Instructor: Mba Mbulu
Read the Essay below. Be able to answer and expound on the following questions.
(1) What did the colony of San Domingo mean to the French in economic terms?
(2) How many slaves were needed to work in the colony, and where did they come from?
(3) What is the Code Noir (Black Code), and what do you think of it?
(4) Were any whites against bringing Black slaves to the colony? Why?
(5) What two ingredients were added to the mix when white people brought Black People to the Caribbean as slaves?
Class #7 Essay
San Domingo flourished economically under the French. Sugar,
coffee, cotton, indigo, cocoa and ebony were some of the products
it exported. Trade with San Domingo was valued at around 140 million
dollars annually, and was much more important than the thirteen
colonies of North America. This economic success was due to the
exploitation of Black People from Africa. A working force of 500,000
slaves was needed to keep the island rich, so people from West
Africa were kidnapped from their homes, transported under the
worst conditions and forced to work as slaves in a system that
was so cruel that it caused the death of millions of Blacks. They
were worked like animals, housed like animals and treated like
In 1685, Louis XIV, the king of France, established the Code Noir (the Black Code). If the Code Noir was an attempt to relieve the harsh reality of the slaves, as traditional historians claim, then it shows how little white people care about the well being of Black People. Article 22 of the Code Noir ordered that each slave should be given a weekly food allowance of two and a half pots of manioc (or three cassavas), and two pounds of salt beef (or three pounds of salted fish)-- enough food to last a healthy man for about three days. If Article 22 was meant to increase the food rations of the slaves, one can imagine how little they were actually getting. In fact, before and after the Code Noir, the slaves were given six pints of either coarse flour, pease (peas) or rice and half a dozen herrings a week, plus two hours between work shifts in the middle of the day to raise a garden of their own. The free Blacks, the mulattoes, were also hindered; the whites in San Domingo (Haiti) decided that free Blacks would remain part of an under class without the right to vote, join the army, or take on certain occupations, among a host of other restrictions.
Slaves from Africa had begun arriving in the Caribbean as early as 1502. Within only a few months they had begun rebelling and running away to the mountains. In fact, because of their tendency to flee and stir up plots among themselves and the Caribs, some whites had recommended that they no longer be brought to the Caribbean. Those whites who recommended that Black slaves no longer be brought to the Caribbean could have sensed or been aware of Black People's strong tradition of enduring injustices and eventually overcoming them. Whatever the explanation, the recommendation did not serve a purpose because white people in search of profits didn't allow recommendations like that to gain any momentum or become influential.
The Black slaves and the people who inhabited the Caribbean before white people came understood each other well and got along amicably. They had a lot of ideas about life in common, and they were intelligent enough to see who their natural enemies and natural allies were. As much as they had in common, there was one big difference between the Blacks and the Caribs. The Caribs and other native populations in North, South and Central America had no metaphysical resistance to the inhumane conditions white people were confronting them with, but Black People did. The actions of white people were so out of whack with anything the Caribs had ever known that they could not imagine what they would have to do to defend themselves against whites. They did not have the time to make the necessary adjustments and preserve their way of life. Their lot was to be exterminated. Black People had not only dealt with white power before, they had defeated it and frustrated it.
When white people brought Black People to the Caribbean as slaves, they added two ingredients to the mix. They added a labor force that could make white power rich, and they added a human force that was powerful enough to bring white power to its knees. By the mid 1700s, the whites were enjoying the fruits of the labor force. Soon afterwards, they would be experiencing the wrath of the human force.
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