Slave Acculturation

2 February 2018

The seasoning process, as applied to the treatment of plantation slaves, was designed to ensure not only that the slaves would become totally dependent upon the dictates of their owners but also to destroy the cultural links which the slaves had with their former homelands.

In the West African kingdoms which provided one of the major source of slaves at the height of the triangle trade, slavery was part of the indigenous culture; however, the motivation behind African domestic slavery was for the main part political, ND intricately bound up with the way in which the capture of those from neighboring tribes would allocate bargaining power to the captors; it was not necessary to impose a process of acculturation on the slaves In order to ensure their total obedience. Curtain p 63) However, once slavery was extended to Europe and the Americas, there was a perception amongst the white slave-owners that to allow black slaves to maintain their cultural heritage would result in the fomentation of rebellion and invalidate the psychological and physical domination which was essential f small groups of whites were to successfully control large groups of slaves. (linking p 22) Depriving slaves of their physical strength, except when seen as necessary to set an example, would have been counter-productive.It was the potential for labor which was highly valued on the plantations; slaves cost money and it was in the interests of the plantation owners to maintain the physical health and strength of their slaves, even when they had established a breeding program which made the slave community essentially self-perpetuating. Seasoning was therefore designed to establish the slavers’ psychological superiority over the newly arrived slaves, rather than to render them physically incapable of resistance: it was a matter of breaking the spirit rather than the body.As Bernard and Morgan (2001) point out, the value of a slave who was already acculturated was considerably greater than one who was a ‘new Negro’. There were a number of methods by which this was accomplished.

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For example, since the newly arrived Africans had come from a social culture In which they had had position and status within the community, one f the priorities of the slave merchants was to make it evident that whatever their social position in their previous life, they were now accorded a status similar to that of draft animals, and their humanity disregarded. William and Quarterly) The privations of the sea voyage, in which the slaves were crammed together in appalling conditions and suffered a high mortality rate despite the shippers’ vested interest in preserving at least some percentage of their cargo alive, had served to initiate this process of demutualization. At the markets, slaves were herded together with little regard or age or gender, and this denial of human rights and aspects of decency which were considered normal amongst the white population also served to ensure that the slaves were made aware of their inferior status.There was a deliberate effort to separate Africans who came from the same geographical region or who spoke the same language, since this had a double benefit for the slave-owners. In the first place, it added to the feeling of displacement and the separation from their home culture which the prospective slaves were already suffering, and therefore contributed to their dependence on the taxation in which they found themselves; this in itself rendered them more malleable to the domination of the slave-owners. STORE) At the same time, it negated much of the potential for rebellion, since Africans from different regions and tribal cultures were grouped together and obliged to develop a new and synthesized culture which was, of necessity, articulated through the medium of English since they o longer had a common language in which to communicate.This deprived of cultural links and values also made it easier for plantation owners to superimpose their own values upon the slave immunities: replacing African names with English ones, and insisting that the slaves adopted Christianity and abandoned their own religions, for instance.

One of the most effective ways in which a small group can initiate and maintain dominance over a larger one is by the use of example.It is not necessary to maintain a ratio of one guard to one prisoner provided the prisoners are kept in constant fear of the retribution which will follow if transgressions happen to be noted by a guard. In order to instill fear into those Africans who still retained sufficient mental and physical strength to be palpable of rebellion even after the sea voyage and their treatment in the slave markets, it was only necessary to make an example of whichever individual was considered by the others as a leader, and demonstrate the capacity of the slave-owners to deal even with the strongest me beer of the group.Since at this point the African captives were not sufficiently organized, due to the dislocation inflicted on them by their transportation, to effect any organized retaliation, this would serve as a further indication that resistance would meet with repercussions which would affect the entire A further method of establishing dominance was to demonstrate that the women in the group were to be completely subjugated to the slave-owners; this could be accomplished by public rapes, beatings or the violent treatment of babies.Since the men in the group had already been rendered incapable of protecting the more vulnerable, this not only ensured the obedience of female slaves but reiterated to the men that despite their physical strength, they were now in a position of disembowelment. It is evident that this seasoning process not only ensured that lamination slaves were tractable and obedient due to the way in which they had been subjugated, but also had a negative impact on the African countries from which the slaves had been taken.The number of slaves demanded by the plantation system meant that there was a constant drain of human resources from the African tribal nations, and no opportunity for those who had been taken to return or communicate with their homelands in order to redress the balance.

At the same time, the imposition of an enforced and false culture on the slave communities meant that the original heritage of the enslaved individuals was destroyed, and this in itself had a negative impact on the African cultures from which the slaves had originated.Consequently, not only did the slave system and the triangle trade demonstrate an appalling and consistent violation of human rights, the seasoning process simultaneously diminished the Africans who were to become slaves and denied their homelands a high percentage of human and cultural resources. From the point of view of those whose revenue was derived from marketing slaves, the increase in profit from slaves who had been seasoned made it Roth their while spending some time in perpetrating the process.From a present-day perspective, it is evident that the human resources which were taken from the African nations were never replaced, since the synthesized Black American culture which arose out of the slave society retained some roots in its African heritage but developed along different cultural lines and could not be said to have a direct connection with its cultural origins in the modern context of Black American society.

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