The Atlantic Slave Trade
Over the course of more than three and a half centuries, the forcible transportation in bondage of innocent men, women, and children from their African homelands to the Americas changed forever the face and character Of the modern world. The slave trade was brutal and horrific, and the enslavement of at least twelve million Africans was cruel and dehumidifying.
Together, they represent one of the longest and cost sustained assaults on the very life and dignity of human beings in history. Nobody knew slavery as well as the ex-slaves themselves, which is why their stories are highly accepted. Narratives were the only way for slaves to truly express their hardship. Slave narratives are a big part of history even though it is a difficult to reflect back on, especially for the African people. The transatlantic slave trade laid the foundation for modern capitalism, generating immense wealth for business enterprises in America and Europe.
The trade contributed to the industrialization of northwestern Europe and reared a single Atlantic world that included Western Europe, Western Africa, the Caribbean islands, and the mainland of North and South America. Even though the slave trade brought tremendous growth for their economies, there was a negative effect on the people of Africa. A common misconception was that Europeans invaded Africa and force innocent Africans into the slave trade, which is not true. Europeans were responsible for the slave trading system, but they never ambushed the natives.
Most slaves that were forcibly moved to other continents were already slaves in their homeland at one point in their lives. Locations in sub- Sahara Africa were original lands of captivity for nearly all who later forcibly departed from the continent” (Larson, peg. 450). In Africa, slavery was never something to be proud of. Ex-slaves were too ashamed to admit to ever being a slave because that image tainted their family history as explained by Larson in “Horrid Journeying”. It was common for them to tell people that they were slave owners rather than admit to being slaves.
Unfortunately, slave narratives were portrayed very differently in the United States compared to Africa. “In most parts of Africa, family stories Of slavery remain a powerful stain on honor with serious implications for social relationships and legal standing. Informants are more likely to claim histories of slave ownership than to admit servile origins, a pattern mostly contrary to that in the Americas” (Larson, peg. 434). In contrast, ex-slaves in America were not afraid to talk about their pasts. They took great pride in gaining their freedom back after suffering from their servile pasts.
Many of these narratives were questioned for validity; therefore they are not used as historical evidence. The most popular way of presenting rarities were passed down through oral traditions, generation to generation while in the privacy of kin. Most of the Africans that have experienced slavery first-hand have either already passed away or are reluctant to admit their servile past so it makes gathering accurate information an obstacle. An additional obstacle is the curtailed memory of capture and transportation offered in many slave narratives.
The slaves had no choice but to repress their painful memories. None of them seemed to remember much of their lives before America. They blocked all traumatic experiences including childhood memories because their main focus was arrival. A large number of slaves, perhaps the majority, were kept in Africa, yet none remember any of it, which is a big problem for the construction of history. Leaving Africa caused a lot of pain for the slaves. They were lied to about their destinations and eventually hopes fade, especially with children like Guano.
Guano was lied to about being taken to see his father and ended up living the life of a slave. “Sometimes intimates of their captives, slavers often used personal information to ensnare youthful victims” (Larson, peg. 445). Some slaves had hope and desired to eventually return home, while there lost a sense of their sub-Sahara homes and sought social and religious integration into their masters’ societies according to Fatima Bark’s narrative in “Horrid Journeying: Narratives of Enslavement and the Global African Diaspora”.
While most of them successfully integrated into their new societies, there was still a strong sense Of alienation. There was a strong bond between these victims, therefore they constructed cultural and community building strategies. The slave trade has always been a big issue throughout the course of history. This immorality of treating human beings like animals happened over time span of over three and a half centuries. This time period represents the longest and most painful violation on a human race throughout history.
Innocent men, women, and children were lied to and seized from their homeland to serve others. These victims shared their experiences through narratives. Without narratives, nobody would realize the hardships they put through. Slave narratives are a big part of history even though it is a difficult to reflect back on, especially for the African people.