s Enslavement and Plantation Life - Hull Museums Collections

Enslavement and Plantation Life

detail from Plantation journal

The Middle Passage

Once enslaved Africans were captured and traded to European slave traders, they would be branded with their new owners mark. Auguste Biard depicts this process in his painting, 'Slave Market on the Coast of West Africa'. The painting also shows the Captain of a slave ship bargaining with African Traders, slaves being inspected and transactions being recorded in a log book.

The painting was given to Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton to commemorate the Abolition of Slavery in 1833. Buxton took over Wilberforce's role as leader of the British anti-slavery movement in 1824. A relative of Buxton donated the painting to the Museum.

The journey from West Africa to the Plantations was known as the 'Middle Passage'. This was the second leg of the journey that formed the transatlantic trade triangle. During the Atlantic crossing, enslaved Africans were kept in horrific, overcrowded conditions, with 15% of Africans on each voyage dying from dysentery, malaria, smallpox or malnutrition. These appalling conditions led to the deaths of 33 slaves on board the 'Katherine' in 1728. A list of those who died and the reasons for their deaths is stored in Wilberforce House.

Discipline and Punishment

The majority of enslaved people taken from Africa to the Caribbean worked on sugar plantations owned by Europeans. New arrivals underwent a period of adjustment known as 'seasoning' or 'breaking in'. An important part of the slave experience was being introduced to the daily routine and discipline on the plantation.

Enslaved Africans were subject to harsh discipline and severe punishments. Being whipped was the most common punishment endured, the severity of which depended on the offence, including the number of strokes and the type of whip used.

Punishments of slaves, as well as other information including production and slave statistics were kept in Plantation logs and journals. The museum collection holds 277 plantation journals for the Plantations; Good Intent, Good Success, Friendship, Schepmoed and Bacolet. It also has correspondence and punishment records for plantations owned by William King.