Selling slaves

Once a slave ship made it to the Caribbean, the cargo of slaves would be sold at auction.

Slaves would have to be prepared first. Their skin was rubbed with oil to make them appear healthy. Flogging scars on the backs of unruly slaves were filled with tar. Older slaves often had their heads shaved to hide signs of grey hairs.

There were two methods of selling the slaves:

  • In the auction, an auctioneer sold the slaves individually or in lots (as a group).
  • The other method was the ‘scramble'. The were kept together in an enclosure. Once all the buyers had paid, the enclosure gate was thrown open and the buyers rushed in to grab the slaves they wanted.

The video below looks at the process of the slave auctions.

Slaves left behind were called ‘refuse’. They were sold cheaply to anyone who’d take them, often leading to their quick death. Slaves who resisted or fought back were sent to ‘seasoning camps’.

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