How were African slaves sold once they reached the Americas?

Oct 2017
272
America ??


The popular image of the slave trade in America is that upon arrival, African captives were quickly prepared on shore, made to appear healthy, & then auctioned together, & usually end up as the only African in their slave communities. How accurate is this image?

Upon arrival, were African captives sold in their own ‘fresh arrivals’ market or were they sent to local slave pens & mixed up with local slaves for sale? & if they were mixed up with local slaves for sale, I would imagine that the Africans would only range from individuals to small groups among local slaves, & thus be quite isolated? How long were slaves, both African-imports & local born alike, likely to stay in slave pens? Would Africans have adjusted to their new lives in slave pens rather than plantations? Did slaves typically arrive directly from Africa, or were they brought from the Caribbean by American traders?

How was this comparable across the Americas?

North America recieved among the smallest imports of Africans in the New World at half a million, but the slave population in North America rose exponentially so there was always ample stock, whereas the Caribbean & Latin America relied on a continuous stream of African imports. This was likely to due with how mortality rates were much higher there compared to North America, which despite the winter was arguably healthier to live in. Thus North America had from an early period relied on a more domestic slave trade & population compared to elsewhere.

Because of how North America received among the smallest imports of Africans in the New World, would that mean that African arrivals in America were more likely to end up alone among slaves born in America, & thus have a more isolating experience than African arrivals in the Caribbean & Brazil, who were probably more likely to end up living with other African-born slaves, & thus have others to relate to?

It seems that the general perception towards Africans in the colonies, both among whites & blacks, was that they were savages which were being civilized through slavery. So this would probably make the African’s fellow slaves perceive him as an exotic beast?

Because of North America’s low slave import, would that mean that nearly all slaves there were local born? & that if you were to travel around then actively looking for an African-born, you would have a relatively hard time finding one?

After Britain & the U.S jointly abolished the slave trade in 1807 which only limited African imports to the smaller illegal trade, would that make African arrivals even more likely to be isolated among American slaves? Would the same thing apply to African arrivals in other New World countries after they abolished their respective slave trades?

Something I was very interested in was the experiences of Africans in America & how they adjusted. Apparently very few sources exist for how Africans adapted to slave life in America.

 
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Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,628
Benin City, Nigeria
It seems that the general perception towards Africans in the colonies, both among whites & blacks, was that they were savages which were being civilized through slavery. So this would probably make the African’s fellow slaves perceive him as an exotic beast?
What are you even basing this on? Crude and stupid stereotypes that still have currency among your particular cultural group?
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,478
Dispargum
Beast is probably too strong a word. Fully Americanized slaves would have seen a newly arrived slave from Africa as unsophisticated, similar to the way fully Americanized Americans today see some immigrants. The newly arrived slave would lack some basic life skills such as the ability to speak English. He would also lack most job skills since most skilled work in America didn't exist in Africa. Like some modern day immigrants, a new slave from Africa could do only the most menial jobs until he became more aculturated, learned some English and other useful knowledge.

Before the Great Awakening of the 1740s, most American slaves continued to practice native African religions, but during and after the Great Awakening more and more slaves were converted to Christianity. That would have been another difference between fully Americanized slaves who were Christians and new arrivals who were not yet converted.

If a plantation acquired one new African slave each year, then the slaves on that plantation would have experience Americanizing the new arrivals. At any one time there would be several slaves on that plantation who were at various stages of becoming Americanized.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,628
Benin City, Nigeria
Beast is probably too strong a word. Fully Americanized slaves would have seen a newly arrived slave from Africa as unsophisticated, similar to the way fully Americanized Americans today see some immigrants. The newly arrived slave would lack some basic life skills such as the ability to speak English. He would also lack most job skills since most skilled work in America didn't exist in Africa. Like some modern day immigrants, a new slave from Africa could do only the most menial jobs until he became more aculturated, learned some English and other useful knowledge.
You need sources to back up what you state about how you think they would have seen newly arrived slaves. I don't understand why you would present a personal speculation as if it was something established or well known.

And what ideas do you have about what skills they would have possessed in Africa vs. the kind of skills they would need for the labor they were made to do in the Americas and what are these ideas based on?

Second, yes, they would have had problems communicating at first due to not being able to speak European languages or not being able to speak them well, but where is the evidence that African slaves born in the Americas or who had been there much longer viewed African slaves who had just arrived in the Americas as being "savages that were being civilised through slavery"? Even if one leaves out the term "beast", where is the evidence for the rest of the claim?
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,902
Portugal
…Even if one leaves out the term "beast", where is the evidence for the rest of the claim?
I think those evidences will be hard to find, so I am also curious about them.

But digressing a bit with the term “beast”, I really think that some slaves would arrive to America as “beasts”.

Don’t know if this was already studied, but the psychological effect in a human being of being taken from his homeland, seeing their relatives killed or suffering the same fate, undressed, gagged or chained and even flagged during dozens or hundreds of kilometers to the coast, traded several times, embarked in awful conditions, traveling in the sea, with all the bodies too much close to have privacy, without sanitary conditions, seasick and vomiting, with diseases like scurvy and smallpox, with a pestilent air, without adequate food or potable water, without the possibility to move much the muscles, even if some captains could allow the “merchandise” to make short exercises and to take some fresh air, seeing some 16% companions of misfortune dying on the voyage, some of them could be their relatives, then unloaded in America, sometimes almost directly to a market, other times with a short stay in a recover center/“hospital”, would be quite strong and durable, would dehumanize many to the point of transforming them into “beasts”.

I can easily see myself as a “beast” after suffering such a process.

EDIT:


Better than my previous words to describe the misery and “bestialization” of such people, are the words of Zurara, that I already posted in this forum, from his “Chronicle of the Conquest and Discovery of Guinea”, describing the disembark of slaves not in America, but in Lagos, Portugal, among the first ones that arrived to Portugal, even before America was discovered. This excerpt, a little longer, is well known, at least in Portugal, since it appears in many schoolbooks:

“On the next day,[…], very early in the morning, by reason of the heat, the seamen began to make ready their boats, and to take out those captives, and carry them on shore, as they were commanded. And these, placed all together in that field, were a marvelous sigh; for amongst them were some white enough, fair to look upon, and well proportionated; others were less whole like mulattoes; others again were as black as Ethiops, and so ugly, both in features and in body, as almost to appear (to those who saw them) the images of a lower hemisphere. But what hear could be so hard as not to be pierced with piteous feeling to see that company? For some kept their heads low and their faces bathed in tears, looking one upon another; others stood groaning very dolorously, looking up to the height of heaven, fixing their eyes upon it, crying out loudly, as if asking help of the Father of Nature; other struck their faces with the palms of their hands, throwing themselves at full length upon the ground; others made their lamentations in the manner of a dirge, after the custom of their country. And though we could not understand the words of their language, the sound of it right well accorded with the measure of their sadness. But to increase their sufferings still more, there now arrived those who had charge of the division of the captives, and who began to separate one from another, in order to make an equal partition of the fifths; and then was it needful to part fathers from sons, husbands from wives, brothers from brothers. No respect was shewn either to friends or relations, but each fell where his lot took him…”
(continues)

Translated by Charles Raymond Beazley, any typo is mine.
 
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Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,628
Benin City, Nigeria
Yes, I can understand that meaning and characterization (of being reduced to having to live in dehumanizing, bestial conditions) but it does seem clear to me that he was claiming something different.
 
Sep 2014
1,211
Queens, NYC
I, too, would like some evidence that "Americanized" slaves looked down on those recently brought from Africa.

A reason I would not be surprised if it were true: human beings like being superior to one another. Thus, racism. And yes-maybe simply looking down on those newly arrived.
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,745
UK
They were placed in seasoning camps, to break them into slavery.

Most records say that new imports were placed in these camps, and then in slave markets for sale. I guess it's possible that they were placed amongst "native" slaves, but then i don't think it would have been as likely.

Slave ship captains/owners wanted the profits from their cargoes, so they needed to not have them mixed up. it's more common that there were auctioners of newly-disembarked slaves, as well as domestic slaves.