The Slave Auction – Station #3

Name ______________________________________
The Slave Auction – Station #3
You will study the role of slave auctions in the English colonies, and then you will write a
short speech against slavery.
Step 1: When Africans arrived in the colonies, they would be auctioned off to work on
plantations and in homes. Analyze the following two advertisements for slave auctions.
These are real advertisements from this time period. When reading these
advertisements, think about how the slave auctions dehumanized Africans. Answer
the questions below.
In a dictionary, look up the word cargo and write the definition below
Describe why PEOPLE would be described as cargo.
In this auction they were also selling animals and farm tools, what does this say about
what the European colonists thought of Africans?
Step 2: Talk to the text on the below quote from a colonist describing the slave
“The negroes were examined with as little consideration as if they had been
brutes indeed; the buyers pulling their mouths open to see their teeth,
pinching their limbs to find how muscular they were, walking them up and
down to detect any signs of lameness, making them stoop and bend in
different ways that they might be certain there was no concealed rupture or
wound; and in addition to all this treatment, asking them scores of questions
relative to their qualifications and accomplishments.”
Describe how you might feel if someone inspected you the way the buyers inspected the
Step 3: As a group, write a short speech you might deliver to the people participating
or observing at a slave auction. Your speech should address the auctioneer (person
running the auction), plantation owner looking to buy slaves, and two African slaves
(from the same family). Each group member is responsible for writing what one of these
characters would say. Use a different color pen for each character’s perspective.
Name _____________________________
The Middle Passage – Station #2
Step 1: Read and talk to the text on the below information.
Twenty million Africans were transported by slave ships to the Americas –
the route was known as the Middle Passage. The conditions on the ship were
poor – slaves were chained up and had barely any room to move. On average
15% of the Africans would die on route to the Americas (due to dehydration
and diseases from the dirty conditions). It took between 6 to 8 weeks to cross
the Atlantic and arrive in the colonies.
These pictures are examples of how Africans were packed into the ship. As a group,
discuss how you might feel if you were packed on the ship like that for months. The class
will Make a list of words that might describe this experience. Add 2 new words to the
Step 2: Your group will simulate the conditions on the slave ship.
Each person will stand on one tile on the floor (you each must choose tiles
immediately next to each other).
Pretend you are in chains and cramped on a slave ship. The one person not
participating will read the below passage out loud – it was written by an
enslaved African boy who experienced the journey across the Atlantic.
As the paragraphs are read out loud, imagine that you are no longer in room
G706, but you are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean after being forced off
your homeland.
Turn the slide show on to watch as the passage is read aloud to you.
Step 3: Answer the following questions.
Why do you think the English tried to put so many slaves on one ship?
Why did so many of the Africans want to jump overboard?
Describe how you would feel if you had to live on this ship for several months as you
crossed the Atlantic.
Consider the essential question “Why leave home?” Why did Africans leave their home
to come to America?
How did their reasons for leaving home and their experiences in the colonies compare to
the experience of Englishman who chose to come to the 13 colonies?
I now saw myself deprived of all chance of returning to my
native country, or even the least glimpse of hope of gaining
the shore, which I now considered as friendly; and I even
wished for my former slavery in preference to my present
situation, which was filled with horrors of every kind, still
heightened by my ignorance of what I was to undergo. I was
not long suffered to indulge my grief; I was soon put down
under the decks, and there I received such a salutation in my
nostrils as I had never experienced in my life: so that, with the
loathsomeness of the stench, and crying together, I became
so sick and low that I was not able to eat, nor had I the least
desire to taste anything. I now wished for the last friend,
death, to relieve me; but soon, to my grief, two of the white
men offered me eatables; and, on my refusing to eat, one of
them held me fast by the hands, and laid me across, I think,
the windlass, and tied my feet, while the other flogged me
severely. I had never experienced anything of this kind
before, and, although not being used to the water, I naturally
feared that element the first time I saw it, yet, nevertheless,
could I have got over the nettings, I would have jumped over
the side, but I could not; and besides, the crew used to watch
us very closely who were not chained down to the decks, lest
we should leap into the water; and I have seen some of these
poor African prisoners most severely cut, for attempting to do
so, and hourly whipped for not eating. This indeed was often
the case with myself.
In a little time after, amongst the poor chained men, I found
some of my own nation, which in a small degree gave ease to
my mind. I inquired of these what was to be done with us?
They gave me to understand, we were to be carried to these
white people's country to work for them. I then was a little
revived, and thought, if it were no worse than working, my
situation was not so desperate; but still I feared I should be
put to death, the white people looked and acted, as I thought,
in so savage a manner; for I had never seen among any
people such instances of brutal cruelty; and this not only
shown towards us blacks, but also to some of the whites
themselves. One white man in particular I saw, when we
were permitted to be on deck, flogged so unmercifully with a
large rope near the foremast, that he died in consequence of
it; and they tossed him over the side as they would have
done a brute. This made me fear these people the more; and
I expected nothing less than to be treated in the same
At last, when the ship we were in, had got in all her cargo,
they made ready with many fearful noises, and we were all
put under deck, so that we could not see how they managed
the vessel. But this disappointment was the least of my
sorrow. The stench of the hold while we were on the coast
was so intolerably loathsome, that it was dangerous to
remain there for any time, and some of us had been
permitted to stay on the deck for the fresh air; but now that
the whole ship's cargo were confined together, it became
absolutely pestilential. The closeness of the place, and the
heat of the climate, added to the number in the ship, which
was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself,
almost suffocated us. This produced copious perspirations,
so that the air soon became unfit for respiration, from a
variety of loathsome smells, and brought on a sickness
among the slaves, of which many died -- thus falling victims
to the improvident avarice, as I may call it, of their
This wretched situation was again aggravated by the gaffing
of the chains, now became insupportable, and the filth of the
necessary tubs, into which the children often fell, and were
almost suffocated. The shrieks of the women, and the groans
of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost
inconceivable. Happily perhaps, for myself, I was soon
reduced so low here that it was thought necessary to keep
me almost always on deck; and from my extreme youth I was
not put in fetters. In this situation I expected every hour to
share the fate of my companions, some of whom were almost
daily brought upon deck at the point of death, which I began
to hope would soon put an end to my miseries. Often did I
think many of the inhabitants of the deep much more happy
than myself. I envied them the freedom they enjoyed, and as
often wished I could change my condition for theirs. Every
circumstance I met with, served only to render my state more
painful, and heightened my apprehensions, and my opinion of
the cruelty of the whites.
One day they had taken a number of fishes; and when they
had killed and satisfied themselves with as many as they
thought fit, to our astonishment who were on deck, rather
than give any of them to us to eat, as we expected, they
tossed the remaining fish into the sea again, although we
begged and prayed for some as well as we could, but in vain;
and some of my countrymen, being pressed by hunger, took
an opportunity, when they thought no one saw them, of trying
to get a little privately; but they were discovered, and the
attempt procured them some very severe
One day, when we had a smooth sea and moderate wind,
two of my wearied countrymen who were chained together (I
was near them at the time), preferring death to such a fife of
misery, somehow made through the nettings and jumped into
the sea; immediately, another quite dejected fellow, who, on
account of his illness, was suffered to be out of irons, also
followed their example; and I believe many more would very
soon have done the same, if they had not been prevented by
the ship's crew, who were instantly alarmed. Those of us that
were the most active, were in a moment put down under the
deck; and there was such a noise and confusion amongst the
people of the ship as I never heard before, to stop her, and
get the boat out to go after the slaves. However, two of the
wretches were drowned, but they got the other, and
afterwards flogged him unmercifully, for thus attempting to
prefer death to slavery. In this manner we continued to
undergo more hardships than I can now relate, hardships
which are inseparable from this accursed trade. Many a time
we were near suffocation from the want of fresh air, which we
were often without for whole days together. This, and the
stench of the necessary tubs, carried off many.
Name _____________________________________
Life in West Africa - Station #1
Step 1: Read through the below questions. Look for the answers while watching the
Prince Among Slaves (from 6 minutes and 40 seconds to 9 minutes and 40 seconds).
1. Why did Africans engage in slave trade?
2. What was different about slavery in the Americas than slavery in Africa
3. What did the slave think of the village in comparison to his home in Africa?
Step 2: Read through the below questions. Look for the answers while watching the
Prince Among Slaves (from 12:09-17:19).
Describe the type of government that Prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori experienced
back in Africa.
Why did the Africans trade slaves?
What did the Africans think of the Europeans?
What does Foster think of the slave’s claim that he was a prince?
What is the significance of Foster cutting the slave’s hair?
Write a paragraph below about how the process of enslavement forced the Prince to lose
his African roots and how he struggled to maintain his own identity.
Name _____________________________________
Life in the Colonies – Station #4
Step 1: Read and talk to the text on the “Plantation Life” article.
Step 2: Answer the following questions based on the article.
Based on Frederick Douglass’ description of life on the plantation, list the difficulties that
slaves faced while working and living on the plantation?
What types of jobs did slaves do on the plantation?
What was the consequence for not working or not working hard enough?
Describe how slaves tried to keep their African identity on plantations.
Step 3: Read the below paragraph and then read the poem below.
Most of the slaves living on plantations were illiterate because they were not allowed to
become educated; however, not all Africans were slaves on plantations and some escaped
from slavery. Some Africans were not only literate but also well educated. Phillis
Wheatley is an example – she was the first published African American poet in the United
States (she lived between 1753 and 1784). In part because her audience was white, she
rarely wrote about her experience as a slave and when she did write about it she was not
highly critical of slavery. Read and talk to the text for her poem below:
On being brought from Africa to America.
'TWAS mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew,
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.
Step 4: Use the attached cheat sheet to help you understand the poem. After figuring out
the meaning of the poem, answer the following questions.
Why did she call Africa a “Pagan land” and why did she say that God/Saviour brought her
to America?
What does she mean when she tells Christians to remember that Africans can be refined?
Clearly, Wheatley’s opinion of slavery is not typical of African slaves, explain why she
would write this way about slavery.
If she had lived on a plantation and was not writing for a white, slave owning audience,
how might this poem be different?
How does the fact that some African slaves became highly educated artists show that in
the face of slavery and oppression, Africans were able to maintain some of their identity?
In Wheatley’s case, did she lose any of her African identity? Why or why not?
Step 4: Your group will now have an opportunity to write a poem as if you were a
slave living on a plantation. You will want to discuss what life is like on the
plantation, how you struggle to maintain your own African identity, and what your
feelings/emotions are about being enslaved and forced to move to the English
colonies. Your poem will be different from Wheatley’s poem because you are not
writing to get published for a white, slaveholding audience. You can write any type of
poem – some examples of poems include Haiku (5 syllables in the first line, seven in
the second, and five in the third); acrostic (the first letter of each line represents the
letter of a word – for example, SLAVERY the first line would start with an "S" the
next line an "L" and then "A" and so on). Write your group's poem below:
Plantation Life
"There were no beds given the slaves, unless one coarse blanket be considered
such, and none but the men and women had these...They find less difficulty from
the want of beds, than from the want of time to sleep; for when their day's work in
the field is done, the most of them having their washing, mending, and cooking to
do, and having few or none of the ordinary facilities for doing either of these, very
many of their sleeping hours are consumed in preparing for the field the coming
day; and when this is done, old and young, male and female, married and single,
drop down side by side, on one common bed,--the cold, damp floor,--each
covering himself or herself with their miserable blankets; and here they sleep till
they are summoned to the field by the driver's horn." Frederick Douglass, from
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, 1845
n slave
For slaves, life on the plantation was grueling work, with little respite from the tyranny of
the master or overseer's watchful eyes. Depending on their size, plantations comprised a
multitude of buildings: the homes of the master's family, overseer, and slaves, as well as
outbuildings, barns, and workshops. Large plantations operated like self-sustaining
villages, and thus, were often isolated from the outside world.
Work on these plantations was never-ending for slaves. Adult male slaves were primarily
relied on to tend the fields, pastures, and gardens. Overseers on horseback equipped with
whips monitored slaves, always threatening to punish "stragglers" with a
flogging. Plantation owners also exploited the work of skilled slaves, such as blacksmiths
and carpenters, for their own ends. Lastly, female slaves and young children usually
served as domestics, tending to the master's family as cooks, servants, and housemaids,
and were often starved, whipped, and even raped.
Slaves at work: women picking cotton (left), and kitchen ten
a female slave in a Georgia plantation (below).
Music and religion were sources of strength for slaves, and they infused both with African
culture and meaning. Because slaves often did not have the means to obtain many
musical instruments, they often improvised and used their feet to tap out a tune in
coordination. "Patting juba," or jubilee beating, took the form of a variety of dances that
were usually accompanied by song. Despite white southerners' attempts to "Christianize"
blacks, slaves infused Christianity with their own African tribal and folk customs, creating
a religion that spoke to their suffering and promised freedom in the afterlife.
chapel in
(left), and
ed banjo
Despite the squalor they were forced to live in, many slaves nevertheless attempted to eke
out a life as best they could. And even though their master's claimed their bodies, slaves
resisted complete domination of their mind and soul by keeping their African traditions
and customs alive.
Explanation of Wheatley’s Poem
A few observations about one poem may demonstrate how to find a subtle critique of
slavery in Phillis Wheatley's poetry. In just eight lines, Wheatley describes her attitude
towards her condition of enslavement -- both coming from Africa to America, and the
culture that considers her color so negatively. Following the poem (from Poems on
Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773), are some observations about its treatment
of the theme of slavery:
On being brought from Africa to America.
'TWAS mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew,
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.
 Wheatley begins by crediting her slavery as a positive, because it has brought her
to Christianity. While her Christian faith was surely genuine, it was also a "safe"
subject for a slave poet. Expressing gratitude for her enslavement may be
unexpected to most readers.
 The word "benighted" is an interesting one: it means "overtaken by night or
darkness" or "being in a state of moral or intellectual darkness." Thus, she makes
her skin color and her original state of ignorance of Christian redemption parallel
 She also uses the phrase "mercy brought me" and the title "on being brought" -deftly down-playing the violence of the kidnapping of a child and the voyage on a
slave ship, so as to not seem a dangerous critic of slavery, but at the same time
crediting not the slave trade, but (divine) mercy with the act. This could be read as
denying the power to those human beings who kidnapped her and subjected her to
the voyage and to her subsequent sale and submission.
 She credits "mercy" with her voyage -- but also with her education in Christianity.
Both were actually at the hands of human beings. In turning both to God, she
reminds her audience that there is a force more powerful than they are -- a force
that has acted directly in her life.
 She cleverly distances her reader from those who "view our sable race with
scornful eye" -- perhaps thus nudging the reader to a more critical view of slavery
or at least a more positive view of those who are slaves.
 "Sable" as a self-description of her color is a very interesting choice of words.
Sable is very valuable and desirable. This characterization contrasts sharply to the
"diabolic die" of the next line.
 "Diabolic die" may also be a subtle reference to another side of the "triangle" trade
which includes slaves. At about that same time, the Quaker leader John Woolman
is boycotting dyes in order to protest slavery.
In the second-to-last line, the word "Christian" is placed ambiguously. She may
either be addressing her last sentence to Christians -- or she may be including
Christians in those who "may be refined" and find salvation.
 She reminds her reader that Negroes may be saved.
 The implication of her last sentence is also this: the "angelic train" will include
both white and black.
 In the last sentence, she uses the verb "remember" -- implying that the reader is
already with her and just needs the reminder to agree with her point.
 She uses the verb "remember" in the form of a direct command. While echoing
Puritan preachers in using this style, Phillis Wheatley is also taking on the role of
one who has the right to command: a teacher, a preacher, even perhaps a master or
In looking at Wheatley's attitude towards slavery in her poetry, it's also important to note
that most of Phillis Wheatley's poems do not refer to her "condition of servitude" at all.
Most are occasional pieces, written on the death of some notable or on some special
occasion. Few refer directly -- and certainly not this directly -- to her personal story or
Name ______________________
Resistance and Rebellion - Station 5
Step 1: Read and Talk to the text
Resistance and rebellion
African resistance to enslavement and captives' rebellion against
the conditions of slavery were natural reactions to the transatlantic
slave trade.
According to slave owners, ‘slaves were notoriously lazy and ill
disposed to labour’, which illustrates that daily resistance was
ubiquitous. The enslaved also engaged in acts of noncooperation, petty theft and sabotage, as well as countless acts
of insubordination.
Sometimes enslaved Africans would resort to more open or
violent means of resistance, including the poisoning of animals
and owners, and sometimes turned it against themselves by
committing infanticide, self-mutilation and suicide. It was not
unusual for slaves to absent themselves from enslavement for a
few hours or a few days, regardless of the punishment they
might receive on their return. It is estimated that about 10% of
all the enslaved took such action, which sometimes involved
moving temporarily to another location or, for those held
captive in the Caribbean, even to another island.
Resistance to slavery had a long history, beginning in Africa
itself. Rebellion would reach its peak in 1791, when the enslaved
people of the French colony of St Domingue defeated three
European powers to establish the first Black republic: Haiti.
Resistance in Africa
In African societies, there are many examples of opposition to
the transatlantic slave trade. One of the earliest documented is
the correspondence of the Kongo ruler Nzinga Mbemba (also
known as Afonso I, c. 1446–1543) who wrote to the king of
Portugal, João III, in 1526 to demand an end to the illegal
depopulation of his kingdom. The Kongolese king's successor
Garcia II made similar unsuccessful protests.
Other African rulers took a stand. For instance, in the early
17th century Nzinga Mbandi (c. 1583–1663), queen of
Ndongo (modern-day Angola), fought against the Portuguese
– part of a century-long campaign of resistance waged by the
kingdom against the slave trade. Anti-slavery motives can
also be found in the activities of the Christian leader Dona
Beatriz Kimpa Vita (1684–1706) in Kongo.
Several major African states took measures to limit and suppress
the slave trade, including the kingdoms of Benin and Dahomey.
Agaja Trudo, the king of Dahomey (r. 1708–40), banned the
slave trade and even went as far as attacking the European forts
on the coast. Unfortunately, Agaja Trudo’s successor did not
share his view and profited from engaging in the trade.
Several Muslim states in West Africa, including Futa Toro in
the Senegal River basin in the late 18th century and, in the
early 19th, Futa Jallon in what is now Guinea, were opposed
to the trafficking of humans. In Futa Jallon, the religious
leader Abd al-Qadir wrote a letter to British slave traders
threatening death to anyone who tried to procure slaves in his
Many ordinary Africans also took measures to protect
themselves from enslavement. Flight was the most obvious
method, but there is also evidence that many Africans moved
their villages to more inaccessible areas or took other measures
to protect them. In his Narrative, Olaudah Equiano mentions
some of the defensive measures that were taken in his own
It is reported that, when the English slave trader John Hawkins
attempted to kidnap people to enslave them in the late 16th
century, he was resisted. It is also said that communities of
Africans who had fled from and escaped enslavement settled on
the Cape Verde and other islands off the west coast of Africa.
Other reports tell of coastal residents who refused to load slave
ships with supplies and of many escapes from the forts that held
enslaved Africans prior to transport across the Atlantic.
The 'Middle Passage'
It is now estimated that, during 1 in 10 of all Atlantic crossings the so- called 'Middle Passage' – there was some kind of
rebellion, Africans continuing on board the resistance that had
failed ashore. Alexander Falconbridge, a slave-ship surgeon who
became an abolitionist, certainly believed that rebellions on ship
were common and expected, and the Middle Passage became
increasingly dangerous for crews. As a result, slave traders
demanded more shackles and arms to hold their captives
securely, increasing production in England.
In many of these rebellions, it appears that women played an
important role, as they were sometimes permitted more
freedom of movement on board ship. On numerous
occasions, however, maritime rebellion might
simply consist of jumping overboard and committing suicide rather
than continuing to endure slavery. It seems that the idea that, in death,
there was also a return home to Africa was widespread among the
enslaved both on the slave ships and in the Americas.
Cultural resistance
In the Caribbean and in many slave societies in the Americas, one of
the most important aspects of resistance to slavery was the retention
of African culture or melding African, American and European
cultural forms to create new ones such as the Kweyol languages
(Antillean Creole).
The importance of African culture – names, craftsmanship, languages,
scientific knowledge, beliefs, philosophy, music and dance, was that it
provided the psychological support to help the captives resist the
process of enslavement. The act of enslavement involved attempts to
break the will and ignore the humanity of slaves in what was known
as 'seasoning'. Obvious examples would be the use of Vodun
(Voodoo) religious beliefs in the Haitian Revolution and the
employment of Obeah to strengthen the Jamaican Maroons in the
struggles against the British. Rebel leaders such as Nanny in Jamaica
and Boukman and Mackandal in St Domingue (Haiti) were also
religious or spiritual leaders. Religious beliefs should perhaps be seen
as also providing the enslaved Africans a way of understanding the
world and giving them simultaneously a whole belief system, a coping
mechanism and a means of resistance.
As in all other forms of resistance, women played an important role in
cultural resistance, especially in the transmission of African culture
from one generation to the next. They were also particularly noted for
their insubordination: when in 1823 a law was introduced in Trinidad
outlawing the whipping of enslaved women, it was strongly opposed
by slave owners on that grounds that, without such punishment,
women would be impossible to control. Enslaved women were often
more likely to be in a position to engage in infanticide and in acts of
They sometimes developed different strategies of resistance to those
of men. Female slaves, for example, seem to have been particularly
adept at developing forms of economic independence by growing
their own provisions and through trading. This helped the enslaved
women to maintain some level of independence. But like the men,
some ran away, and women were also leaders of several rebellions:
one, known as Cubah, the 'Queen of Kingston', was prominent during
Tacky's Rebellion in Jamaica in 1760, while Nanny Grigg was one of
the leaders of the 1816 rebellion in Barbados.
Name _________________________
Period _______
Resistance and Rebellion - Station #5
Step 1: Read the article and Talk to the text , answer the reading questions to ensure
Step 2: Answer the questions below.
What is meant by “daily resistance was ubiquitous?”
Why might “lazy” slaves indicate rebellion and resistance?
What were some of the actions taken by Africans to resist slavery?
Why did the production of shackles increase in England?
Why did Africans commit suicide while traveling on the ships?
How did Africans retain some of their cultural identity?
Step 3: Draw a cartoon showing slaves resisting their owners’ attempts to force them to work
or become “ American”.