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Spankings During Slavery

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Of highest importance to those adhering to African Tradition are Love, peace, harmony, goodness, truth, and pleasant fellowship. To ensure the continuance of these Africans often used spankings when violations occurred. As a result Ancient African society was so harmonious as to not need jails or policemen. Whether in the spirited Hausas, the gentle Mandingos, the creative Yorubas, the proud Fantins, the shrewd Dahomeans, the Binis, the Ashantis, the Sengalese, the Igbos, the Efiks, or the Krus up to the time Africans were brought to the Americas as Slaves it was typical for these youth to be extremely respectful of elders, parents, peers, nature, animals, and God. But slavery shattered all aspects of African Tradition. Still, most who endured the daily whippings of the evil and sadistic European captors remained, in general, a peaceful people. Whereas African parents had often been strict disciplinarians for the purpose of benefiting the family and the community, among African America Slaves and during the post-slavery era strict discipline of children was for “life or limb” survival (Bailey, Special Minds). Any Slave who “got out of his/her place” around any White person could not only get whipped, but also might be sold.

If the transgression was deemed bad enough by White people, he/she would be maimed or killed.

In other words, strict discipline was essential to maintain the status quo in the face of brute Europeans who demanded Black children prepare early on to be “good” Slaves and inferior human beings--dumb and strong and breeders.

Under these conditions Slave mothers and, by extension, the entire local Slave community had a vested interest in keeping Slave children alive and safe. The same applied to the need for silence by all the Slaves when an escape was planned. With the latter, any whining and complaining about losing someone close or disobedience in following instructions pertaining to the escape could get a child’s entire escaping family captured, whipped, hobbled by body parts being chopped off, killed, or “sold down the river” to places where there were even more brutal “slave breakers.” With the former, adhering to the rules was the Slaves best chance of preventing the Slave family from being ripped apart on the auction block or otherwise abused by the evil and sadistic Europeans. Swift physical retribution by the Slave mother on her children, for even minute transgressions, tended to reinforce or maintain the rules. Slave mothers were so concerned with the everpresent threat of random violence to loved ones that they were typically very hard on their own children and grandchildren, punishing them severely for any display of assertiveness or aggression toward Whites. At times their reprimands and punishments were brutal in an all-out effort to keep their children from being "ripped away" from them--a practice some continued post-slavery.

The “Negro Caste System” in the South and in the North required each Slave to always act inferior and subservient and not neglect the niceties of caste etiquette—things like pouting, backtalk, exhibiting acts of disrespect, insult, “talking back,” the pointing of a finger, a refusal or neglect to step out of the way when a White person approached, a refusal to work for Whites, and any other impudent action so deemed by any White man. Impudence “may mean almost anything, or nothing at all, just according to the caprice of the master or overseer, at the moment. But whatever it is or is not, if what the Slave does in word or deed gets the name of ‘impudence,” the party charged with it is sure to receive a flogging. This offense may be committed in vitreous ways; in the tone of an answer; in answering at all; in not answering; in the expression of countenance; in the motion of the head; in the gait, manner and bearing of the slave” (Fredrick Douglass p. 70).

Ref: Bailey, Word Stories Surrounding African American Slavery.

website: www.jablifeskills.com

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