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Suicide and Seasoning in British American Plantations

Suicide and Seasoning in British American Plantations

Chapter:
(p.46) Two Suicide and Seasoning in British American Plantations
Source:
The Power to Die
Author(s):
Terri L. Snyder
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226280738.003.0002

The threat of suicide by enslaved people was particularly acute during the initial years of enslavement, as they were discharged from ships, dispersed to plantations and cities, and confronted new world labor regimes. Planters referred to this early period of acclimation and adjustment as “seasoning.” Once on American ground, routine features of slavery -- labor regimes, anomic isolation, the renewal of separation from shipmates, multiple sales, sexual coercion, corporal punishment, and even the English criminal justice system -- also shaped enslaved peoples’ deaths by suicide. In response, some newly imported enslaved Africans achieved their deaths directly and indirectly. In addition, once in America some Africans continued to believe that death by suicide would return them to their homes, reunite them with their ancestors, or allow them to be reborn into their families. The initial months after disembarkation appear to have intensified that sentiment among enslaved people, evidence of which can be found throughout eighteenth century in British America. If not a good death, self-destruction was an avenue of escaping slavery.

Keywords:   seasoning, slavery, suicide, spiritual

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