Structure and operation of slavery

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  • Structure and operation of slavery
    • Plantation system
      • Gangs
        • slaves separated into gangs for efficiency.
        • 3 gangs: 1st gang for strong slaves= strenuous.2nd gang weak, young, mothers, able elderly= cleaned up in field and factory.3rd gangvery young/old= simple field tasks, refreshments etc.
      • slave day
        • organised into shifts, 1/2 in fields, 1/2 in factories, for 30 hours at a time.
        • 6 day week, 96 hours of labouring for about 6 months of the year.
        • wake up 4am in fields by 5/6, Jamaican slaves had breakfast in fields at 9, 1 1/2 hours for lunch, worked till 6.
      • Teamwork
        • not all plantations had gang system.
        • Tobacco planting required careful attention and weeding so every element of production supervised.
        • had small teams of 10-20 ofen working with or close to local whites.
        • allowed close personal scrutiny of each slave.
      • Work by task
        • some slaves given specific jobs and free to do their own thing when job done.
        • common amongst rice cultivating slaves- South Carolina.
        • tough and unhealthy but no personal scrutiny.
        • day shorter but work harder.
      • Skilled slave
        • bigger, more specialist plantations had more scope for skills and services.
        • driver who managed field slaves.
        • slaves who developed skills were treated better eg carpentry, cooper etc.
        • skilled female labour mainly domestic. In north these colonies under close supervision from white women-v. hard.
        • lots of slaves worked in house, less demanding but closer supervision and risk of sexual advances.
    • Brutality
      • Hierachy
        • "Overseer"= slave in charge of other slaves.
        • rewarded for hardwork/good behaviour.
        • Divide and rule, gain support from some slaves to keep others in place.
        • priveleges could be removed.
      • Branding
        • slaves branded, hot metal sears skin leaving permanent mark.
        • shows they belong to someone, who owns them.
        • very brutal- dehumanising, treated like cattle.
      • Punishments
        • whipping- cut to bone.
        • amputations eg foot, testicles...
        • muzzles, collars-degrading, prevents eating or drinking, stops runaways.
        • as crimes/transgressions become more serious, so do punishments.
        • public to send out a message, punish a few harshly to keep others in line.
        • fear of punishment keeps slaves in their place.
    • free time
      • purpose
        • give everyone a day off, slaves + owners
        • slaves able to return to work fresher-able to work harder
        • gives slaves chance to grow foor-cheaper for owners, and means better diet for slaves.
        • gives slaves chance to look after one another eg illness like dirt eating (craving for dirt caused by depression/ work avoidance/  culture
      • Music and dancing
        • release and fun for slaves-offers sense of freedom.
        • dnaced at weddings, funerals and during week.
        • In fields and factoris songs were used to measure out the pattern of work.
        • work songs sometimes melancholy with the slashing cane and heavy lifting forming a background to the songs..
        • gave slaves a chance to express feelings and remember/ celerbrate their culture.
      • Anancy/Brer rabbit stories
        • designed to entertain and interpret the world.
        • often similar in theme, weak overcoming mighty...
        • originated from Africa-reminder of culture, form of escapism, identity, belonging...
      • Festivals
        • Christian festivals, new year and harvest time were all huge festivals for the slaves.
        • also festivals with African roots such as carnival and John Canoe.
        • huge time and effort taken to prepare for these celebrations.
        • Christmas=elaborate costumes, food set aside, parades, singing, dancing.
    • Family life
      • Challenges
        • faced many
        • relationships undermined by owners who took women as sexual partners.
        • however family structure did emerge.
        • Threat of separation- family structure still survived but most slaves were forced to accept separation  from family, servants often separated from their family, increased importance of holidays.
      • Development of slave family.
        • Mid 18th cenury- balance between sexes began to level out, structures began to stabilise.
        • American independence- slave families began to follow western pattern.
        • regional variations- South Carolina strong family ties needed in harsh environment offering sense of community, slaves able to pass on skills to children improving their material well-being.
      • Functions
        • place slaves got on with domestic lives.
        • mothers looked after children till age 10 when they went to live with siblings or were sold.
        • slave women married in late teens and started own households.
        • babies went to fields with mothers then left in slave yard with other children, when 7 ntoduced to fields and placed into appropriate labour.
        • giving birth (not marriage) next step in family life=new hut. mother and father play vital role in childs life, though man might often away with other men.
        • At end of life family again important- old age, illness, accident.
        • unit that made slaves who they were, central to their support networks and social lives.
      • Nuclear family.
        • many slaves became Christians but did not live in Christian relationships although often nuclear families.
        • families existed as a part of extended families which looked afer new slaves or runaways.
        • families became backbone of life- collective strength.

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