Sugar plantations and African slavery
Before the16th century, northern Europe used to get its sugar from bees. As time went by the demand for sugar increased this lead to the enlargement of sugar plantations in the island of Cyprus and the Mediterranean coast. Moreover, the demand of sugar increased as a spice as well as medicine. Large profits were acquired from its sells and it became one of the largest industries in the Caribbean.
The increase in prices, enlargement of sugar cultivation became the main trading commodity in the Caribbean, Brazil as well as Portugal. Year by year the demand of sugar increased therefore a mechanism had to be introduced in order to increase productivity.
The desire for sugar as a sweetener coffee and tea also increased in the European states. Sugar also served as an addition to diet particularly treasured as comforts and stimulants by employees in European companies.
Sugar plantations were therefore enormously expanded. Labor became a problem as energetic workers were needed to work on these plantations. Besides, there was need for heavy investment on labor in order to meet the demand of sugar from customers. Since Europeans and Amerindians were regarded as weak and could not work on the sugar plantation, Africans became the only choice. Africans slaves were transported across the Atlantic Ocean using voyages. They began arriving in small numbers and later the number increased.
The era between the sixteenth and nineteenth century recorded the highest number of forced migration from Africa to the Caribbean. It is estimated that 12 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic. About 2 million of the Africans died while being transported. Majority of this men and women ended up working as slaves in sugar plantations replacing the slaves that had died.
The slaves were sold by kings, elders and prominent leaders in Africa as war captives or outcasts from the society. On the other hand, the Arabs are believed to be the first group to start slave trade in Africa. After their movement from Peninsula in the seventh century, they settled in the eastern Indian Ocean. They established trading center along the Indian Ocean. They began by purchasing slaves from willing families before they eventually embarked on raids. They raided villages and forcefully took people whom they could sell as slaves in the slave markets. In addition, the discovery of the African ports by the Portuguese led to the expansion of the slave trade market.
Even under awful conditions, African slaves were strong and healthy than American slaves. This was attributed to the factor that African salves came from regions with high heat and humidity similar to the Caribbean conditions. They bodies had developed resistance to smallpox as well as tropical disease in their infancy.
African slaves recorded lower death rate and better agricultural skills. By the 18th century the number of African slaves had outnumbered the European descent in the Caribbean region.
The brutality towards African slaves increased as the European slaves reduced in the sugar plantations. The dark skin of the slaves made it easier to identify them. Racism intensified, Africans were not viewed as free people but slaves. They were not allowed to associate with the whites.
African slavery led to the emergence of an ideology of superiority depending on skin color. The continued expansion of the Caribbean was strengthened by its economic growth. The development of slavery planation across the Caribbean was essential for political, social institution as well as economic expansion. Sugar that was sold to other states was used to buy military equipment like guns that the Caribbean used to defend itself against enemies.
Due to the increase in brutality and racial discrimination, the African slaves united against the Europeans. Slave resistance in the Caribbean began with fleeing from plantation regions going to regions that were not occupied by Europeans. The communities that had escaped from the plantation met in forested areas where they formed unions.
They were different reasons for the slave rebellion depending on where they were situated but the main factor of the rebellion was the quest for freedom against the European enslavement. The most common way of resistance was that that occurred in the work place. The slaves used indirect forms of resistance like slowing down work and faking illness. Other form of rebellions in the Caribbean plantations included, breaking of tools and setting fire to plantation tools.
Lesser Antiles is one of the islands that had a successful slave rebellion. After the rebellion there emerged customary rights and civil rights movement in Lesser Antiles that defended the rights of the black Americans. Rules were set for conduct, working hours regulated and freedom of expression guaranteed in the workplace. Workloads were reduced and black Americans who worked in plantation industries began receiving remunerations. However, it should be noted that slave rebellion did not completely end segregation in the Caribbean.
In 1807, the British parliamentary banned slave trade. British used its powerful royal navy to transport slaves back to their homes. Various religious leaders like Wilbur Wilberforce began the campaign against slavery.
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