The Abolition of the Slave Trade and Slavery
The slave society existed in the British, French and Spanish colonies as well as in the United States, Cuba, and Brazil. Generally, the principal destination of the slaves in America was the plantations and mines. The plantation system used African laborers in the sphere of producing sugar on the Atlantic islands of Spain and Portugal. In the English colonies such as Barbados and Virginia, the African slaves replaced the servants from England. However, the slavery, as well as the slave trade, was the crime. That is the reason the nineteenth-century movement of slavery abolition was the first successful international human rights campaign. This paper studies and analyzes the effects of the abolition and the stages of the emancipation. In addition, it aims to describe the abolishment of the African slave trade by the British Parliament and to explaine the ways the transatlantic slave shaped the African Diaspora.
The powerful movement started in the 18th century in Britain to finish the terrible and humiliating process of buying and selling the humans. The resistance to the slavery increased and became stronger and more persistent. The slaves could not suffer anymore and stood against the slave trade. In Jamaica, the slaves who ran away from their masters organized in groups and created the communities. Such escapees called themselves “Maroons.” In Britain, a team of the Black men named “Sons of Africa” wrote the letters against the human trade thus setting up an anti-slavery campaign.
The backgrounds and reasons for such a campaign contributed to the abolishment of the slave trade. The French Revolution caused the riots and opposition of the enslaved people in the British colonies. The activists considered the slavery the crime against the humanity. The humanity is the wish to help others and to treat every person equally regardless of the race or religion. The campaigners confronted many difficulties. Among the earliest British opposers, there were such activists as Thomas Clarkson and George Fox. They claimed that the only way to stop the slave humiliation was to make the human trafficking illegal. If the British ships got an official ban on slave trade, it would be unlawful.
The women also made a great contribution to the anti-slavery campaign. The White women opposed the slavery and human trafficking, as well. In particular, Mary Birkett, Hannah More and Mary Wollstonecraft became the members of the campaign from its very beginning. They delivered the speeches and organized the protests against the human trade. They wrote the poems that inspired people and raised the social consciousness as well as explained the way the slavery broke the families.
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Josiah Wedgwood, the famous abolitionist, came up with a slogan. As a potter, he created a ceramic brooch with a carved portrait of a slave. He displayed a man who stood on his knees; he was bound with chains and asked: “Am I not a Man and a Brother?” Afterward, the women activists took Wedgwood’s idea and produced the similar brooch that portrayed the kneeling woman with the inscription: “Am I not a Woman and a Sister?”
In addition to White activists, there were African abolitionists such as Ignatius Sancho, Equiano, and Ottabah Cugoano. They worked together with the British opposers. Sancho came to England when he was two years old. He received the freedom and became a merchant. He was the first African man who became a writer and had a right to publish his works in England. He argued that the greediness lies at the base of the slave trade. He explained that he loved England for its freedom; however, the obsession of English navigators was money merely.
Equiano, known as Gustavus Vassa, knew about the slavery from his personal experience. Being kidnapped from Nigeria at the age of eleven, he worked on a plantation. Afterward, he worked for a naval officer and for a merchant. Finally, he bought his freedom and settled in Britain. Becoming a free man, he traveled throughout Britain and delivered public speeches. He talked about his kidnapping and slavery.
Cugoano required the cancellation of the slave system. He came from Ghana where he experienced the slavery. He published the well-known work, Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species. He proclaimed that the enslaved people must fight for their rights as every human being has the right to be free, and that they need to resist the slave owners.
Sponsored by the Abolition Society, the activists informed the British citizens about the scandal over the extreme cruelty in the human trade sphere and about its connection with sugar production. Clarkson started gathering any useful information and witnesses in support of that case. He visited ports in Liverpool and Bristol to discover the evidence and witnessed the appalling conditions on the slave ships. He sought to assure the legislators that the slave trade looked awfully from inside. He provided the drawings that clearly expressed what he saw and how he felt being on the board of the Brook ship. The paintings depicted the men, women and children bound with the chains.
Granville Sharp started the campaign against Luke Collingwood, the captain of the slave ship named Zong. Equiano helped him as he informed Sharp about a large number of deaths on this ship. The slaves died mainly due to overcrowding. Captain Collingwood ordered to throw overboard ill Africans. Doing that completely inhuman act, the captain aimed to protect himself and the ship owners. If the slaves died a natural death, Luke would not receive any compensation for them. However, in case the thrown overboard people were alive, the ship owner would get their payment for them. The case of the Zong contributed a lot to the process of reviewing the slave trade. The campaigners, especially Clarkson, made efforts to detect, uncover and bring to light all the humiliations of the slaves. He used the evidence in hope to persuade the Parliament to pass the law banning the slave trade.
In 1787, the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade appeared. Wilberforce was the member of the Committee in Parliament. On March 3, 1807, President Jefferson signed the Act approved by the Congress according to which the United States banned the importation of the slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the USA. Only three weeks later, after fierce struggles and protests against the slavery, the British Parliament abolished the slave trade. The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act prohibited the slave trade throughout the British colonies; however, the human trafficking in the Caribbean islands lasted for four years more.
The abolishment of just the slave trade did not mean the total emancipation; it was not the denial of the entire institution of slavery. It is important to understand the difference between the concepts such as abolition and emancipation. The abolition is just the official ending, ceasing of the slavery trade. However, the emancipation is the total liberation, gaining the equality and the rights. Certainly, the activists aimed to eradicate the slavery. The members of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade focused on persuading the Parliament to forbid only the trading. They believed that after the ceasing of the trade, the slavery would gradually move to its end. The cancellation of the human trade was an important factor concerning the elimination of the slavery as such. It was the progress, namely the movement towards the entire emancipation of the slaves.
The abolition affected the movement towards the whole emancipation of the slaves. Officially, the human trafficking was over; and it was the beginning of the liberation of enslaved people. They planned to move slowly to the gradual abolition. However, some of the planters did not follow the new rules as well as improve the rights and the conditions for their slaves. Therefore, the abolitionists toughened their positions. For example, the campaigner, Elizabeth Heyrick, insisted on the total but not partial abolition. She suggested deleting the word “gradual” from the resolution on abolition.
It took 20 years to abolish the trade. When the campaign started, the abolitionists sought to raise the people’s awareness. They had the success in gaining the public support. However, powerful anti-slavery organisations, namely West India Lobby, opposed them. The role of many slaves themselves in bringing slavery to the end is also significant. Resistance among slaves in the Caribbean became the common process. There was another example in the French colony of St. Domingue. The slaves took hold of the island, and it became the Republic of Haiti.
Regarding the way the slavery affected the composition of the population in the colonies, it is obvious that the forced migration of Africans to the British colonies and the United States during the time of the slavery caused the creation of the African Diaspora. This concept refers to the Africans who migrated to Europe or America. Certainly, it was the forced migration due to the slavery; however, they created their community in exile. Undoubtedly, the transatlantic slave trade was a migration that formed the African Diaspora. The official abolition of the slave trade in 1808 did not mean that the African nation would not enter the colonies anymore. Moreover, the illegal smuggling of the Africans was even more usual after the abolition. The African women gave birth to the children who formed the new African-American population.
It is obvious that the Africans came through a lot of adversities, all the misfortune and hardship that the slaves endured. However, they managed to show their resilience, namely the ability to accommodate to the difficulties. Moreover, the new Africans rooted in the British and the U.S. colonies and brought their culture to Europe and the United States. Their heritage made the significant influence on the U.S. and European religion, art and music. It means that the migration involved not only people but also the culture of those people.
To sum up, the role of the abolition of the slave trade was great. Those supporting the slave trade argued that it made essential contributions to the economy of the colonies. Nevertheless, by the end of the eighteenth century, the people began to campaign against the slave trade. They protested against the entire institution of slavery. Since the trading was beneficial, the abolitionists experienced the opposition by the pro-slavery organisations. However, such activists as Equiano, Clarkson, Fox, and many others made a great contribution to the abolition campaign. They used the witnesses and evidence and made effotrs to get the liberation.