The Return of Django

| February 8, 2013
African & Caribbean contributor - Joel O'Loughlin

African & Caribbean contributor – Joel O’Loughlin

Shock horror Tarantino has a new movie and it’s got folks talking about slavery!!! Should a white boy be depicting our holocaust in such a graphic way strewn with caustic language and his customary flair for screen violence?

Well if you think the screen version of slavery as crass, violent and brutal consider this eyewitness account of the real thing.

“On the foetid, sloppy and sickening slave deck were to be seen the remainder, consisting of men, women, and, children, huddled together; some emaciated to skeletons; some lying sick and heedless of all around; and, some on the point of passing into another world, where it would be hard to imagine they could suffer more than they had done in this; men and women lay promiscuously, some lying on their faces, some on their backs; and, the more enfeebled sat with their heads resting on the knees.

All were naked and had their skins besmeared with the filth in which they lay. On the upper deck were to be seen slaves of all ages from 30 years downwards; here also men, women and children lay or sat promiscuously and presented the same appearances as those on the slave deck.

A skeleton woman – quite naked – might be seen in a dying state, with an infant sucking the already half dead breast, while adjoining might be seen another apparently dead; her shrivelled breasts showed that her milk had long since gone, yet a starving baby held the nipple in its mouth and struggled hard to obtain what man’s cruelty had robbed it of.

Photo courtesy eyewitnesstohistory.com

Photo courtesy eyewitnesstohistory.com

Here, indeed might be seen a specimen of that affection which nature implants in the bosom of woman, for her children, and, which, would show that the civilised and uncivilised possess it alike.

In every case of misery, and where the woman was even senseless, or, apparently dead, or dying, her little baby was firmly clutched to her bosom as if it were the only tie that held her to life”.

Read more at www.scottishcatholicarchives.org.uk/mcclement.

After that enjoyable ride on the cruiseline from West Africa, my ancestors could look forward to idyllic plantation life as described by another eyewitness.

It was a girl lying at full length on the ground at the bottom of the gully, evidently intending to hide herself from us in the bushes.

‘Who are you, there?’

‘Sam’s Sall, sir.’

‘What are you skulking there for?’

The girl half rose, but gave no answer.

‘Have you been here all day?’

‘No, sir.’

‘How did you get here?’

The girl made no reply.

‘Where have you been all day?’

The answer was unintelligible.

After some further questioning, she said her father accidentally locked her in, when he went out in the morning.

‘How did you manage to get out?’

‘Pushed a plank off, sir, and crawled out.’

The overseer was silent for a moment, looking at the girl, and then said, ‘That won’t do; come out here.’ The girl arose at once, and walked towards him. She was about eighteen years of age.

A bunch of keys hung at her waist, which the overseer espied, and he said, ‘Your father locked you in; but you have got the keys.’ After a little hesitation, she replied that these were the keys of some other locks; her father had the door-key.

Jamie Foxx as Django. Photo courtesy radiotimes.com

Jamie Foxx as Django. Photo courtesy radiotimes.com

Whether her story was true or false, could have been ascertained in two minutes by riding on to the gang with which her father was at work, but the overseer had made up his mind.’

That won’t do,’ said he; ‘get down.’ The girl knelt on the ground; he got off his horse, and holding her with his left hand, struck her thirty or forty blows across the shoulder with his tough, flexible, ‘raw-hide’ whip (a terrible instrument for the purpose).

They were well laid on, at arm’s length, but with no appearance of angry excitement on the part of the overseer. At every stroke the girl winced and exclaimed, ”Yes, sir!’ or ‘Ah, sir!’ or ‘Please, sir!’ not groaning or screaming.

At length he stopped and said, ‘Now tell me the truth.’ The girl repeated the same story. ”You have not got enough yet,’ said he; ‘pull up your clothes-lie down.’

The girl without any hesitation, without a word or look of remonstrance or entreaty, drew closely all her garments under her shoulders, and lay down upon the ground with her face toward the overseer, who continued to flog her with the raw-hide, across her naked loins and thighs, with as much strength as before.

She now shrunk away from him, not rising, but writhing, groveling, and screaming, ‘Oh, don’t, sir! Oh, please stop, master! Please, sir! Please, sir! Oh, that’s enough, master! Oh, Lord! Oh, master, master! Oh, God, master, do stop! Oh, God, master! Oh, God, master!

Quentin Tarantino on set of Django. Photo courtesy blogs.indiewire.com

Quentin Tarantino on set of Django. Photo courtesy blogs.indiewire.com

‘A young gentleman of fifteen was with us; he had ridden in front, and now turning on his horse, looked back with an expression only of impatience at the delay.

It was the first time I had ever seen a woman flogged. I had seen a man cudgeled and beaten, in the heat of passion, before, but never flogged with a hundredth part of the severity used in this case.

I glanced again at the perfectly passionless but rather grim business-like face of the overseer, and again at the young gentleman, who had turned away; if not indifferent he had evidently not the faintest sympathy with my emotion.

Only my horse chafed. I gave him rein and spur and we plunged into the bushes and scrambled fiercely up the steep acclivity.

Stephen with maid. Photo courtesy bfi.org.uk

Stephen with maid. Photo courtesy bfi.org.uk

The screaming yells and the whip strokes had ceased when I reached the top of the bank. Choking, sobbing, spasmodic groans only were heard. I rode on to where the road, coming diagonally up the ravine, ran out upon the cotton-field. My young companion met me there, and immediately afterward the overseer.

He laughed as he joined us, and said: ‘She meant to cheat me out of a day’s work, and she has done it, too.’ “Thank you Quentin no matter what they say about your movie, if it encourages us to look deeper into this unbelievable passage of history – it’s all good.

Thanks for not allowing me to cauterise the sting and stink of it from my ancestral memory.

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Category: African Caribbean, Culture & Society

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