Life on the plantation

On the plantation slaves continued their harsh existence. Gangs of slaves worked from dawn until dusk under the orders of a white overseer.

Slaves were whipped if they did not work hard enough. During harvest time, slaves worked in shifts of up to 18 hours a day.

Housing on the plantation

On the plantations, slaves lived in small cottages with thatched roofs, earth floors, a bed table and bench.

Mistreatment and punishment of slaves

White masters had complete control over the lives of their slaves, as slaves had no rights. Slaves who disobeyed or resisted were violently punished - in Antigua it was not a crime to kill a slave until 1723.

The punishments given to slaves:

  • Captured runaways could be hanged or maimed.
  • Slaves were often flogged with a whip.
  • The number of lashes that they received depended upon their ‘crime’.

Olaudah Equiano - story of a slave

Olaudah Equiano was a former slave. He wrote that:

  • It was common for slaves to be branded with the initial letter of the master’s name and for heavy iron hooks to be hung around their necks.
  • Heavy iron chains were added to these hooks.
  • Iron muzzles and thumbscrews were also be used on slaves.

Equiano reported, I have seen a Negro beaten till some of his bones were broken for even letting a pot boil over.

The video below gives an overview of slavery and tells the story of a slave who escaped and published an account of her life.