Measures used to control enslaved Africans
Colonial assemblies and individual planters used and instituted many methods that ensured that the slave population was subdued and subservient. Such methods included: Economic Control
a) There was severe limitation on free time for the enslaved as free time was equated to loss of production time on the estate. As a result, a structure of economic dependence was created whereby enslaved Africans relied on the planter for their food, shelter and clothing. b) Severe restriction was placed on the ability of the enslaved Africans to carve an economic livelihood, for instance, growing provision crops to be sold in the market. Psychological and Ideological Control
a) A concerted attempt was made to condition enslaved Africans to make them believe that they were ‘barbaric’ and ‘inferior’. b) The plantation society created a culture whereby the practices of the whites were seen as superior to that of the ‘Africans’. As a result, African cultural practices were denigrated. c) Enslaved Africans resisted the system of slavery by running away, malingering, and rebelling. d) Enslaved women used their bodies as weapons in resisting slavery. They practised what was described as ‘gynaecological resistance’. Social Control
Among the enslaved population, a rigid social divide was created – this resulted in an antagonistic relationship between domestic, skilled and field slaves. The domestics were entrusted with their master’s valuables and children. They were allowed to wear better clothes; the females were allowed to wear necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Some also learnt to cook, sew, read and write. These slaves were loyal to their masters and were most likely to report plans of rebellion. Artisans were highly valued by their masters and were sometimes hired out. They also had more freedom of movement than other slaves on the plantation. The field slaves were seen as the ‘worse class’ on the sugar estate. Legal Control – Laws
Each colony had its own method of control.
Spanish laws were referred to as Las Siete Partidas. Slavery had already existed legally in Spain before the Spaniards arrived in the ‘New World’. Slavery in Spain was, however, less severe; to the Spanish colonies they were to be regarded as persons and not property. They also had other rights such as they should not be overworked, starved or unlawfully punished by their masters. They also had the right to buy their freedom, to marry, to provision grounds and to appeal to the court against illegal treatment. As well, masters were obliged to provide the basic amenities for his slaves. French Laws
French laws that governed how slaves should be treated were called Code Noir (Black Code) and these were drawn up in France. The articles in the code ordered baptism and Christian principles. Enslaved Africans could marry with their master’s consent. Planters were to provide food and clothing for slaves and to provide care for the elderly and disabled. Enslaved peoples could appeal to legal offices known as procureur-général (attorney general) to complain against ill-treatment and neglect but, at the same time, the code stated that the slaves could be punished by means of flogging, branding, mutilation and execution for theft, assault and attempts to escape. British Laws
The English colonies had no legal English code. Laws were made by masters in their post as members of the legislative of each individual colony. The British Parliament, therefore, had no control over the laws passed in the colonies. Slaves were seen as property, they could not leave the estate without permission or being accompanied by a white person. They were not allowed to congregate in large numbers because this would suggest unity, which could possibly lead to revolt. Laws also forbade the beating of drums, blowing horns and carrying weapons. Reading and writing and slave marriages were also forbidden. Enslaved persons were not allowed to rent houses or land or buy liquor without the masters’ consent. Obeah and group meetings carried the death penalty. As well, manumissions were discouraged.