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Deborah A. Thomas, Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation


We constitute ourselves through political activity in the everyday, both at the level of consciousness and at the level of embodi- ment. Assembling archives of affect thus should tell us something about how the sphere of the political has been imagined and felt at various junctures and about the kinds of politics that are possible at these junctures.
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Greg Thomas - Afro-Blue Notes: The Death of Afro-pessimism ( 2.0 )? [Theory & Event, Volume 21, Number 1, January 2018, pp. 282-317]
How should 1865 function for the London site of The Occupied Times?[24] The powder-keg Haitian Revolution does not pivot around 1865, of course, but 1791–1804. Britain declared a “gradual” abolition of slavery in 1833–34 with a typical “compensation” mandated for the slavers. So, what of the official if spurious “emancipation” dates for the rest of the Black world of Africa’s enslaved diaspora? Spain is said to officially abolish slavery in 1811, for instance, while making exceptions for colonies in Cuba, Santo Domingo, and Puerto Rico. Denmark proclaims abolition in its “West Indies” in 1846–1848, like Sweden for Barthélemy in 1847. France is forced to follow suit, once more, in 1848; and Gabon is “founded” accordingly in Africa as the US would Liberia, etc. “Upper Canada” was said to end slavery with the British and “Lower Canada” (now Québec) with the French, an interesting fact for narrations of the Underground Railroad that often kept moving beyond Canada in the north back to the African continent (often Sierra Leone). The Netherlands is said to do so in 1861 or 1863. The modern slavery founded in the “Hispano-Portuguese slave trade” would thrive in the Western Hemisphere both before and after formal independence from Spain and Portugal. This is key to debunk the “Afro-pessimism” that thinks it can delink slavery and colonialism as two separate, even competing entities or issues. The criollo settler-colonial slave-states of Cuba and Brazil do not officially abolish slavery for Africans until two decades after 1865 in 1886 and 1888, respectively. Slavery was purportedly abolished in Ecuador in 1851, but it is quite possible to move that pretentious date to 1894, which is well beyond the official “closing” dates widely touted for Brazil after Puerto Rico and Cuba in the Americas. To think of slavery’s pseudo-abolition in terms of 1865 alone or any one date is not to think on the level of “Blackness” and “Human Life” at all; it is to reinscribe the most imperial white “American” perspective on slavery and Blackness instead.
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Could a wealthy Roman arrange an individual deal with a slaver, along the lines of "can you bring me such-and-such type of slave next time you come around here?" I ask because some characters in one of my stories (set during Hadrian's reign) meet with a slaver under the pretext of a private business negotiation and trick him into confessing to illegal business practices, and I want to know how that might play out.

I want to a give a well-sourced answer on this, but I fear that my inbox will continue to pile up if I keep searching for sources that answer this question in the exact way you’re looking for.

I feel quite comfortable in citing tertiary sources in asserting that there were a vast array of professions held by slaves in the ancient Mediterranean, including under the Roman Empire. Chief among these tertiary sources I draw upon are The Other Side of History (a Great Courses lecture series on the lives of common folk) and Wikipedia. My answer is also informed by various other websites and YouTube videos that are too numerous to list and too distance to recall, but have contributed to my general understanding.

Short Answer: My impression is that the the vast array of professions held by slaves would create demand for slave markets that supplied highly differentiated types of slaves, selected and trained for a particular line of work. What you describe sounds completely reasonable to me.

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Memory for Sale

It wasn’t too long ago when they took away my past. I didn’t even own my time right now tomorrow or yesterday. Everything was for sale and everyone wanted to own something that wasn’t theirs.

A few years after deciding my slavery was worth while, the last bits of what remained to be myself became precious commodities.

The first to go was all my traumatic mementos the ones that only make for humiliation. Then all the triumphs but lastly was all the accomplishments.

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Tradition Tossed

Where chains of rules are applied
to the limbs of the enslaved
suffering becomes a normative
thought to be superlative

desired above all other joys
the best is based on woe
darkness affirmed as light
the gloom becomes delight

this illusion cast by saints
look to the imps that relate
their glee is proof enough
that few dare call the bluff

rattle the manacles to proclaim
none should live as a slave
bound to rules not their own
tradition tossed of as a yoke.

© 2020. Sean Green. All Rights Reserved. 20200224.

The poem “Tradition Tossed” is about the suffocation of traditions.

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From The People of Wind: A Collection of Poems by Clord Club-Breaker

The people of wind once travelled the plains

    Shuffling the grass in their wake

    Only taking what was rightful to take

From nature; they showed no disdain,

For the place where they lived in peace.

    They moved with the clouds

    In their dark grey shrouds. 

Made equal from shadows and fleece.

The people of wind were ascetic, till whence

    the people of stone

    Tried to take what they owned

Then the wind blew fierce in defense .

O, mistake that they made in this foray,

    As the hammer came down

    From the cities and towns

To strike the wind gone and away

Till the plains soon stood silent

    when they bagged up the air

    Nor treated it fair

With nay even one chance for repent

For the sin of insubordination

    Of blowing directions

    Against cities instructions

In dark pits now faced subjugation

The people of wind now howl in caves

    They remember little 

    The greens or the nettle

Of the hills from afore they were slaves

To the whim of the city the wind now works

    And for what few stray gusts

    May hide still in the brush

The city looks out; waits; lurks. 

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Slavery routes – a short history of human trafficking (¼), April 4, 2020

The history of slavery did not begin in the cotton fields. It has been going on since the dawn of humanity. Part 1 of this four-part documentary series investigates how Africa became the epicenter of human trafficking.

The first installment of the series Slavery Routes - A Short History of Human Trafficking opens the story of the slave trade. By the 7th Century AD, Africa had already become a slave trading hub. Barbarian invaders brought on the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD. Less than two centuries later, the Arabs founded an immense empire on its ruins, stretching from the banks of the Indus River to the southern Sahara. Now a new era of systematic slave hunting began, from the Middle East to Africa. At the heart of this network, two major merchant cities stood out. In the North, at the crossroads of the Arabian Peninsula and Africa, Cairo - the most important Muslim city and Africa’s main commercial hub. In the South, Timbuktu, the stronghold of the great West African empires, and point of departure of the trans-Saharan caravans. This documentary tells how, over the course of centuries, sub-Saharan peoples became the most significant “resource” for the biggest human trafficking networks in history.

Part 1:

Part 2: 

Part 3: 

Part 4:

Deutsche Welle

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Behind the porticoed house of a long dead farm
They found the falling down timbers of a spooky old barn
Out there like a slave ship upside down
Wrecked beneath the waves of grain
When the river is low, they find old bones
And when they plow, they always dig up chains.

“Don’t Go Into That Barn,” Tom Waits

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CW: referenced noncon, slavery, dehumanization, conditioning, training, caning, multiple whumpees, creepy + intimate whumper

Tag List: @thatsthewhump @whump-it @ashintheairlikesnow @fairybean101 @finder-of-rings @comfortforthepain @shameless-whumper @that-one-thespian @burtlederp @castielamigos-whump-side-blog @raigash @im-not-rare-im-rarr @spiffythespook @whumps-the-word @frnkieroismydaddy @whumpity–whump–whump @michelleswhumpyreblogs @jo-castle @newandfiguringitout @lumpofwhump @infested-with-bloodv2


02 was broken by day four.

02 was broken entirely by day five.

That first day, after Exalted had finished explaining, they’d made 02 clean every single room he’d set foot in before his shower, thoroughly. Mistakes, surprisingly, hadn’t been punished, and not deep cleaning the carpet or the walls or the fucking whatever the first try was excused, as long as 02 clearly hadn’t understood just how clean Exalted wanted things. He kept waiting for the pain to rain down, aching skin of his exposed back twitching, each sound of their voice making him cringe, tense as wires.

But it was only when 02 intentionally disobeyed–frustrated by the effort Exalted was expecting, the sheer perfection that he was too exhausted and aching to do–it was only when he angrily shoved away the bottle of cleaning fluid and threw the rag at Exalted’s feet that he heard the telltale shhhhk of the cane extending.

The third time he acted out in frustration and heard that metallic glide, he’d apologized, immediately swallowing his words, but Exalted was true to their word, and punished him for his disobedience. But, he was forced to admit when his shaking hands fumbled and accidentally dropped the scrub brush when he cleaned his own blood and spit from the utility room floor, Exalted did only punish him for disobedience. And he hated it, because he thought about that morning’s lesson, just like they said he would, and genuinely started wondering if they’d meant all that bullshit about consistency, just like they’d said he would.

He knew if he made too many mistakes, it’d be interpreted as willful fucking up on his part, so he wasn’t about to let himself go lax. Exalted was strong for all they didn’t look it. But, as much as he hated it. As much as he loathed them, he had to admit that they were staying true to their word, that first day. Obviously they’d change their tune, but for whatever reason, they were in fact consistent to start. And of course they wouldn’t stay that way, even if they said they would, because 02 wasn’t fucking stupid and he knew better than to expect permanence, but if they wanted to keep up their little charade of consistency. Then. Fucking fine, or whatever. He had no intention of playing into their dumb monologuing but the thought of permanence niggled at him. Just like they’d said in their stupid speech. God, he hated it here.

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from Carry Me Back:  the Domestic Slave Trade in American Life by Steven Deyle
The most famous of [the] warrior slave traders, however, was Nathan Bedford Forrest, who also rose to national notoriety as a Confederate cavalry officer.  Following the war, hagiographic biographers somehow managed to successfully defend Forrest’s lifelong actions against black people.  Not only was Forrest the largest slave trader in Memphis prior to the war, but he also led the Fort Pillow Massacre, which killed up to 300 U.S. Colored Troops in cold blood, and he then served as the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan after the war.  Despite this atrocious record (or perhaps because of it, for some people), Forrest still commands the adoration of many today, and in some circles he has a more devout following than Robert E. Lee.
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from Carry Me Back:  the Domestic Slave Trade in American Life by Steven Deyle
In March 1865, one month after federal troops entered Charleston, South Carolina, the black population of that city held a giant procession, more than two and a half miles in length.  Included in this parade were marshals and bands, the Twenty-First Regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops, clergymen, women’s groups, schoolchildren, and various trade organizations.  But as James Redpath, the special correspondent for the New-York Tribune, reported:  ‘The most original feature of the procession was a large cart, drawn by two delapidated horses… . On this cart there was an auctioneer’s block, and a black man, with a bell, representing a negro trader, a red flag waving over his head; recalling the days so near and yet so far off, when human beings were made merchandise of in South Carolina.'  According to Redpath, 'This man had himself been bought and sold several times; and two women and a child who sat on the block had also been knocked down at public auction in Charleston.  As the cart moved along, the mock auctioneer rang his bell and cried out: “How much am I offered for this good cook?” … “Who bids? who bids?”'  The vivid memories of this sight proved more than many of those along the roadway could bear:  'Old women burst into tears as they saw this tableau, and forgetting that it was a mimic scene, shouted wildly: “Give me back my children! Give me back my children!”'  The mock auctioneer was followed by a contingent of sixty men tied together by a rope, representing the numerous slave coffles that had marched through that city on their way to Louisiana.  Following this mock coffle was a hearse, on which was written, 'Slavery is Dead.’
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Deborah Gray White (Ar’n’t I A Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South, page 83)
Data on slave illness on Southern plantations reveal that plantations were havens for disease, and that slaves were indeed plagued by sickness. Slaves suffered and often died from pneumonia, diarrhea, cholera, and smallpox. The slave diet was high in calories but suffered from dangerously low levels of protein and other nutrients. Lean meats, poultry, eggs, milk, and grain products other than corn -foods needed to help the human immune system produce antibodies to fight off infections- were only sporadically seen on most slave’s plates. In addition, most slaves did not get nearly enough fruits and vegetables. Blindness, sore eyes, skin irritations, rickets, toothaches, pellagra, beriberi, and scurvy were among the many afflictions that resulted from vitamin deficiencies caused by the monotonous daily servings of rice, fat-back, corn meal, and salt pork.
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