social movement grew up that basically brought it to an end while it was still profitable. now, they did not yet end the slave system in the british colonies. that will take another 25 to 30 years, beginning in 1834 and 1838, slavery will be abolished in britain quite a bit before the united states. i think the prevailing view right now is that it was a social movement made up of many different kinds of people who brought a profitable slave trade to an end. so, that's actually a hopeful thing, isn't it? >> yes. >> that people could get together and make significant change. >> i was just wondering, as it became such a big business, was it still the africans running it or did the europeans come down and have the institution on the coast? >> africans were in control of
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the african source of slave supply from the beginning to the end. and one of the main reasons for this -- i think there were some europeans who wish they could have gone ashore and handled the slave trade. they did build fortresses, places like ghana. they saw these massive forces. they did have settlements ashore, but the death rate for europeans in african societies was so high, to a large extent because of malaria, that it was known then as the white man's grave. so, what the europeans did, being unable really to go ashore and organize the trade themselves, was they made deals. they found coastal groups all along west and west central africa who were willing to enter into an alliance with them and engage in a trade that would be mutually beneficial. and frequently the elements of
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this trade were the europeans would provide not only textiles and consumer goods, but firearms, gunpowder, which this client state would then use to attack its traditional enemies. and then bring those people back to the coast, trade those people to the slave ship captains, frequently for more guns and ammunition and gunpowder. so, this creates what historians call the gun slave cycle. so i think it's important to realize there's a very powerful african dimension to this. but you've got to bear in mind that its organized basically through a divide and rule strategy on the part of the europeans. they were very good at that. one more. time for one more question. yes? >> when you talked about the 310,000 slaves that were delivered to america, that did account for just coming from africa, or did it also come from
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south carolina trading from slaves from the caribbean as well. >> good question. this would include just direct imports from west africa. but very important addition you make to the discussion. a significant number of slaves brought to north america were those reshipped from the caribbean. in fact, south carolina was basically formed as a plantation economy by people who emigrated from barbados. now, it took them a while to find their staple crop, which eventually became rice, but, yes, there are a great many kind of regional slave trades which will augment that number that i gave, which seems rather small. but the other thing to bear in mind is that there is a reproduction process, which causes the enslaved population in the u.s. to grow by leaps and bounds in the 18th and 19th century, thereby providing, in
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that way, the labor power that the slave trade had to provide in places with different demographic regimes. okay. okay. thanks, everybody. see you next time. [ applause ] ♪♪ ♪♪ up next, american history tv
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joins tour guide eric thinly to learn about the early history of mobile, alabama, and learn about africatown, founded by former slaves. recently discovered under the mud of the mobile river, the clotilda smuggled 110 west africans to mobile in 1860.


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