Notes on Slavery In Context

disconnect from reality of slavery and the people of Africa

  • journal entries, despite the intensely personal nature, were extremely cold and detached
  • a total dehumanization of the slaves, including by stringent abolitionists
  • description of African people
    • seen as lazy/effeminate (how Jones describes Indian people)
    • seen as cattle, not people, so slavery was “helping” and “civilizing”
  • the conditions of slavery
    • not widely disseminated or thought to be exaggerated
    • complete misreading of situations by slavers
  • discuss Africa as they knew it as the entire continent, despite knowing only the coast and that very superficially
  • descriptions of African society could match that exactly a description of England in the 1700’s

1850’s “Scramble for Africa”

  • just about the land in Africa, no care at all about the people and their history
  • Livingstone, a missionary, was a large reason for this
  • white people who went into Africa were labelled “adventurers/explorers” as opposed to intruders/etc.

abolitionist poetry

  • absolute goal was to reassert and affirm African people as people, to completely humanize them
  • “A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade” by Ann Yearsley
    • set in Bristol, a Roman slave port – Christians as Africans, Romans as British
      • dismisses those who refuse to acknowledge this
    • clarity of language – deep feeling/emotion juxtaposed with reason
    • custom/law as habit, unconscious, impossible/difficult to leave but necessary
    • specificity is significant – use of Christianity for accountability, demonstrating the consequences of people’s actions, their hypocrisy
      • “where is your true essence of religion”
    • question of the ultimate usefulness of a moral argument
      • people wouldn’t be slavers if you could argue them out of it

people in Africa

  • Axum Empire – expansive and influential Ethiopian empire
  • Nok Civilization – Nigerian people known for their complex, fair judiciary system
  • Kingdom of Kush – Sudanese people mentioned in the bible, extremely powerful
  • Benin Empire, Kingdom of Ghana, Mali Empire, Zulu Empire, etc.
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