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Death Before Dishonor in the Caribbean

Both Native Americans and Africans chose suicide as form of resistance - an act made to rob a perpetrator of an opportunity to kill and allow a victim to meet death on his/her own terms.

Throughout history, suicide has been seen as a form of resistance, the ultimate act of defiance. Here are two famous examples from history:

The Siege of Masada that occurred during the Great Jewish Revolt that began in 67 C.E ended when the 967 defenders led by Elazar ben Yair, with the war all but won by the Romans, made the decision to die rather than be taken prisoner.

In India, mass suicide, also known as Jauhar, was carried out by women and men of the defeated community, when the fall of a city besieged by the enemy forces was certain. Some of the known cases of Jauhar of Rajput women are at the fort of Chittaur in Rajasthan, in 1303, in 1535, and 1568.

There are also examples of individuals taking their own lives as a form of protest.

After Samson had lost his great strength, he was imprisoned by the Philistines. When he was brought before the Philistines to entertain them he leaned against the support pillar of the temple they were all in and knocked down the pillar causing the temple to fall down on himself and 3,000 Philistines.

Another very famous individual suicide as an act of resistance is that of Cleopatra, the last Pharoah of independent Egypt, who took her own life to deny Octavian the pleasure of parading her in Rome as a captive as part of his Triumph after she and Marcus Antonius were decisively defeated by the Roman forces under Octavian.

Some more recent examples of mass suicide include:

•During the Turkish rule of Greece and shortly before the Greek War of Independence, women from Souli, pursued by the Ottomans, ascended the mount Zalongo, threw their children over the precipice and then jumped themselves, to avoid capture – an event known as the Dance of Zalongo.
•In the final phase of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, many of the fighters besieged in the "bunker" at Miła 18 killed themselves by ingesting poison rather than surrender to the Nazis.
•Germany was stricken by a series of unprecedented waves of suicides during the final days of the Nazi regime. 

This theme examines suicide - whether mass suicide or individual suicides as a form of resistance.

By viewing suicide as form of resistance—an act made to rob a perpetrator of an opportunity to kill and allow a victim to meet death on his/her own terms—we gain a better appreciation of the horrors Native Americans who resisted the Europeans and African freedom fighters, who were captured alive after staging a revolt or even conspiring to stage a revolt, faced.

Some favorite European forms of punishment included being burned alive, being dismembered, being boiled in oil, being whipped to death, being beheaded, being gibbeted, being hung in irons and starved, being broken at the wheel, being quartered and being mutilated.

This tells us that they embodied the sentiment made famous by Patrick Henry in 1775 prior to the start of the American revolutionary war “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.”

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