TO THE COAST
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Kwame West African Traders in Ghana in the Nineteenth and Twentieth
Centuries Longman 1979
description of parties on the Elmina/Kumasi path . . . A large party of
Ashantees armed in the fashion of their country with musquets and knives
and conveying some bulky loads of ivory and a valuable kind of grease
used by the natives for annointing. The party included women and
girls whose employment consisted of attending upon their husbands or
masters. Another party of three men, two of whom were slaves
carrying a few elephants teeth to the coast. Again. . . 12-14
slaves loaded with ivory. 6 Ashantees and two others
in company with many women and slaves among whom was a girl of fourteen.
Slave women and girls would not have been distinguishable from
wives and daughters unless they bore tribal marks which identified them
Mellville J The Myth of the Negro Past Beacon pb 1958
has given us our only first hand account of the adventures of a slave
coffle 1795 -1797. 500 miles 44 days, 11 -12 miles/day
Travels (Olaudah Equiano, Paul Edwards editor) London 1986
Mungo Travels in the Interior of Africa 1799 (notes)
- 302 Shea
butter. Tree never cut down. Fruit, kernel first dried in
the sun. Kernel boiled in water to produce butter. Kernel is
enveloped in a sweet pulp, under a thin green rind. Butter keeps a
whole year without salt. Whiter, firmer and of a richer flavour
than cow milk
436 Plundering or stealing. It arises from
a sort of hereditary feud which the inhabitants of one nation or
district bear towards another. No immediate cause of hostility is
assigned or notice of attack given, but the inhabitants of each watch
every opportunity to plunder and distress the objects of their animosity
by predatory excursions. These are very common, particularly about
the beginning of the dry season, when the labour of the harvest is over
and provisions are plentiful. Wars of this disruption are
generally conducted with great secrecy. A few resolute
individuals, headed by some person of enterprise and courage march
quietly through the woods, surprise in the night some unprotected
village and carry off the inhabitants and their effects, before their
neighbours can come to their assistance.
439 Some of the domestic slaves as appear to be
of a mild disposition, and particularly with young women, are retained
as his own slaves.
475 Slaves very inquisitive - asked Park if his
countrymen were cannibals. They were very desirous to know what
became of the slaves after they had crossed the salt water. Park
told them that they were employed in cultivating the land but they would
not believe him. One put his hand upon the ground and asked 'have
you really got such a ground as this to sit your feet upon?' Deeply
rooted belief that whites purchase Negroes for purpose of devouring
them. Contemplate a journey to the coast with great terror.
So they must be kept constantly in irons and closely watched.
Right leg of one and left of another put in fetters. By supporting
the fetters with a string, they can walk, but very slowly. Every
four slaves are likewise fastened together by their necks with a strong
rope of twisted thongs. In the night an additional pair of
fetters is put on their hands and sometimes a light chain passed around
Such of them as evince marks of discontent are secured thus. A
thick billet of wood is cut about 3 ft. long, a smooth notch made on one
side, the ankle of the slave is bolted to the smooth part by means of a
strong iron staple, one prong of which passes on either side of the leg.
All these fetters and bolts are made of native iron.
Otherwise treatment of slaves was not harsh or cruel. Let out in
their fetters every morning, sit in shade of tamarind tree, encouraged
to play games of hazard, sing songs to keep up their spirits. Some
were brave, some very dejected. Sit all day in a sort of sullen
melancholy with eyes fixed upon the ground. Evening: examine
irons, put on hand fetters; sent into two huts, guarded by owner's
477 One got hold of a small knife, opened rings
of his fetters, cut the rope, escaped, refusing to wait to help his
478 Before departure: prepare day provision,
visit relations, collect debts, consult whether day was auspicious.
Muslim women dressed in white. Departure: irons taken from
slaves; bundles assigned to each. 27 slaves for sale grew to 35
during the trip. Free men were 14 in number each with 1 or 2 wives
and several domestic slaves. Free men included six singing men to
use musical talents to banish fatigue or to entertain strangers.
On departure, most of the inhabitants of the town followed them
for half a mile, some crying, some shaking hands with relatives.
484 As many of the slaves had remained for years
in irons, sudden exertion of walking quickly with heavy loads upon their
heads, occasioned spasmodic contractions of their legs. Cut ropes,
allow them to walk more slowly.
Prayers: preserve us from robbers and all bad people, provisions
should never fail us, our bodies should not become fatigued. Two
slaves, a woman and a girl, were so much fatigued that they could not
keep up: they were severely whipped and dragged along, when they both
started vomitting, by which it was discovered that they had eaten clay.
Allowed to lie down. Guards remained with them. Arrived in
next village at midnight. Decided to send them back.
Procession: in front 5 or 6 singing men, other free people, slaves
fastened in the usual way by a rope round their necks, four to a rope
and a man with a spear between each four; then domestic slaves, then
free women, wives, etc. At entrance to a village singers extolled
known hospitality to strangers. On arrival singers introduced the
party. Chief gave them a small present. All accommodated for the
night by some one or other in the village.
Passed burnt villages. Plenty of fish in rivers.
In the forest kindled fires for the night, made supper (kouskous with
boiling water) Slaves put in irons. Disturbed thru the night by
howling of wild beasts; troubled by small brown ants. One female
slave very sulky next morning and refused gruel offered to her.
Later in the day she began to lag behind and complain of pains in
her legs. Load taken from her and given to another slave. She was
sent to the front.
Resting by a small river, hive of bees discovered in a hollow tree -
swarm of bees attacked them - all ran - the woman found to be missing.
Set grass on fire to chase bees away. Found the woman much
stung - she had tried to lie in the water. Stings removed, washed
with water, rubbed with leaves. Woman refused to proceed. Begged.
Threatened. Whipped. Walked for several hours. Tried to run away.
Weak. Fell down in the grass. Whipped. Too weak. Made a littler of
bamboo canes carried on their heads by two slaves. Slaves snapped
their fingers - signs of desperation. All put in irons.
In the morning all greatly recovered. Injured woman all
swollen could not walk or stand. General cry, 'Cut her
throat, cut her throat.' Not killed but just abandoned to be devoured by
Saw a large herd of elephants - suffered them to pass unmolested.
507 Very few people here can swim
526 We met a coffle of 26 people with 7 loaded
asses returning from the Gambia. Most of the men were armed with
muskets and had broad belts of scarlet cloth over their shoulders and
European hats upon their heads.
526 One of the slaves unable to proceed any
further. His master, a singing man, proposed to exchange him for a
young girl, belonging to one of the towns people. The poor girl was
ignorant of her fate until the bundles were all tied up in the morning,
the coffle ready to depart when coming with some other young women to
see the coffle set out, her master took her by the hand and delivered
her to the singing man. Never was a face of serenity more suddenly
changed into one of the deepest distress: the terror she manifested on
having the load put upon her head and the rope fastened round her neck
and the sorrow with which she bad adieu to her companions, were truly
533 Mr Ainsley's schooner was lying at anchor
before the place. This was the most surprising object which
Kaifa had yet seen. He could not easily comprehend the use of the
masts, sails, rigging nor did he conceive that it was possible, by any
sort of contrivance, to make so large a body move forwards by the common
force of wind. The manner of fastening together the different
planks which composed the vessel and filling up the seams so as to
exclude water were completely new to him. Deep meditation for the
rest of the day.
Edward, Human Cargoes: Enslavement and the Middle Passage, in Tibbles, Anthony (ed.),
Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity, HMSO, 1994
- 32 The
slaves arrived in dejected and exhausted condition at the coast, where
they were sold through African brokers . . . the slaves were carefully
examined from head to toe, without regard to sex, to see that they did
not have any blemishes or defects . . . most . . . showed extreme levels
of distress. . . Some feared that they were being taken away to be
eaten. . . Thus some slaves resisted being put on board the slave
ships and even tried to drown themselves as they were being taken to the
James, Black Ivory: A History of British slavery Fontana 1992 (notes)
Quote from Equiano: when the grown people in the neighbourhood were
gone far into the fields to labour, the children assembled together in
some the neighbours premises to play; and commonly some of us used to
get up a tree to look out for an assailant, or kidnapper, that might
come upon us; for they sometimes took these opportunities of our
parents' absence, to attack and carry off as many as they could seize.
Also when our people go out to till their land they only go in a body
but generally take their arms with for fear of a surprise.
It took Equiano six or seven months to reach the coast after he had
been captured. Equiano and his sister were bound gagged and
bundled away into the nearest woodland. Overwhelmed by grief and
tiredness, brother and sister were propelled through the woods, day
after day, eventually separated, passing through communities with alien
customs and languages. In places he was put to work, tried to
escape, was resold a number of times.