slave life expectancies...

Rereading the book “1001 things everyone should know about the south” but a remark has raised my curiousity…Speaking of indigo growing, the authors mention this was a ‘slave grown crop’ but add “‘indigo negroes’ had notoriously short life expectancies.”

Okay, why? What so bad about indigo as compared with tobacco, cotton, rice and sugar cane, that it cut life spans?

The production of indigo required processing multiple times with various chemicals, some of which could be toxic and hazardous. (wikipedia article on indigo dye)

Remember that although indigo may have been worse, sugar cane and rice were incredibly deadly as well. So much so that the only reason that the slave population increased was because of importation. Especially in the West Indies with sugar.

We seem to be talking about slavery as though it was a thing of the past.

I think that there was a U.N. report saying that there are more slaves in existance today then at any time in history.

And we’re talking actuaL slaves here not indentured people.

I can see where the production (planting, tending and harvesting) of sugar cane and rice might be construed as hazardous and possibly even dangerous at times, but “incredibly deadly”? In what way, do you surmise that it was such? :dubious: Cite, please?

And what made the production of sugar in the ‘West Indies’ “especially” deadly? So much more so, that it required the importation of slaves to offset deaths. Cite?

I’m not a historian by any stretch, but from what I know on the subject I would have to surmise that any increases in slave populations were due mainly to the increased cultivation of sugar cane, not because it was inherently “incredibly deadly”.

Deadly due to exposure to mosquito borne disease including malaria and yellow fever etc

Slaves were definitely given an extremely hard time down in the West Indies. But it was not due to the crops or the environmental conditions themselves (although small pox and tropical diseases did cause mortality), but because the working conditions in the West Indies were so over-the-top brutal. It was where slaves were “seasoned” or “broken in” after barely surviving the Middle Passage. There was no humanity down there.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that the only successful slave rebellion happened in the West Indies.

Planting sugar in the West Indies was already dangerous and backbreaking, but it was even worse on slaves because they had to do everything while being barely fed, barely clothed, barely housed, and overworked: ~19hrs day/7 days a week during harvest. And that’s not counting the tropical diseases that ran rampant.

On slave increase (bolding mine):

Cite: Alan Taylor’s American Colonies pg: 213, 324

The fact that the sugar plantations were deathcamps is proven by simple demographics. Millions of slaves were imported, but the population was not millions. Contrast that to the American south, where the population of slaves was much larger than the number of slaves imported. In the Indies the slaves were dying. On the continent the slaves were living and reproducing. Exactly why the Indies were so deadly we can argue about, but they were deadly.

I stand corrected (and slightly humbled). My sincere thanks for educating and enlightening me on the subject. :slight_smile:

ETA: Excellent cite, by the way.

The major cause of death in the W.Indies at that time for both slaves and non slaves was disease, major among them Yellow fever and Malaria.

At that time the causes and spread of disease were not understood, it being believed that it was transmitted by deadly vapours.

Army units sent as garrisons during the Napoleonic wars were decimated by it.

Does anyone know what the life expectancy of modern day slaves is, have tried googling but I think that I’m doing it wrong.