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"Seasoning" The Slaves

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Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D.
When African Slaves reached the Americas, the slaver ship crews prepared them for sale by washing, shaving all their body hair, and rubbing them with palm oil to disguise sores and wounds caused by conditions on board.  They were trained not to resist having all parts of their bodies examined—especially their reproductive organs, and sometimes were allotted a little rum to liven their spirits. The Slaves’ New World “Ordeal”—called Seasoning—was for the purpose of increasing their sale price. Once Slaves had gone through the Seasoning process this meant that, among other things, they had survived the first attack of New World diseases and were molded into productive Slaves by means of having been hardened to a strange climate; to the immunities of diseases, and to the indescribable severity of toil as plantation Slaves. Seasoning was similar to a prolonged and inhumane way of “breaking” horses.

After Seasoning, those Slaves could be sold for a higher price than for “New Slaves” which, in Jamaica in 1772-- the most notorious of these “ordeal” camps—was 52% higher. The Seasoning process began on the auction block—a terribly frightening process. Once sold, despite having been branded with the traders mark in Africa, the new owner branded them with his mark. Then the Slaves were taken to the worse of locations as, for example, to plantations at rivers’ edges where there were swarms of mosquitoes, parasites, and other new environmental challenges.

Seasoning consisted of brutal methods of physical and psychological conditioning—so brutal, in fact, that 7% to 50% of the Slaves are estimated to have died within their one to seven years of the Seasoning period. Actually, the average life expectancy for an imported Slave was only seven years. Many died in the first few weeks or months from dysentery, malnutrition, several types of worm infections, change of diet and climate, and the White man’s diseases. One reason is that the Slaves were terribly weakened by the trauma of the Middle Passage voyage and the addition of exposure to diseases, inadequate nutrition, bad water, work exhaustion from being unaccustomed to the “sunrise-to-sunset gang labor,” and cruelty were simply overwhelming.  Immediately, new owners and their overseers obliterated the identities of their newly acquired Slaves by breaking their wills and by severing any bonds with their African past. Such occurred while the Slaves were being forced to adapt to new and horrendous working and living conditions; to learn a new language; and to adopt new customs.

The Africans cultivated crops, tended to animals, and served their “owners” in any way possible (e.g.  sex with Slave females and Slave boys). Sixteen to eighteen hours of work was the norm on most West Indian plantations, and during the season of sugarcane harvest, most slaves only got four hours of sleep.  Because it was not illegal to kill an African man in the British colonies until the beginning of the 19th century, every conceivable inhumane method was used to break the will of the Slaves. Being under constant surveillance, any disobedience or acts of will (e.g.  inefficient labor, disorderly conduct, or refusal to accept the authority of a superior) on the part of the Slaves called for harsh punishments—punishments far worse than just accepting what was asked. Violent public floggings were done in front of other Slaves to “make an example of.” Some disobedient Slaves were hanged.  Many Slaves committed suicide while the rest found ways of appearing to conform which still preserved their dignity.

(Many thanks to Richard Harry for his research help)

website: www.jablifeskills.com

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+3 # Guest 2012-02-13 22:57
THANKS A LOT FOR YOUR INFORMATION.... I REALLY APPRECIATE IT
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-16 # Guest 2011-02-20 04:39
I would like to be bought and used as soon as possibly.
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+14 # Guest 2010-06-19 09:18
believe it or not- this mindset still exists in certain groups concerning certain races, economic level, or even concerning women. just in a higher- tech method than that of before. its really sad.
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