ARE WE STILL PROFITING FROM THE SLAVE TRADE?
This was a question posed to me (albeit with his tongue placed firmly in his cheek) by one of my very good friends when I proudly announced the release of my first novel; SLAVE: Escaping the Chains of Freedom. At first I laughed heartily but as the mirth passed and died away I actually started to think; could this be true?
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From its inception, and I’m not just referring to the introduction of the transatlantic slave trade some 400 years ago, but at the very start of civilization, slavery has not only been common but always seems to be set up as a necessary part of the world infrastructure making it big business. All the ancient empires and early ‘super powers’ dating back some 11,000 years; Greece, Rome, Egypt, China, India, just to name a few, make reference to the use of slaves within their social systems.
But now, even after slavery has been officially outlawed the world over (though we all know it is still in practice – just ask any one of your local interns!!) it appears that it’s not just the actual business of the trade that produces profit but the story behind the man or woman enslaved that so captures the imaginations of another human that we’re all willing to put our hands in our pockets and pay heartily to hear their story told. The Life of William Grimes, published 1825, was reportedly the first book-length autobiography written by a fugitive American slave but this by far does not over shadow the literally thousands of biographies or autobiographies, books and pamphlets that were to follow; in fact it seems that throughout the nineteenth century some 6,000 stories of the plight of the freed or escaped slave were published and sold through this growing medium.
Following in the wake of the hugely successful, mega bestseller, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, (Harriet Beecher Stowe), Twelve Years a Slave; the oh so true story of kidnapped slave, Solomon Northup, was first written in 1853 and was an immediate hit selling some 30,000 copies. And now, years on, several editions later, following a made-for-television film from 1984 (Solomon Northup’s Odyssey), this ex-slaves story is about to be immortalized by the mega bucks of Hollywood with none other than A-lister Brad Pitt purportedly playing one of the leading roles.
Not counting the recently released Django Unchained (which, according to the HollywoodReporter, came in #1 at the Box Office on its opening night raking in a fantastic $4.6 Million in one day with much much higher monetary expectations to come), there are reportedly another 7 slave themed movies expected in just 2013 alone with stars from Morgan Freeman to Chiwetel Ejiofor to Cuba Gooding Jr and a myriad of others, all gracing our screens with what will undoubtedly be superb heart rendering moments of shear brilliance as they each portray the lives of the lowly slave. And all of them are expected to be box office gold – and we all know ‘gold’ in Hollywood means just that – GOLD!!
So what am I saying? Am I advocating that all stories of human captivation and degradation be banned from the sales market? Absolutely not. But I would urge us all to tread carefully when we speak about this trading of slaves and remember that over thousands of years literally millions of innocent beautiful lives have been lost, thrown away and buried alive. It is these people who we are remembering and I would personally hate to think that, just as with the slave Gladiators that fought in the Roman coliseums of old, their lives were lost and their stories told purely for the entertainment of the masses.
Excerpt from SLAVE: Escaping the Chains of Freedom
It’s 18th Century New York and the Declaration of Independence has just been read. Albert Shelton, black slave trader speaks to Hezekiah Thomas, freed slave;
“There they stand declaring all men are equal, whilst their own homes are filled with slaves and some of them bought from my very own stock. If they really mean what they say and we are now suddenly expected to assume equality then what of this trade? Don’t they realize the damage they pose with that one sentence? It has the potential to totally destroy the entire industry. I have made my fortune off the trade. Without it I am undone.”
Jacqueline Malcolm: SLAVE: The Trilogy published courtesy of Seaburn Publishing Group.
~Thank you for taking the time to read this article and receive insight into Malcolm’s view on the history of Slavery. If you like this, you will definitely want to return Friday for an in-depth interview with the author herself.