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Lost in History
Everybody is aware of the slave trade in the earlier days of the Americas.
From the history books we have all learned how black African slaves were bought on slave ships to America but the whole story is not always told in these books.
Firstly, most of these slaves started as prisoners of one of their fellow African tribes. These prisoners were sold to Arab caravans on their way to the sea ports.
At the sea ports, the Arabs would sell them to slave ship captains.
These slave ship captains and their officers were truly cruel men but what of the crew?
Sailors did not want to work on these slave ships and so in order to crew their ships, the captains would send their officers to “press gang” a crew.
Press ganging was when the officers would patrol the streets. When they came across a drunk or other unsuspecting man, they would bludgeon him unconscious with “blackjacks” and canes. When these men came to, they were already on board the ship which had earlier set sail.
These unwilling crews were often treated worse than the precious cargo. They would be constantly flogged and have limbs cut off for disobedience. If they gave trouble or became unfit to work, they would be marooned on islands that the ship passed. Others who were a little less troublesome, would be put ashore at the next port, penniless, in poor health and sometimes with a missing limb. They would be replaced by more press ganging.
Often, on recognizing a crew member and knowing what he had gone through, slaves would hide them until they were fit enough to fend for themselves.
No Lessons Learnt
The slave trade today is different in most ways, yet it is still cruel and horrific. Have we learned nothing? There are more victims of slavery today than there has ever been in our past.
Just because there are no slave ships or sales in the market place, we fool ourselves that it does not exist.
The truth is we know it is there but choose to ignore it, as that is the easiest option.
Our history is fall of stories of slavery and we pretend that we are better than that. We pretend we are the civilized species on the planet, yet act worse than the wild beasts.
The slave trade brings out the worst in people and if we silently allow it to continue, we are hardly better than those that perpetrate it. It is not like starvation, where it would take a lot of money to buy food and transport to eradicate it. Slavery is a concept and a concept can be destroyed by the sheer will of the people.
Slavery is not confined to the color of skin, religion, sex, age or nationality; it is possible and is happening everywhere.
This year several organizations have tried to bring the problems of slavery into the open but they can only do so much. It is up to all of us to tell our leaders that enough is enough, that when history books are written about our children, they will be the first to honestly not contain stories of slavery.