Complete a 2-3 page paper answering ONE of these questions using primary sources:
1. What is “right” and “wrong” in the estimation of the writers about the capture and sale of human beings? How do they justify slavery? On what grounds do they protest against the institution?
2. Compare the different formats for these readings (official chronicle, a scholarly essay, a personal memoire). How do they differ in their viewpoints?
3. What are the essential differences or similarities between the European-Indigenous encounter we’ve been studying so far and the European-African encounter we’ve looked at this week?
Your case study for this module includes first-hand accounts of people involved in the slave trade in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The link for the third source is “broken” on the National Humanities Center site. You can find the third source here:
• https://web.archive.org/web/20200301044410, smtID=3&psid=53
Question: What is “right” and “wrong” in the estimation of the writers about the capture and sale of human beings? How do they justify slavery? On what grounds do they protest against the institution?
The capture and sale of human beings, or slavery, has been a controversial and morally charged issue throughout history. The first-hand accounts of people involved in the slave trade in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries offer a unique insight into the justifications and protests surrounding the institution of slavery. In this paper, we will examine the writings of these individuals to understand their views on what is “right” and “wrong” in the capture and sale of human beings and their justifications and protests against slavery.
The writers who support slavery justified their position on various grounds. Some argued that slavery was a necessary and natural part of human society, with some even claiming that Africans were inferior and needed to be “civilized” through enslavement. For example, Portuguese explorer and slave trader, Francisco de Lacerda, in a letter to the King of Portugal in 1556, wrote that Africans were “a people without laws or religion” and that enslaving them was a means to “convert them to our holy faith and laws.” Similarly, Bartolome de Las Casas, a Spanish colonist, initially supported the enslavement of Native Americans but later changed his views, writing in his “Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies” that slavery was a “great injustice” and that the native people were not inferior but equal to Europeans.
On the other hand, writers who protested against slavery argued that it was a violation of human rights and dignity. In his autobiography, “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano,” Equiano, a former slave who became an abolitionist, describes the inhumane treatment he and other slaves endured, including being kidnapped from their homes and families, forced to endure brutal transportation conditions, and subjected to physical and sexual abuse. Equiano’s narrative helped to galvanize the anti-slavery movement and bring attention to the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade.
The primary sources from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries offer a glimpse into the complex and often contradictory justifications and protests surrounding the institution of slavery. Writers who supported slavery often justified it on the basis of perceived cultural and racial differences, while writers who opposed it focused on the inhumane treatment of slaves and the violation of their basic human rights. The perspectives of these writers are important for understanding the historical roots of slavery and its lasting impact on societies around the world.
de Lacerda, F. (1556). Letter to the King of Portugal. In National Humanities Center, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Student Analysis (pp. 10-12). Retrieved from http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/amerbegin/power/text3/text3read.htm
Equiano, O. (1789). The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. Retrieved from https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/equiano/equiano.html
Las Casas, B. (1552). Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. Retrieved from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/20321/20321-h/20321-h.htm