Slaves: A Road to Freedom

This past  25th, of  March was International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave, which occurred over 400 years ago.  This is done in honour and remembrance of those who suffered and died in the hands of the brutal slavery system. It is  also  a day to raise awareness against  present racism and prejudice. 

I like to travel, so in 2018, I visited a friend who lives in Zanzibar, Tanzania, where I had the opportunity to visit the Memorial Slave Center and the Old Slave Market in Stone Town. I have  to confess that I learned a lot, but also the entire tour was not always a pleasant moment. There was a time when I was mad, sad, and had to take a deep breath not to cry because this is part of  the story of my ancestor (s) who made a brutal journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

For example, I entered the slave chambers, which were the places the slaves were kept before been auctioned at the market.  These are small, cold, and dark. The bigger of the 2 chambers was for women and children, and the smaller one was for men.  

Slaves chamber

Trafficking people, sex slavery, and work exploitation are some of the most lucrative crimes committed today to thousands of girls and women worldwide. These crimes  can be perpetrated in the victims’ own countries, or abroad. Today, this is known as modern slavery.

However, this is not a new crime, because the slave trade was executed through the 16th to 19th centuries by Europeans, Arabs, and Indians. People from different cultures and language groups were taken from their home countries to be transported in horrible conditions (minimum food and water, fatal illnesses, exhaustion etc), for weeks or months.

The slavery and slave trade business had different routes. Slaves were transported to the New World from West African countries. Brazil was one of the principal destinations, particularly the Northeast state of Bahía. Other destinations were Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Jamaica and the south of the United States of America, (Louisiana, Carolinas, Mississippi, Alabama and others). 

Other route was from the interior of Africa; countries such as Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and many others to the trade centers; Kilwa, Tanzania mainland, Quelimade, Mozambique, and Stone Town, which became the main trade center for the region of Eastern Africa. 

Once they were sold at the market, they started another journey across the Indian Ocean to countries such as Persia, Ottoman Empire, Mauritius, Madagascar, Arabia etc. 

Once all the slaves arrived to  their “last destination”, they were forced to work on sugar, cotton, clove, coconut and many other plantations. Besides,  they lived in  inhumane conditions for many years. 

According to a report of the United Nations, more than 15 million women, men, and children were victims of the transatlantic trade centuries ago. Moreover, it is estimated that every year around 40,000 to 50,000 were taken to Zanzibar. 

I want to remember all those women and girls who were tortured, raped, killed, auctioned, and exploited to work on a plantation. Thousands were separated from their family, had their original names changed, gave birth to children products of rape, obligated to breastfeed the master’s children and many other inhumane acts. 

On the other hand, a lot of these women fought and died for slavery freedom. One of those women was Harriet Tubman, whose original name was Amarinta Harriet Ross, nicknamed by her parents “Minty”. She was one of the nine children of the marriage of Harriet Green and Ben Ross who were enslaved in Dorchester County, Maryland.

Harriet was a leader in abolishing slavery in the United State of America. She escaped in 1849 to preside over 300 enslaved people and her family members (including her parents) to freedom along the route of the Underground Railroad. For this act, she received the name of ” Moses”. 

She also participated in the Civil War by helping the Union Army as a spy, nurse, guerrilla soldier, and other roles. She is considered to be the first African from the United States of America to serve  in the military. Once the war ended, she devoted helping the impoverished former slaves and the elders.  

Tubman’s life was not painted in the colour pink. Three of her sisters were sold to a distant plantation and later the master also intended to do the same to her younger brother. 

 Last year, a movie was released describing her life. The main role was acted by Cynthia Erivo along with Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr., Jennifer Nettles and others. Cynthia was nominated for the Academy Awards  in the category of Best Actress and Best Original Song for the same movie “Stand Up”.

 Last year, a movie was released describing her life. The main role was acted by Cynthia Erivo along with Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr., Jennifer Nettles and others. Cynthia was nominated for the Academy Awards  in the category of Best Actress and Best Original Song for the same movie “Stand Up”.

Another story to remember is Matilde McCrear’s. According to a study conducted by Hannah Durkin, from Newcastle University, Matilde was one of the last  ladies  from the transatlantic slave trade. She died at the age of 83 in Selma, Alabama. Many stories like these are still to be discovered over the years. So, for me, it’s not just one day for  the remembrance of slaves, but instead,   an every day issue because they are part of my life story.

“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” Harriet Tubman 

Author: Women Wheel

Women Wheel a community online that develops different women topics. Here we cover my experiences and others based on sexuality, gender, violence, culture, climate change, literature, womanhood, feminism, and decolonization stories that will link us together regardless of where you live, age, and race. Our wheel is durable and resistant, the same as the women’s fight, voices, and actions. Join the movement of the wheel!

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