A warm and sunny afternoon saw us visit the Smith Plantation in Roswell, an affluent area in Georgia. The Smiths, one of Roswell’s founding families, lived in this home for three generations before opening it up to the public as a museum.
Standing before us and surrounded by some acres of land, was a huge white colonial-style building built by slaves in 1845. The eerie feeling that hung in the air I’d felt once before, in the Holocaust Museum in Berlin. The feeling of sadness and despair, of cruelty and hopelessness.
This land onwhich I stood, once dampened by the sweat and the tears of slaves. Niggers. Commodities. Once stolen from the arms of their mothers. Stolen from their wives in Africa miles and miles away from where they would be sold like farm machinery, to till the land, cook, clean, and to please the desires of their masters.
What tears those mothers must have cried! Mother Africa drenched in tears. What hardship those stolen people faced, some dying and being disposed of like tasteless chewing gum before reaching land. What tears they must have cried for their loss, for their treatment, and for the evil that lay ahead. People unknowing, not understanding. People stolen, people lost. Hearts broken. Tears and sweat falling from their faces. A wide and fast-flowing river of tears connecting people from Africa to the USA, UK and far beyond. Sadness. Despair. Anger. Hope of family reunions diminishing faster than tears reached the ground. Hope of freedom a distant dream.
Trees cut down before they bore fruit.
Branches bent until they broke.
Commodities owned. Bought and sold like farm animals.
No free will.
Women raped. Impregnated to produce more slaves to use on the farm or even to sell.
Oh what tears they cried. Oh what pain their hearts felt.
This was a reality for people just like me.
Yet here I was 150 years after slavery was officially abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment (which took effect on December 18, 1865). A black woman walking freely where these ‘Niggers’ could not. Speaking freely as these ‘Niggers’ dared not. These ‘Niggers’, human beings with feelings, with hearts and red blood flowing around their bodies like any other human being on earth. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children…I can’t begin to imagine being one of the slaves and I’m truly grateful for the fight that was fought to abolish such an evil thing.
The Historian guide who was well studied in American History, told of the ‘kind’ family that lived here and how they treated their slaves well – unlike the family further down the road where a young female slave was killed whilst serving dinner. Her life ended, cleared away like the crumbs on the table.
The slaves on this plantation were even allowed to go to church with the family. Hope of a loving saviour, hope of peace and a better future allowed for one hour before returning to their brutal and sad existence. The sword of salvation twisted to stab into their already heavy hearts.
Kind slave masters. I do not comprehend this term. Nor do I understand how people could treat other people this way – more so people claiming to be Christians and even teaching their slaves the Gospel. Teaching love yet practising hate.
Visiting this plantation was a humbling experience for me, and I do deeply hope that somehow, somewhere, these people experienced some sort of happiness, some sort of joy, some sort of kindness and love. Surely as plants require sunlight to live, these are the most basic needs for human existence!
You can read more about slavery on a plantation on eyewitnesshistory.com.
I wish that like a nightmare, slavery would remain a memory of a terrible past. That such evil acts would never again happen to another human being. Alas, even today people around the world are being taken as slaves and treated like commodities in business deals. Treated with no regard nor human rights. Women are traded as sex slaves, and children taken as slaves and forced to work in terrible conditions for many hours every day. According to the organisation Stop Slavery, there are 45.8 million slaves worldwide today, and every 30 seconds a child is sold into slavery somewhere in the world.
I recently read an incredibly moving book called Slave by Mende Nazir. In this case of Modern Day Slavery, Mende (from Sudan) told her story and shared with us an experience unimaginable. I was transported to a place where innocent children were stolen, raped, and sold to slave traders. Sadly, this book is a true story. What struck me most about her story is how she was brought to England as a slave. Slavery and people trafficing is happening all around us, everyday. Mende’s story was told – thank you Mende for sharing this incredibly eye-opening and heart wrentching story – but there are many stories untold.
We cannot change what has happened in the past, but we can take some action on what is happening today. Let’s do what we can to STOP slavery! Please read more and donate on Stop Slavery, End Slavery Now and Antislavery. If you suspect anything suspicious and suspect that someone is a modern day slave or has been trafficked or is involved in people trafficking, please report it here if you live in the UK. If you do not live in the UK please contact your local police (if they can be trusted) for further information.
On a positive note, the UK parliament passed The Modern Slavery Act in 2015 which “will give law enforcement the tools to fight modern slavery, ensure perpetrators can receive suitably severe punishments for these appalling crimes and enhance support and protection for victims”. Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires certain organisations to develop a slavery and human trafficking statement each year. The slavery and human trafficking statement should set out what steps
Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires certain organisations to develop a slavery and human trafficking statement each year. The slavery and human trafficking statement should set out what steps organisations have taken to ensure modern slavery is not taking place in their business or supply chains.
Please note that I’ve written this article based on my visit to the plantation in Georgia USA, with some influence from movies such and Roots, and 12 Years a Slave. Black people were not the only slaves traded in the slave trade, and today slavery still affects people of all races.
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