I haven’t been posting because I’ve been enjoying and entertaining family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s at the heart of why we are all genealogists, right? I had a wonderful time and hope all of you did too. But, I missed my blog! And my good genea-buddy has been reminding me for days I need to post so I am back with just a short snippet. But a good one.
I have a website that I’ve had bookmarked forever but only tonight did I start digging around in it and now, an hour later, I am changing my original blog topic to post this. I can always use the other one another night.
The website is called, “The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record.”
As the website describes, the project contains approximately 1,235 images of mostly enslaved laborers in the Americas and the New World. This is a joint project of the Virginia Foundation and the Digital Media Lab at the University of Virginia Library. There are 18 categories of pictures, some of which are:
- Capture of Slaves and Coffles in Africa
- European Forts and Trading Posts in Africa
- Plantation Scenes, Slave Settlements and Houses
- Physical Punishment, Rebellion and Running Away
- Music, Dance and Recreational Activities
- Emancipation and Post Slavery Life
I had some interesting thoughts while perusing this collection. Because many of us are focused on uncovering our specific ancestors in Virginia in 1870 or South Carolina in 1849, we forget the scope and scale and reach of slavery—the path through the West Indies, the tearing apart of custom and tradition. How it formed the economic backbone of entire countries and forced redefinitions of family & manhood, womanhood and faith. I think also because of modern photography, we all are drawn to the more common images from the 20th century, and late 19th. I think I even was guilty of “poo-pooing” illustrations–but if you want to try to envision a plantation in Jamaica or Cuba in 1759 or 1810, you’re going to have to look at illustrations. I found that as I looked at these (many of which were from books published in England), it made me recall the length and depth of the tragedy of slavery. The extraordinary expanse of the crime. My my. And remember that most slaves in the Caribbean from this era did not live to significantly reproduce other generations as in mainland North America–most died and planters simply purchased more.
Here are a few pictures from the database, but please do go and spend a little time looking around when you can.
In the category “Slave Sales and Auctions: African Coast and the Americas”:
I have never seen nor thought of slaves being sold in top hats.
In the category, “Religion and Mortuary Practices“:
I was struck by how ornately the enslaved were dressed.
The caption says that the people with their faces covered were the mourners.
In the category “Marketing and Urban Scenes“:
The caption says that they are not wearing shoes because only freed blacks could wear shoes!
In the category “Domestic Slaves and Free People of Color“:
They make it all look just so delightful, don’t they? Hmfph.
And last, but not least:
I can’t fathom that someone felt this image was worthy of remembrance !
I hope that last picture doesn’t dissuade you from viewing this fascinating and eye-opening collection.
This database reminded me of a plantation visit. I was in St.Croix last year & visited an 18th-century sugar plantation called “The Whim Plantation”. It was fascinating….the docent was extremely knowledgeable. Here are a few pictures:
I also found some pictures from sugar plantation ruins on the Virgin Island that are much larger.