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How slavery was maintained in the Caribbean

Use of force

Faced with shortages of the manpower needed to maintain the system of slavery and to defend their colonies from their European rivals, the European interlopers put aside their racial prejudices and opted for pragmatism by establishing black military units. This method was employed by all the European colonial rulers with the exception of the Danes. The British established the West India Regiments and the Loyal/Black Rangers of Dominica and Grenada, the Dutch established the Black Rangers, the Spanish established various units based in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Florida and the French raised units in St. Domingue and the other French colonies.

Although the Africans who served in European colonial armies in the Caribbean were not trying to escape or overthrow the system of slavery, they were in fact literally fighting for their freedom. While they were enlisted, they were paid for their service and they served in the knowledge that after a period of meritorious service they would be granted their freedom so that they were literally fighting for their freedom.

Reign of Terror

In addition to the use of military force the Europeans also unleashed a reign of terror to try to keep the enslaved Africans in subjugation. The punishments that awaited unsuccessful escapees or rebels were brutal including being boiled in oil, being broken on the wheel or rack, being drawn, hanged and quartered, flogging involving hundreds of lashes, branding, being disfigured (having their noses slit or their ears cut off), being maimed (having the tendons of their ankles cut) and being forced to wear heavy iron collars or chains for long periods. Female escapees faced the additional prospect of gang rape.

Most of these forms of punishment seem to have been largely developed in Europe for use against enslaved persons and other 'miscreants' for centuries against other Europeans and others in the 'Old World' and were simply imported to the Caribbean rather than being developed specifically for use against Africans.

As was the case with lynching of blacks in the USA, the murder and torture of Africans in the Caribbean was not carried out in secret behind closed doors. It was a public spectacle for entertainment of the general public including women and children.

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