St. Vincent and the grenadines community college| The Caribbean: A history of Chattel Slavery and what it brought to the Caribbean| An Internal Assessment| | Okieve Graham| 12/1/2011| “By the 19th century the slave ship had brought much more than chattel slaves to the Caribbean. ”| Introduction: Chattel Slavery affected the Caribbean by bringing it from its Mesoamerican roots to the vibrant mix of races that coexist and cohabitate it today. The Africans and other races brought their art, music and their very way of life to the Caribbean.
I am researching this topic to go in depth and examine how the Caribbean came to be what it is today. I am driven to research this topic because it means something to us as a people, something that is worth knowing, and something that is worth remembering. It will bring the bond with our ancestral ties stronger than ever before. Knowledge is power and knowing our past will make us linked to one another. This is a step to unity to us in the Caribbean. There are arguments against this view and blatant disregard for the obvious changes in the world have been made.
There are some with the beliefs of White supremacy but all this adds in the mix of different beliefs in the Caribbean. Never before in history have an entire society and race of people have been affected in such a large scale. Nonetheless, one can give thanks to our European forefathers, if those events did not occur, the Caribbean could not be the community as we knew it today. Chattel slavery not only brought commerce to its geographically unique location but it also resulted in a rich and colorful world, complete with its own mix of cultures, music, art and belief systems. Chapter 1: Origin of Chattel Slavery in the Caribbean
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The term “chattel” is defined as an article of tangible, personal property. One can therefore see the underlying effect of the choice of words in comparison to how the Europeans viewed the black race. They viewed the African race as a sub-species, animalistic and inhumane. This was because of their color and their religion and way of life. One must remember the Europeans believed that their religion was the only one and true way so that means their way of life was viewed as pagan. Eric Williams however stated that “Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.
Unfree labor in the New World was brown, white, black and yellow; Catholic, Protestant and Pagan” (7) It is his opinion that racism was not a beneficial factor in the creation of the institution of Slavery but in my further studies, race did in fact play an important role in the enslavement of the African people. Also, one can see from Williams’ deduction that religion also played a role, it was categorized according to what race you were. The labor force however comprised of the Mesoamerican inhabitants of the Caribbean, White indentured servants from Europe and Africans.
White indentured servants were whites who worked in the Caribbean. There is a notable difference in their title in that, they were called servants instead of slaves. Again, white supremacy reigned in the society at that time. There was an economic need for cheap labor, hence Africans were in high abundance and it was quite cheap to acquire them and ship them across through the Atlantic to the New World. They were also a form of human capital, being property; a value was put over their head. The money which procured a white man’s services for ten years could buy a Negro for life.
The economic superiority of free hired labor over slave is obvious even to the slave owner. Slave labor is given reluctantly, it is unskillful, and it lacks versatility. Not so much that the Europeans were the only ones playing apart in enslaving the Africans, but it was also African sons and brothers who helped to facilitate this. There were the men who were paid to acquire the required persons for shipment. They were known as middlemen, so one can see, whereas one African might think he was one of his own, they came to enslave and doom their own.
In return for capturing the Africans, the Europeans provided those sub-par weapons and tools, not worth the total price but to the foolish middlemen, they were of the best quality. In essence, Greed was a major player in this. Eric Williams stated in his work that “Here, then is the origin of Negro slavery. The reason was economic, not racial; it has to do not with the color of the laborer, but the cheapness of labor. As compared with Indian and white labor, Negro slavery was eminently superior. ” (19) From his perspective, an economic one, his deductions has all the truth attached to it.
Negro slavery is indeed superior to all other races of slavery but from another view, the Europeans did have pre-existing prejudice towards the Negroid people, their hate and prejudice towards them was just amplified when encountered the Negros. This view have even been backed by Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd when they stated “ This was a unique form of domination in which one group was defined and used another group as property; in which people were targeted for slavery because of their race; they were described as sub-human, and they were bonded to each other for life. Chattel slavery brought economic power to the Caribbean and the lives of the Negroid people has been scarred ever since the advent of African Slavery. Chattel slavery brought much more than a few million people, a whole new race to our shores. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd expressed “the enslaved people survived and they protected their humanity and identity; and over time they redefined themselves as a new, vibrant cultural force. ” (137) Chapter Two : Culture, Art, Music & Religion The voyage across the Atlantic Ocean was a perilous one.
Tribes from all over West Africa such as the Mande and the Mandingo congregated and stacked like sardines in one deck. They were separated from the rest of civilization and their family. Often, they could not speak to one another, whether it is by difference in language or values. Never the less, the African people adapted and they banded together, took on cultural customs and traditions that strengthened their ethnic identity. They developed attitudes and practices that shaped the Caribbean civilization as we know it today. The main idea to understand is that they were scattered.
No one African was acquainted with another upon arrival, meaning they were of different tribes, different backgrounds, cultural beliefs and language. They may have had knowledge of these people before but for the first time in their life, this is where they got to be acquainted with each other. There, they shared views, beliefs, customs and their languages. For some, it was the first time they had encountered the Europeans. Rather, some had previous knowledge of the Europeans through trade, migration and war. As a result of this, some may have had knowledge of Christianity and European languages even before arrival in the Caribbean.
This cultural reshaping that Africans and Europeans experienced is called ‘creolisation’. Thus, those combined with the culture of Africans and Europeans, born into the Caribbean became known as Creoles. They procured rites and rituals that exist even to this day. Simple events that we know of today are because of the forerunners, our ancestors. They observed and preserved the rites and rituals that were a part of life in Africa. The coming together of these African and Post-African ideas came together to create an Afro-Caribbean community as we know it today.
Rituals such as lighting up the grave, an event that we are fond of at the end of October were part of African culture. It was a part of paying respects to our ancestor and warding our own selves from harmful spirits. Similar to this are funeral procedurals. The Africans believed that death was just the start of a journey to pass over from toil to reward and in their case at the time, a life of slavery to an eternity of freedom. Beckles and Shepherd stated in their book that “the power of ancestors was central to African-Caribbean culture. To know ancestors was to know one’s cultural identity. (140) They procured dances and music as rituals that again pay respects to their ancestors and celebration of them. It was an intense ritual in which it was said the person was possessed in order to feel the waves and moves of the dance. This was their way of attributing their ancestors, to demonstrate that in the Caribbean Africans had their own recognized ancestral culture that was still important to them. Events on holidays and labor free days were a time of friendship and kinship. It was a time of sharing with their enslaved brothers in times of despair.
They often danced on evenings (which became a part of the African-Caribbean culture). They even formed festivals where they danced and celebrated, one notable festival is the Crop-Over festival in Barbados, one that is still happening even today. They had even more established festivals and rituals where they danced such as the Gombay festival, John Canoe dance and the Kumina dance. There are even more dances each that are identifiable to each different colony in the Caribbean. They incorporated their religion from Africa in the West Indies.
They brought their spirit based religions such as obeah or voodoo and myal. It was the belief of the people that it was possible for the living to use ancestral spirits to determine the future and to shape the nature of social events. The myal and obeah religion was a high prolific aspect in the community. It was used for removing curses, cures for illnesses, bless children and curious insights. Incorporation with European beliefs and African gave birth to what we know as the Baptist Faith today. This aspect of religion is still up today and continues to make its mark on the community.
It’s not going anywhere time soon, even now; most grand-parents and parents believe and attend Baptist churches across the nations of the Caribbean. Notably however, West Indian Cricket became an important aspect in their communities. Cricket was invented by the English and thus it founds it way into the Caribbean during a period of war between Britain and France. The Africans observed it and began to practice it. Cricket quickly became incorporated in their communities as entertainment away from the hard days of field work. In conclusion of this chapter, the Africans brought a host of their art, religions, beliefs and cultures.
They mixed and nurtured the combination of cultures that clashed in the Caribbean. They formed it to be their own and formed a new way of life. The cultural rites and rituals that exist today, that pay respect to their Ancestors while carving a path to the future, the dances that provided entertainment that procured kinship and friendship among the communities and the wider area the colonies, the art and music that is unique to the Caribbean, the only place in the world, forms a cultural boom that wavelengths across the Caribbean and make what makes the Caribbean our home.
Bibliography: 1. Hilary Beckles, Shepherd, Verene. Liberties Lost: Caribbean Indigenous Societies and Slave Systems. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 2. Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery. United States of America: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994. 3. Verene Shepherd, Beckles, Hilary. Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World. Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 2000 -------------------------------------------- [ 1 ]. Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery. United States of America, The University of North Carolina Press, 1994, 19 [ 2 ].
Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery. United States of America, The University of North Carolina Press, 1994, 6 [ 3 ]. Hilary Beckles, Liberties Lost: Caribbean Indigenous Societies and Slave Systems. United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2004, 137 [ 4 ]. Hilary Beckles, Liberties Lost: Caribbean Indigenous Societies and Slave Systems. United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2004, 138 [ 5 ]. Hilary Beckles, Liberties Lost: Caribbean Indigenous Societies and Slave Systems. United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2004, 147
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