The seasoning is a brutal process employed by White slave masters to tame their newly acquired African slaves to brutally a life of servitude. This period of adjustment, imposed by slave traders and owners, aimed to acclimatize slaves to their new environment physically, psychologically, and socially. The consequences were devastating, with high mortality rates and a litany of physical and mental challenges.
The practice of seasoning emerged during the era of transatlantic slave trade, a brutal period marked by the forced migration of millions of Africans to the Americas. Constrained in cramped, poorly ventilated spaces with inadequate food and water during the voyage. Upon arrival, these enslaved Africans faced a harsh reality as they were thrust into a foreign land with a culture vastly different from their own.
Slave owners, intent on preparing their human property for a life of servitude, implemented a grueling process known as “the seasoning.” This process was designed to instill both the necessary labor skills and an acceptance of the extreme workload and unfamiliar culture into the newly arrived slaves.
This seasoning process took place immediately after the arrival of enslaved Africans and lasted one to three years. New slaves were described as “outlandish” on arrival. Those who survived this “seasoning process” became “seasoned”, and typically commanded a higher price in the market.
The seasoning process involved subjecting enslaved Africans to grueling physical labor, aimed not only at exhausting the body but also breaking the spirit. Simultaneously, there was a deliberate campaign of dehumanization and coercion, with the goal of making them more easily controlled.
Cultural erasure played a crucial role in the process, as slaves were forcibly separated from their native languages, name, traditions, and familial bonds. The intentional dismantling of cultural identity created a void that slaveholders sought to fill with their own dictates.
Fear was also a potent tool in the seasoning process. Slave masters utilized violence, intimidation, and the constant threat of punishment to instill a deep-seated fear in their slaves. Religious indoctrination was also wielded as a tool, often used to enforce obedience by emphasizing divine approval of slavery and punishment for rebellion. This combination of physical and spiritual coercion aimed to break the will of the enslaved individuals.
Collectively, these methods formed a comprehensive assault on the physical, psychological, cultural, and religious dimensions of enslaved Africans, with the ultimate goal of molding them into compliant, docile laborers severed from their roots and resigned to their predetermined fate.
Slave traders & owners believed that if slaves survived this critical period of seasoning, they were less likely to die and the psychological element would make them more easily controlled. However, the mortality rates during this phase were alarmingly high, with death rates estimated at 25 to 50 percent in the British Thirteen Colonies in North America alone. In Cuba, deaths in a single year were between 7 and 12 percent while the mortality rate reached as high as 33 percent in Jamaica. In Brazil, an estimated 25 percent of enslaved people died during the seasoning process.
During the seasoning, confronted with persistent threats of beatings and additional mistreatment, some enslaved Africans demonstrated their resistance to enslavement through visible actions. Some opted to end their lives, while others attempted to escape by running away. However, the latter faced limited success primarily due to their unfamiliarity with the surroundings and the isolating conditions prevalent on major plantations in the Americas.