Tag Archives: Slavery

Week Six

This week’s lecture was a reminder of the horrors that existed during slavery as well as those that still exist today even over a hundred years after its abolishment.

Millions of slaves were captured and transported to the Americas and approximately one million died in transit because of the awful conditions they had to endure. According to the Professor Beasley-Murray, six times more Africans had reached the Americas than Europeans by 1800. I’m still astonished that three million slaves were brought to Brazil and even more so that over half of the Brazilian slaves died within three years of their arrival.

I live in the Midwest of the United States where race is not often acknowledged. Many people believe that a good “solution” is ignoring race or being “colorblind” to race which means completely disregarding heritage, traditions and identities. Closer to Chicago, the after effects of slavery and segregation are extremely prominent. Many more people of color are stopped and sometimes even shot by cops in and around the city than white people. Awareness is growing however, for example the Black Lives Matter movement is becoming more and more active in the Chicago area.

How can we do justice to such histories? We can acknowledge this awful part of history, learn from it, and teach as many people about it as possible so that no such thing is ever repeated again. I am white and therefore benefit from white privilege especially in the United States. I think it’s important to use this privilege to take action for what is right. The lasting effects of discrimination are still prevalent and certainly won’t disappear by ignoring them.

Other examples of unresolved conflicts or tensions include the Holocaust (as mentioned in the lecture). One of my neighbors, Mr. Walter Reed (who unfortunately passed away a few years ago), was a Holocaust survivor. He escaped Nazi Germany when he was a teenager and fled to the USA where he completely changed his identity. It is through people like him that the stories of the Holocaust came to life for following generations to learn about.

Returning to the topic of this week’s lecture, I found it intriguing to consider that the abolishment of slavery didn’t solely come from people in power like Abraham Lincoln, but by the slaves themselves every single time they acted out. I guess I just never questioned what I had been taught when it came to abolition. It’s also interesting to recognize that rights are interpreted differently by different people.


Week Three

I find it interesting to think about how insignificant Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World was in comparison to the events occurring in Spain at the time. In between the Fall of Granada and the ‘ethnic cleansing’ that was happening, Columbus and his crew were just a drop in an enormous ocean. What’s especially fascinating, taking into account everything that was going on at the time, is the aftermath of Columbus’s voyage and how it completely reversed King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella’s intentions of “purifying” the peninsula.

As early as 1509, the Spanish and Portuguese began bringing slaves to the America’s from Africa to work primarily on sugar plantations. Much to my surprise, Cuba, Hispaniola and Brazil all had thousands of more slaves than the United States did, a few hundred years later. As a US citizen, this was shocking news to me because much of my middle school and high school education focused on slavery specifically in the US and how thousands of African people’s lives were destroyed after being captured into slavery. Although I knew that slavery existed in many other parts of the world, I had no idea that places such as Brazil had 5 times as many slaves as the US did. It’s terrifying and difficult to try and conceptualize how many people suffered because of slavery.

The long-term effect of slavery and colonization in the New World meant that there were now many different races that existed in the Americas. The Casta Paintings are a great representation of the new races that came into play during the 1700’s (i.e. if a black person and a white person had a child, the child would be mulato, and if a white person and an indigenous person had a child, the child would be mestizo). This grouping system soon became complicated as mestizo people would have children with mulato people for example, and thus classifying everyone into their own niche or “box” became difficult. When I first thought about these “boxes,” I considered them as a very exclusive way of dividing people by pointing out their differences, but when I looked at them again after listening to the lecture, I thought that maybe people were simply trying to understand their past and who they are. I wonder if this still as much of an identity crisis for people today especially because the lines are still so blurred, if not more so. How did the people living in the Americas feel about their categories during this time?