Slavery has a long history in the world as it began a long time before the beginning of the First World War (Du Bois, 2017). The largest and well-known market for slaves was in the American continent where millions of slaves were taken and sold to serve as laborers in the hands of the white men. The Trans-Atlantic trade was known for the slave trade whereby slaves were captured from the West Africa countries such as Benin taking the Atlantic route and heading to the American continent. Slaves were captured in various ways in the West Africa region and some of the methods of slave capturing included raiding and conquering, lone travelers were captured, and those who were unable to pay debts were also sold as slaves to settle their debts. The most common method through which the slaves were obtained was that of raids and war whereby the captives of the war were taken and sold as slaves mostly to the European traders. Slave trade had various negative impacts to the captives of war as they were mistreated by both their masters and transporters.
Slavery has been one of the largest themes that can be found throughout the narration of the Barracoon: The Last of the “Black Cargo.” The aspect of slavery can be tracked via the narrations provided by Lewis during the direct interview with Zora Neale Hurston (Womack, 2015). The interview was done face to face at Lewis home that is located in Africa town. Throughout the interview, we gain the firsthand information concerning the issues of slavery that beheld Lewis and his people that eventually led to their deportation to the united states. Back at home, Lewis remembers how they used to live peacefully until the attack by the Dahomey soldiers under the war-mongering king (Grant, 2018). During this attacks most of the people were killed while others were maimed. Most of the survivors were captured and taken to the American continent to be sold as slaves. After being sold as a slave, he spent five years serving as a slave and eventually he was freed after the civil war.
Slavery has been found to have major impacts on the people who were victims of the slave trade (Filler, 2017). Slave trade by then was one of the most profitable business that earned the slave dealers a lot of wealth, and this necessitated the urge for more and more slaves. In the United States, there was a high demand for the slaves to work on the plantations and this demand was fulfilled by the constant supply of slaves from West Africa as it was easy to get the slaves. In the US, the saves were much preferred as they provided cheap labor. Due to the increased demand for slaves as well as the constant supply, there were also negative consequences that accompanied the slave trade.
Disconnection of the family ties is one of the impacts that can be evident in Lewis case (Grant, 2018). Cudjo is better for the fact that he was separated from the rest of the families to whom they were together in West Africa. In Benin, lots of his family members were killed, and his capture as a slave broke the connection between thee families in Africa and those who were sold in America. Cudjo, becomes emotional when he is asked about himself and at this point, he remembers his father and grandfather, and this is the point which we see that he misses his family despite being unable to reach them.
Another notable issue raised by the story of Lewis is that lots of people lost their lives and dignity. During the raids, the Dahomey soldiers killed and maimed a lot of people from Lewis village. Others were maimed, and others held captive. Lewis was directly affected by the raid as he lost his close family members. Back in the United States, Lewis was much affected as he lost his sons. The sons were killed by the authorities claiming that they had accidents, but in the real sense, they had been shot dead by the police (Grant, 2018). Apart from his sons, his wife also was a victim of being the master’s merciless acts as she also died after his sons and this left Lewis a lone man. During their journey to America, Lewis came through many incidences that depicted the dehumanizing nature of the slave trade. A lot of people got sick on the way but ended up dying as they were not treated. Lewis also claims that some of the people in the voyage were caged, and this shows how the captives were badly treated like animals. The dignity of a person was completely not respected at all and at the time, eliminating the life of a person was like slaying an animal.
Life in slavery was not easy as the economic condition of the people was far much low. The reason behind is that they were not paid by their masters and this means that they had no income of their own. Therefore, they could not cater for their expenses, and this compelled them to obey their masters rule. According to the narration, Lewis even seems to have like the master who replaced his old and worn-out shoes and even feeding the slaves (Grant, 2018). With this account, we are made aware that the masters mistreated the slaves and even at times never fed them well. The slaves were treated in an inhumane way that which degrades the life of a person.
The period of reconstruction was characterized by radicalization, and this was propelled by the urge of equality by race. The radicalization was aimed at the abolition of slavery in the united states (Harrold, 2015). Various laws and policies were enacted during this period, and some of them include the Thirteenth Amendment that aimed at the abolition of slavery. Scholars at the era of reconstruction were against slavery, and this was the major contributing factor that led to the radicalization in the fight for equality of the races, and this gave birth to the 13th Amendment and consequent laws that promoted equality among the races especially that of the blacks.
The information obtained from the primary text, Barracoon will be of significant helping most of the American citizens understand the American culture, immigrant culture, American othering as well as humanity in general. The information provided by Lewis assists in understanding the American culture at the time before reconstruction, whereby the American culture was constituted by the culture of a master-slave relationship. In this era, we get to know how the slaves related to their masters and how they were generally treated.
Besides, we get to understand the culture of the immigrants in that Lewis says it all during the interview that in their culture in Africa, a son cannot introduce himself before his father, and that is the reason as to why Cudjo was compelled to talk about his grandfather and father before he provided his part of the story (Grant, 2018). In overall, the information from Barracoon comes with a lot of sensitization and awareness concerning the aspect of humanity as it is portrayed by the different characters and parties in the interview. The merchants of slavery were inhumane, and that’s why they burnt villages making the inhabitants homeless, and this made it easy for them to catch them. On the other side, the masters as well acted in an inhumane way in that they mistreated the slaves disregarding their rights and dignity.
Throughout the interview, I learned that a person should never abandon their culture despite being in a far country as it is evident in the case of Cudjo as he remembers his cultural expectations despite having been away for more than 70 years. Again, we should not be ready to seek revenge for what has been done unto us as the Bible prohibits that and therefore we should be calm not to invite more troubles. Unity is a key component in the lives of a human being as it helps build the culture of the people and that’s why Cudjo and others formed the Africa town where the slaves settled after being freed from slavery.
Racism and capitalism are promoted in the interview, and this can be evidenced by the master’s behavior towards their subjects as well as the war-mongering king in West Africa who was responsible for the raids and the capturing of the slaves (Bonilla-Silva, 2017). Capitalism can be seen as being promoted by both parties, the sellers as well as the buyers of the slaves. On the other side, racism is promoted by the white masters through exercising their masterly role over their subjects and treating the slaves, who are blacks as being inferior and who doesn’t have any rights to be equals with the whites. All through the interview, the impacts of slavery in the Barracoon are witnessed through the inhumane acts of the slave dealers who are capitalistic in nature led by greed and malice.
Bonilla-Silva, E. (2017). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in America. RowmDu Bois, W. E. B. (2017). Black Reconstruction in America: Toward a history of the part which black folk played in the attempt to reconstruct democracy in America, 1860-1880. Routledge.
Filler, L. (2017). The crusade against slavery: 1830-1860. Routledge.
Grant, C. (2018). BARRACOON The story of the last” Black Cargo”.
Harrold, S. (2015). The Rise of Aggressive Abolitionism: Addresses to the Slaves. University Press of Kentucky.
Womack, A. (2015). “The Brown Bag of Miscellany”: Zora Neale Hurston and the Practice of Overexposure. Black Camera: An International Film Journal (The New Series), 7(1), 115-133.