Humanitarian concerns

There was very little evidence of humanitarianism in the ways slaves were treated. Becoming a slave was a harsh and cruel experience. Up to a third of Africans captured as slaves, died on the Middle Passage. Another third died on the plantations within a few months of arriving, because of new tropical diseases. Others died from sheer hard work.

Slaves were regarded as the property of their white owners and had no rights. The way they were treated was appalling.

Slaves cutting and harvesting sugar cane on a plantation
Slaves often died whilst working

Professor David Dabydeen of Warwick University said, It was a nasty unimaginable way of treating people as goods, with no sense of humanity.

A slave’s first experiences

This involved confinement in the slave factories of the West African coast followed by the horrific and potentially fatal ordeal of the Middle Passage.

On a slave ship, slaves has to endure appalling conditions in the hold, mistreatment by the crew (beatings and rape) and sickness.

The slaves then had to undergo the frightening experience of their auction in the Caribbean ports. Friends and families were separated, often never to see each other again.

Slaves who weren't bought in the auctions were treated very poorly - sometimes plantation owners bought them cheaply with the intention of working them to death.

Slaves who were judged to be disobedient or difficult could be sent to ‘seasoning camps’. As many as half of the slaves sent to these camps died in them. Those who were too weak or sick to be sold were sometimes just left to die.