Cape Slavery

SLAVE COLLAGEThe first 15 slaves were brought to the Cape between 1653 and 1658 and slaves continued to be brought to the Cape until the 1850s. The last shipload of ‘prize slaves’ were brought to the Cape in 1890. Slavery on the high seas was ended in 1808 when officially no more new slaves were to be imported into the Cape but unofficially the slave trade continued. The Royal Navy also captured slaver ships and the so-called ‘Prize slaves’ were brought to the Cape and were put into 14 year ‘apprenticeshgips as indentured labour,which was little different to slavery. Slavery was officially abolished in 1834 at the Cape. All slaves however had to go through a 4 year apprenticeship before they could get their freedom, thus making 1838 the dawn of their freedom. But of course for a ‘Prize Slave’ undergoing a 14 year apprenticeship and maybe only having arrived in 1850, emancipation would be elusive for many more years. Figures are given, through the work of academics like Dr Robert Shell for the period 1653 to 1808 of 63 000 imported slaves, but these also had offspring who in turn had offspring generation upon generation who led lives as slaves. Chattle slavery whereby slaves were bought and sold as products, also existed side by side with a different form of slavery practiced through de facto slavery practices meted out on Cape indigenois groups. Of those slaves forcibly brought to the Cape until 1808, plus/minus 42 150 came from Africa, Madagascar ad the Mascarenes, another 17 315 from India and Sri Lanka and, 13 545 from the Indonesian islands. After 1808 there were around 9000 more slaves brought to the Cape mainly as African Prize Slaves. Slavery spread from the Western Cape, to the Eastern Cape and Nothern Cape, and the local capture of Africans by Trek Boers in the Free State and Transvaal also led to slavery practices further afield.

LOUIS2From the very begining slaves resisted their enslavement and mistreatment. They did this by many means including running away, protest and disobedience, arson and sabotage, and by rebellion. For this they faced severe punishment, whipping, branding, torture, dismembering of body parts, crucifixions, impalement, burning at the stake, being hung, drawn and quartered. The most famous slave revolt in the Cape was led by the slave Louis of Mauritius (opposite) and involved over 300 slaves. It is known as the ‘Jij’ Rebellion. Louis, Abraham and the other revolt leaders were executed by Lord Caledon after the Dragoons put down the revolt.

Cape Slavery indelibly affected the whole of South Africa and in the Cape it was the basis for economic growth and development. The Western Cape towns and farms would never had emerged without slavery.

This space will be further developed.

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