Nov 8, 2017 in Narrative

Slavery in the French Caribbean

During the colonial period, France needed manpower for the construction needs. With conquered territories in Africa and Europe, the French needed to construct railroads and roads that could be used for the transportation of resources from the conquered regions to the manufacturing and processing plants. In this case, strong men were used to carry heavy loads on their backs while women were positioned at the resourceful areas to excavate the resources from their natural deposits. Children, on the other hand, helped in the transportation of lighter materials and tools. Thus abilities of each slave have been essential in the organization of the slave labor. Therefore, men were preferred candidates in skill-intensive jobs like masonry and carpentry.

Impact on women and children

Slavery on the French territories was divided into categories through which gender divide could be identified by analyzing the type of work each was engaged in. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the French colonizers did not have mechanisms for appraising specialization and sorting laborers according to their skills. However, the slave labor had a much more negative impact on women than on men. Since specialization was not employed, women would be deployed to accomplish the same tasks as men did. However, a classical form of specialization was developed; women were assigned the duties of midwifery, marketing, and general health care. In this case, those involved in these types of work developed skills in marketing, healthcare, and clinical services. However, on the other hand, those involved in difficult tasks like farming deteriorated in health and their reproduction decreased – they had no time for family. Children born during this time suffered two main problems, parenting and survival. Offspring from laborer mothers were transferred to third parties who acted as their surrogates. This transfer was more of trade than a guardian arrangement especially in the case of boys. Girls, on the other hand, were married off to third parties in exchange for niceties like clothing, food, and fresh water for drinking.

Condition of Women under Slavery

The conditions of most slaves, regardless of whether they were male or female, were utterly bad. From food to clothing, most slaves could not afford these essentials as they were not paid. Women suffered from diseases due to cold and food deficiency while a majority of the expectant ones died in labor. For survivors, the hard work in manually intensive fields weakened them leading to the development of illnesses and physical deficiencies.

Family Life, Reproduction, Assault

Slaves were obtained from various African backgrounds and were divided into groups allocating the appropriate people to specific jobs. In this case, families were broken in that, men and women could be separated from each other to fill in various labor responsibilities. On the other hand, children born could not be taken care of by their mothers because the majority of these mothers formed the productive lot. Many children lacked fathers because their mothers were victims of sexual assault by French Guards, farm managers, and slave owners.

Women and Resistance – Manumission/Libre De Fait Manumission

While resistance against French Slavery took many forms, armed resistance was not one of them. In a form of fatal demonstration, women, who were mostly enslaved domestically, poisoned their slave owners to free themselves. While redemption is a way through which slaves attained freedom, manumission (collective takedown) was a popular method of reclaiming freedom. This was a path towards freedom in that the French government gave slaves options of buying their freedom.

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