A Barbados Slave – “I Now Wished For The Last Friend, Death, To Relieve Me…”

olaudah-equiano-barbados-slave.jpg

“I was soon put down under the decks … with the loathsomeness of the stench and crying together, I became so sick and low that I was not able to eat, nor had I the least desire to taste anything. I now wished for the last friend, death, to relieve me…” – From the book … The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African

Friends, it is the weekend and although some of us have to work, most of our readers will have some time off in the next two days.

I urge you to read the full piece from a blogger who attended Westminster Abbey on March 27th for the national service to commemorate the abolition of slavery act. The story the Nigerian-born Barbados slave Olaudah Equiano is included in the article along with many other historical and contemporary references.

Grab a cup of coffee or a beer, sit down and take some time. It is worth it…

The Daily Barnabas Blog: Bicentenary of Slave Trade Abolition

Here is an excerpt from the middle of the article that talks about Toyin Agbetu – the fellow who interrupted the service by shouting at the Queen – but you really should read the entire article…

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Understandably, but sadly, the bicentenary of the Act of Parliament to abolish the transatlantic slave trade has stirred up a great deal of controversy and ill feeling. Different groups are using the occasion to push particular agendas, and it is all too easy to forget that slavery destroyed the lives of real human beings, of families, villages, whole societies.

We may not know the names of most of those who were enslaved – in fact, they were dehumanised by being given numbers or, sometimes, the names of kings and emperors (Olaudah Equiano, for example, had several names at different times, including Gustavus Vasa, the name of a Swedish king) – but each and every one of them was someone’s son or daughter or mother or father, filled with the gems of God-given talents and capacities, spiritual, moral and intellectual.

I felt Toyin Agbetu’s rage. It swept through the solemnity of the commemoration service in the Abbey like a gale through a forest. Whatever one thinks of his beliefs and his choice of a time and place to express his anger, there was no denying his rage.

Did Mr Agbetu achieve anything to improve the lot of Africa and Africans? I doubt it. But we learned something very different from him than we do from the likes of Bob Geldof and other white Europeans who are moved to raise funds and “do good” in Africa.

I am determined to learn more about this episode in history and to come to a deeper understanding of slavery and the slave trade…

… excerpt from The Daily Barnabas Blog: Bicentenary of Slave Trade Abolition

40 Comments

Filed under Africa, Barbados, History, Slavery

40 responses to “A Barbados Slave – “I Now Wished For The Last Friend, Death, To Relieve Me…”

  1. Patrick Porter

    As a white man I am ashamed by the way we treated the people that we made into slaves. It is a time in history that all of us should reflect on and learn some lessons from.
    What upsets me is the sudden urge of all these white celebs who are jumping on the bandwagon, either giving money or adopting babies. It is the new thing that I can see right though.
    What I want to see is the big countries giving not money but help in such areas as health, education, clean water, proper housing and so many other things.
    My heart hurts when I hear the stats of the number of chilren that a re dying throughout this world. We can make and destroy other peoples but we can’t help the worlds children.
    Every politican is always up on a soap box in the West about how bad things are in Africa but we do not see any of them making the smallest effort to help beyond words.
    It is time for this world to put away war and facions and start to help those who really need it.
    Yes slavery was a bad thing, but it still exists in Africa and the Middle East, where children are forced in slavery for either sex or manual labour. It is no different than 300 years ago. We have to work now to stop slavery that exists in our own world.
    We have to remember those who work for nothing ,abused at the hands of callous and terrible people.
    Again I appolise to all those on behalf of my ancestors for what they did to the people fo Africa that we enslaved. I hope that you all will accept what I have said above as coming from the heart.
    But let us not forget that we all still have to work together for the betterment of all our people.

  2. MONEY

    I want MONEY for the atrocities.

  3. Marcus2

    Thank you, Mr. Porter, for your kind words.

  4. Thanks

    Thanks Patrick, for apologising on all our behalf.
    God knows we need the guilt trip.

    Patrick…get Firefox browser.
    http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/

    Then go to their Add-on’s page, and install the StumbleUpon system extension for the
    browser.
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/search?q=stumble+upon&status=4

    Select your ‘areas of interest’ and start Stumbling Upon new stuff. It’ll help pass the days.

  5. Anonymous

    Mr.Porter had you personally enslaved?

  6. Straight talk

    I believe the British are committed to paying massive reparations, especially to Bajans…
    just as soon as they recieve their reparations from the Romans for 55BC enslavement.
    Rumour has it that the Huns have reneged on their deal to compensate for the sacking of Rome, so it may take awhile.

  7. John

    Here is a quote from the book by Olaudah Equiano about where he was born. This contradicts what he later said of his origins, born in the New World, but nonetheless these are his words.

    “The kingdom (of Benin) is divided into many provinces or districts; in one of the most remote and fertile of which I was born, in the year 1745, situated in a charming fruitful vale, named Essaka.

    The distance of this province from the capital of Benin and the sea coast must be very considerable; for I had never heard of white men or Europeans, nor of the sea; and our subjugation to the king of Benin was little more than nominal; for every transaction of the government, as far as my slender observation extended, was conducted by the chief’s and elders of the place.”

  8. John

    Anonymous

    It is Patrick, not Mr. Porter. Mr. Porter was Patrick’s father.

  9. John

    Here is a quote from the book describing his family.

    “My father, besides many slaves, had a numerous family, of which seven lived to grow up, including myself and a sister, who was the only daughter. As I was the youngest of the sons, I became, of course the greatest favourite with my mother, and was always with her; and she used to take particular pains to form my mind.”

  10. John

    Here is a quote from his book about the day he was kidnapped.

    “Generally, when the grown people in the neighbourhood were gone far in the fields to labor, the children assembled together in some of the neighbour’s premises to play: and commonly some of us used to get up a tree to look out for any assailant, or kidnapper that might come upon us; for they sometimes took those opportunities of outr parent’s absence, to attack and cary off as many of us as they could seize.” …………………………. “One day, when all our people were gone out to their works as usual, and only I and my dear sister were left to mind the house, two men and a woman got over our walls, and in a moment seized us both; and, without giving us time to cry out, or make resisitance, they stopped our mouths, tied our hands, and ran off with us to the nearest wood:”

  11. reality check

    Patrick Porter

    “What upsets me is the sudden urge of all these white celebs who are jumping on the bandwagon, either giving money or adopting babies. It is the new thing that I can see right though.”

    just maybe these celebs are color blind to the needs of beautiful, innocent children around the world and are prepared to adopt a rainbow family and educate them and teach them of love and tolerance. After all, the really rich ones are far past the point of looking for pr coverage or care what others think.

    Too much cynicism for me! Back to your spiritual roots and some deep breathing. Its hard enough to get people going in the right direction without having someone suspect their motives.

  12. John

    If time allows I’ll take a few more excerpts from the book to continue his story about how he got to the coast of Africa and had his first contact with Europeans.

    It is a fascinating journey he made as a boy.

    If you google Olaudah Equiano on the net you will see that there is some inconsistency in his story and he may not have been born in Africa, but the New World.

    Either way, his story is fascinating.

  13. John

    Here is a link that speaks of his origins and the possible inconsistency.

    http://www.brycchancarey.com/equiano/nativity.htm

  14. Patrick Porter

    reality check

    I call it I see it. It is a promotional gimmick for those people and nothing more. Sorry to say it but it is true

  15. Patrick Porter

    Anonymous
    I have not personally enslaved but my forefathers did as at one point they owned half the island. So I made the appology on their behalf

  16. John

    Patrick

    Is it really possible to apologise on behalf of one’s forefathers?

    At last count I have about 6 or seven different sets of ancestors ranging from Africa, through the Iberian Peninsula and over to Britain in the New World and possibly Amerindian from the New World.

    Does the Spanish/Portuguese in me apologise to the Amerindian in me (possible) for the extermination of my ancestors?

    Does the European in me apologise to the African in me for the trans atlantic slavery to which my ancestors from Africa were subjected?

    Does the African in me apologise to the African in me for selling my ancestors into slavery?

    The simplest answer I have found is to live my life as it has been granted to me to live and let the other guy/gal live his/her life as he/she sees fit.

    I do not expect any apology from anybody. So while I thank you for your apology on behalf of your forefathers, you really need not have done it on account of me or my forefathers.

    Life is tough all over. Let’s simply commit to live it with the zest our Creator gave us and not make it any harder for the other person, wherever or whoever they may be.

    If the opportunity arises to help the other person, let’s just help them, not out of any regret we may have for our forefathers, but because it is the right thing to do.

  17. Patrick Porter

    John

    I think that you know how I think and I thank you for your comments. But it still does not hide the fact that was done was wrong, in my many postings on this site if I said or did anything that was out of line, I take my licks and appologise, such is the case in this instance
    It is like the present Government they don’t know the word sorry. It takes a man/woman to admit his/her mistakes, if we can all do that then we would be better off

  18. John

    Patrick

    I am not trying to hide anything. What was done is done.

    We do more justice to our ancestors by learning from their mistakes and not repeating them than by trying to in someway atone for their evils.

    Life is tough enough as it is trying not to do evil of our own.

    We just have to live and let live.

    Let us say Owen has an ancestor who was a slave owner and one day he (ie Owen) got in the spirit and apologised for what his ancestor did. Suppose his ancestor owned my ancestor.

    It would not matter to me one way or another, even if he was to show me who his ancestor was and which of my ancestors his ancestor owned and what was done to my ancestor by his.

    I’d probably be more interested in which spirit he had in him because he makes the decisions that can affect my life and the life of my family.

    Reparations, and making him pay for what his ancestor did mine would be the farthest thing from my mind.

  19. John

    John
    March 31st, 2007 at 9:18 pm
    If time allows I’ll take a few more excerpts from the book to continue his story about how he got to the coast of Africa and had his first contact with Europeans.

    Here is a bit more of Olaudah’s story. This is his account of the separation from his sister.

    “The next day proved a day of greater sorrow than I had yet experienced; for my sister and I were separated, while we lay clasped in each other’s arms. It was in vain that we besought them not to part us; she was torn from me, and immediately carried away, while I was left in a state of distraction not to be described. I cried and grieved continually; and for several days I did not eat anything but what food they forced into my mouth.”

  20. John

    and he continues:

    “At length, after many days traveling, during which I had often changed masters, I got into the hands of a chieftain, in a very pleasant country. This man had two wives and some children, and they all used me extremely well, and did all they could to comfort me; particularly the first wife who was something like my mother. …………………

    He speaks of his attempt to escape then he goes on…

    “Soon after this, my master’s only daughter, and child by his first wife, sickened and died, which affected him so much that for some time he was almost frantic, and really would have killed himself, had he not been watched and prevented. However, in a small time afterwards he recovered, and I was again sold.”

  21. John

    He speaks of the different languages he encountered in his travels through Africa and their similarities.

    “From the time I left my own nation I always found somebody that understood me till I came to the seacoast. The languages of different nations did not totally differ, nor were they so copious as those of Europeans, particularly English.They were therefore easily learned; and, while I was journeying thus through Africa, I acquired two or three different tongues.”

  22. Chase

    Patrick.

    Thanks for your words.It does take a man to admit wrong.
    I dont think the big countries in the world care much about the suffering of Africa.They have all robbed and raped it of all they can and now has divided it to the point of no return.Almost every country in Europe had a part to play in the demise of Africa but frankly one should not expect any reparations.
    I agree with John…what is done is done and it is up to us now not to ever let this happen again while getting rid of the remnants of the past.
    I am not saying to forget the past …….just not to let it cloud our future.We can really live as one if we really tried ….I believe this but some just dont.

  23. John

    Slavery was and is awful, but it was/is part of life. People just did it, and still do it.

    I believe help from developed countries to developing countries should not come through reparations. It is impossible to quantify and noone will ever agree.

    Help should come because one country/person sees a way to help another country/person and it is the right thing to do.

    How we know if it is the right thing to do is if the country/person receiving the help also sees it as the right thing to do.

    On the individual level, I much rather help someone less fortunate than myself because I know it is right than because of some debt which obligates me to help that person.

    Similarly, I would more gladly receive help from someone more fortunate than myself because I can see the person is also giving it gladly, and not because the person feels he owes me something.

    May sound like charity, and people speak of charity as though it is demeaning, … but the Bible also has something to say about charity which maybe worth checking again …….. and noone (including me who doesn’t really go) has to go to church to check what it says if they don’t want.

    Just listen to the little voice which is always there to guide us.

  24. True Native

    John

    What a sensible analysis. I find that most of your blogs are well thought out and reasonable.

  25. Yardbroom

    With regard to the slave issue and their descendants:

    There is an old American native proverb,

    ” You can only know how another man feels, when you have walked in his moccasins”

  26. Rumplestilskin

    Slavery went and is past, cannot now be changed. How far to go back, to Roman times, for the Roman descendants to pay also?

    Put energy, both verbal and physical into correcting problems that we CAN correct today.

    Darfur, Zimbabwe, Palestine, Middle East generally.

    How about South America, say Panama where many bajans went and are now so poor?

    Why not put energy into helping them and correcting a current problem, rather than the past?

    A lot of wasted time and words, red herrings.

  27. Rumplestilskin

    Seek what you find. If its negativity you seek, its negativity you will get.

    If its upliftment and enlightenment, that is where you shall go.

    So dont talk of payback. Talk of raising what we have now. More international scholarships for our youth, so that they may experience many cultures.

    More opportunities for improved medical and scientific, social and spiritual training, internationally.

    Seek upliftment.

  28. Straight talk

    Way to go, Rumple the only way to cast off the only remaining and damaging legacy of the past,
    the “victim” mindset so obvious in too many postings.
    Let’s pray this bi centenary year sees the abolition of this mental slavery.

  29. Yardbroom

    Slavery has been around for a very long time, but slavery is in many forms and to varying degrees.

    It does not matter if Africans, Arabs or Europeans played a part, the basic point is that slavery was, and is wrong.

    Slavery between the same tribe, or same race is wrong, but different.

    Slavery of one race over another, with the underpinning principle for that servitude being that one race is ” superior ” to another, is of a different order, it also has a long lasting legacy which other forms of slavery does not.

    What I resent as a black man, is others telling me how I should feel eg; ” get over it, it was a long time ago.”

    Slavery was only abolished, yes abolished in Barbados only about one hundred and seventy odd years ago.

    I cannot speak for others and do not attempt to do so, but I have seen with my own eyes documents relating to my foreparents owned by others, it was not that long ago.

    I seek not to ask for an apology, it means nothing to me,

    ” I see only to speak the truth”.

  30. jinx oo7

    On the 15th of April , The Holocaust will be remembered. The Jewish peoples of this world (and others) will conduct their ceremonies, the survivors will gaze at their wrists tattooed with Hitlers numbers which will never fade and the country will be under a veil of grief…….for a day……. and then?
    THEY MOVE ON ……..vowing “This will never happen again” but they move on…..
    Why can´t we do the same?
    Why, should we in Barbados decide who gets the “Royal treatment” based on skin colour , and accent? Do Black people even like themselves? (oh of course , it´s because of Slavery) What of our “boys on the block” is that because of slavery too? ENOUGH! I have stood in lines waiting for a service and to see the way we treat each other is just heartbreaking!
    You want great service here? Forget about colour just get an “accent” … and fast! Sorry to say but it works wonders!
    Tally ho!!

  31. Yardbroom

    It is very easy to confuse issues and gather them together when they bear no relationship to each other, often confusing, without throwing much light on the issues under discussion.

    Barbadians might in some instances give poor service to each other, or interact on a personal level with others of the same race in a negative way. I find it difficult to see what these interactions have to do with slavery, even if this occurs with the youth from the supposed -omnipresent – block.

    Perhaps there is a need for proper training in the service sector, it could be the perception of ones position in the local community, or the perceived purchasing power of an individual, none of the above should account for bad service, but there is no link with slavery there.

    No one unless elected or appointed can take it upon themselves to speak for others – far less a race of people. However in a free society people are free to express an opinion, that opinion can be accepted or rejected by argument.

    Some people find slavery a difficult subject to deal with and they feel it is better for it not to be mentioned, thus everyone is comfortable.

    I have always felt that maturity manifest itself in being able to discuss hard topics in intelligent discussion. As regards “moving on” nothing can stand still, life is constantly in motion.

    The way an individual deals with issues is another matter, often people say “move on” what they really mean is, I am uncomfortable with this topic and I would rather it not being discussed.

    PS. It is not often you hear boys on the block use the hunting expression Tally ho!! much hunting with hounds is not done on the block, certainly not in Barbados.

  32. Patrick Porter

    Chase and John

    I agree with your statements. Yes, it is time to put it behind us and work together for a better future for our children and grandchildren. We should be mindful of what has happened so we don’t repeat it, but we need to climb the ladder upwards rather than downwards. I was out shopping for a small freezer that is why I was away. I got a real deal. Got a 3.5 cuft for 159.50 plus tax.

  33. jinx oo7

    Yard broom:
    Yes i do agree the dire need for training in the service sector (and perhaps most of the population)…. however if one is brought up with a very low self esteem from the get go, how do you train that element out of a person?. There may be no link here to slavery in your mind but I really am tired of hearing about “the poor black man syndrome” . (and yes i do here people still blaming the slave trade for this) Ironically i do know of very ,very successful “black buisness men ” here who are just as professional as they come, pleasant to interact with and above all else you can see that they respect themselves first…. they have been lucky enough to have that instilled in them from the beginning……
    It´s just this “chip on the shoulder ” which needs repair…..
    With regards to Tally Ho and Hounds…… Very sad indeed to see some sections of our society “over breeding pure breeds” for fighting… ect.. when their ancestors were used in that very same manner long long time ago…….

  34. Michele

    Guys been reading what you’ve been saying on this topic some days now.

    I tend to stay away from topics about slavery and the slave mentality the people still have today. Years ago a old lady lent me a book called The Greatest Black Men Who Ever Lived, black people have much to be proud about. The past and slavery did happen, we can’t turn the hands of time on that one. What we can do is try to see people and personality instead of skin colour, that’s what I was taught and it has done well for me.

    The slave trade was about money and power, the weak in the world still suffer today, many should be glad they are free today for many slavery is still an everyday thing.

    We should give thanks that we are free, and teach our children to respect others, it begins with the kids. To unlock the mind you might have to take a hard look at yourself but it it helps you have to.

    I used to wonder what was wrong with me, that if I walk in somewhere in Barbados people would look at me. I was very shy because of it, but I take no notice of that now, as I’m older and I understand alot more.

    It was said that if you have an accent, you get good service, no such luck for me in banks, shops and supermarkets at the airport I have got the down right rude. Some were never taught good manners or respect and no matter how much training they get, the manners or lack of never change.

    I must say I never get guys being rude to me only the girls maybe it just comes down to looks.lol.

  35. Rumplestilskin

    Michele, Hear Hear, well said.

    Yardbroom, I am going to admit that I am of mixed race. Maybe because of this I am not ‘linking ideas’ with you.

    I think I see people as people (not saying you do not), rather than a color first. Hence, to me I only see ‘moving on’ as just that, getting on with life and trying to develop, other considerations have really never entered the picture.

    But, regarding the impact on you and your direct forebears, I stand back and take your word on this.

    I will say however, that yes, we take note and vow that such will not happen again.

    But, then move on.

    By the way, ‘slavery’ links with servitude. Service does not. I agree with your notes on service above, but other posters make relevant points re self-esteem, respect that are critical in one’s attitude to service.

    If training is all that is required, that’s fine for an individual but if the cause of the bad service is an individual’s attitude, whether justifiable based on background or not, it is a much bigger problem.

    Resentment, lack of guidance etc can also cause bad service.

    Those are bigger problems.

  36. Rumplestilskin

    May I add some food for thought. How do you think globalisation and its impact on our industrues, investments etc impact or is impacted by this discussion?

    In my opinion, THAT today is a genuine concern both in terms of seeing ourselves as ‘working for’ internationally owned companies and also in terms of the service element.

    Where does service end and servitude begin?

    I think the line can be fairly well delineated.

  37. Yardbroom

    jinx 007

    Your “subliminal” message shows more about you as a person, than you realise.

    quote ” Yes I agree the dire need for training in the service sector ( and perhaps most of the population )….. however if one is brought up with a very low self esteem from the get go, how do you train that element out of a person? unquote

    I would not dare suggest that the majority of the Barbados population requires training of any kind, even if I prefaced my remarks with a “perhaps”. Neither would I suggest that you or others I do not know personally, have a low self esteem.

    As regards you being ” tired of hearing about the poor black man syndrome.” Wealth is something I have not mentioned in this discussion either in monetary or cognitive terms, however since you have alluded to it. I can assure you, I am black but certainly not poor.

    That there are black successful business men who are pleasant to interact with, I will not comment on, no more than to say that does not surprise me, that is the natural order of things, in as much as there are white successful businessmen who are pleasant to interact with.

    With regard to the “chip on the shoulder” epithet that is rather hackneyed and common place, often used when unable to identy specifics. I will let that pass.

    quote ” With regards to Tally Ho and Hounds….. very sad indeed to see some sections of our society ” over breeding pure breeds ” for fighting when their ancestors were used in that very same manner long long time ago.”…unquote

    I am rather surprised that you used the term “our society ” you clearly think you are not part of it, as you alluded to earlier. Your feigned sadness is wanting, and you have allowed your veneer of superficial respect and admiration, for the successful black businessmen you know so well, to be punctured. Their ancestors came through the same “breeding” process as you are eager to point out.

    Your reference to the past when it is convenient to make a point, that you hold dear to your inner self, has unwittingly exposed you, for what you are.

    I am fortunate to know many white people who are not like you, and my life has been and is the richer for it, as regards training – I will leave that for the animals – if cognition is required I will leave that for others to judge.

    Slavery and its effects should never be an uncomfortable subject and not discussed, your response has proved my point.

  38. jinx oo7

    Dear Yard Broom ,
    Thank you for “assuring” me that you are
    “black and certainly not poor”

  39. Coffee & Creme

    Geeze.. Straight Talk took the words right out of my mouth !!!
    Patrick, your comments are appreciated and correct in the many ways that these large countries could do more to help suffering people especially on the African continent and other areas.

    Slavery did not start with Africa, nor was it exclusive one race enslaving another, but in many cases, tribes, clans etc. conquered in battles suffered such a fate. Reparations as such should be more than simply money as some seem to think here. Our past and history including slavery is what brought us here and evolved into sovereign states of proud people, yet we seem to think that black people were the only race of people to be enslaved. Slaves took all forms from many different civilizations from time immortal.

    Perhaps it is time that we as a people stop expecting the world to owe us everything and try to instead lift up and support each other. Perhaps we could start by not confusing “service” and “servitude” as mentioned by Jinx007.
    We have come too far to be still allowing our history to dictate our attitudes and remain one of our greatest stumbling blocks.

  40. jinxoo7

    Hummm,
    Now i really DO wonder , If some think the Bajan population needs no “training” then why the “NISE INITIATIVE”??
    Why “TOURISM IS OUR BUSINESS, LETS PLAY OUR PART” a familiar tourism promo since way back when…Who is being targeted here ? Just a few lost souls?
    Clearly there are others who think Barbados needs an attitude overhaul. I´m sure i heard some reference being made lately to PSV drivers being sent back to the classroom for World Cup?
    Can someone “enlighten” me on this?
    sending psv drivers back to the classroom