The Story of Modou – Chapter 3 – Slaves for Sale!

The monster we were on finally reached the other side of the river bank exactly 8 weeks and 3 days after it had started. I knew this as I had scratched a line on the wooden pole in front of me with my chains with every day that passed. I heard the captain shout Land Ahoy, but I don’t know what that meant. I also heard him say that this good here ship Solomon had landed safely in the West Indies, or to be exact, Jamaica. The ship then sailed north to the south of North America. The crew at the sight of land started jumping up and down, and shouting and singing strange songs to celebrate. I felt so nervous as I didn’t know what was going to happen next, yet I felt a small sensation of relief Here, though we were brutally pushed off the ship and had to walk through the water to reach dry land. The coldness of the water eventually numbed the pain in my ankles, as I had got used to the horrifying wash. We were still whipped to keep us moving all the way. There was no chance of escape as the white men were clearly holding guns. As much as I wanted the pain to be over, dying now wouldn’t be the right thing to do. We were then pushed into huge cages about a mile in land. My sister and aunt were next door, and through the bars of wood I talked to them. We kept each other going. We were kept there for three days. Then the captain took us out of the cage one by one. I was first. They dragged me over to the captain who was standing by what was called a table. They first washed off the remaining dirt I had on me. I tried to struggle free but I soon learnt there was no point as they had total control over me. They then got an oily mixture and pasted it over my wound, all the little cuts I had got. It was extraordinarily painful and it hurt the most on the biggest cut I had which I could feel was on my lower back. I screeched out in agony, and I could see the shocked faces of those that were about to have the same treatment done to them. They were scared and sad, and jumped back when I screamed out loud.  The captain then inspected me, and told one of the men helping carry out this task to put some tree tar over my wound to cover it up. He said I needed to be in an almost perfect condition to fetch his high price at auction. Now, as the man put that tar on me, if you thought that the oil seemed bad enough, the tar was much, much worse. They then forced open my mouth with their hands and checked my teeth. They said they were good. I was then given a drink, but I refused, so my mouth was once again forced open and the vile liquid was pored down my throat. Two guards by my cage then dragged me back into the cage and took another person out. I just collapsed on the floor right in front of my sister and aunt. We were then taken to an auction the next day. We were all chained together and had to march into a nearby town. Here we were all kept in cages, in groups of say five to ten. I could no longer see my family. All day we were inspected from outside the cage by potential buyers, who were looking for a hard worker, and also a girl who could give them more. After midday it was time for the sale. A man was standing higher up than the crowd of rich white people. Two guards opened the door to my cage and took me out, and dragged me onto the stage. Then lots of white people came and looked at me, really close. I was so scared yet I just felt like killing them all, but all my strength had been drained. The man selling me said I was in prime condition and would be the perfect worker on their plantations. He then started to do this weird chant, and some of the men put their hand up when he said certain words. After a few minutes of this, well that’s how long it seemed anyway, the seller said sold to Alexander Bluebell for one hundred and seventy pounds. I didn’t know how much that was, but I knew it must have been a lot. I was then dragged off stage and tied to a pole nearby where I was told to wait. I saw everyone sold. Including my aunt. She was sold to George Hooper for seventy pounds. Then it was my sister’s time to be sold. I hoped and prayed for her to be sold to whoever bought me, because no matter how much I hated all these people, if we had to go through it, I wanted to be with my sister. She was like my best friend. The person who bought me put in a few offers, but it was not enough. She was sold to Roswell King, and he said he’d enjoy her lots. I felt disgusted at what he had said, but there as nothing I could do about it. After everyone had been sold, the person who had bought me went up to the seller and told him to do something. The next thing I knew I was being held down by one of the guards, while another use a blunter knife to scrape off the tar and remove the puss from the cut on my lower back. The pain was immense, and I just kept on screaming at the top of my voice. My new owner then came up to me and asked me if I was o.k. I said yes, as I had be learning English from what I was hearing all the time, as I was a great learner, but I wasn’t really o.k. He said, wow, you know a little English then do you, well I think I’ll call you James. So what’s your name then, he asked me. I said my name Modou but now James.  He said well you do know English then. Now you better forget your old name. You are not Modou anymore. You are now James. You understand me? I said yes. He then untied me from the post, and took off my feet chains. He said he thinks he could trust me, and that he was one of the nicest slave owners around. He said he would look after me and be nice, if I showed respect back. He seemed quite nice compared to the over white men, but I was still cautious, encase he was like them really.. Well I wasn’t exactly going to run away just yet was I?  He took me over to his carriage which had a cart behind it. He sat me down on it, and told me to stay there. He then got on to his seat far in front of me and got his driver to make the two animals that looked like skinny buffalos that I found out were horses, pull the cart. It was a long journey to my new home. It took at least a good few hours. When we arrived, I was given some clothes to wear. But I was told to stick out my leg. A hot iron was placed on it. It felt so hurtful, but I didn’t make to much noise. It wasn’t to bad, not as bad as the things that happened on the slave ship monster. I didn’t want to make a bad impression on my new owner.

My dad would want me to fight. But I’m not afraid any more. They can’t do any more damage than they already have. I just accept it. I can’t help it. I’m just that rare sort of person. I don’t really mind the branding now, they need to know who I belong to, and if it means being scarred for life, to save me from a more violent owner I’m happy. I would have rather it had been something else, less painful, but it’s over now isn’t it. I was then taken to all the other slaves and introduced. I didn’t understand half the things they were saying, but for the first few days, they helped me learn, and some new arrivals spoke Mandinka to me which helped me learn quite fast. They helped me build my house out of wood. I was quite proud of it. I was then taken to see Master Alexander. He said I had to start work in the sugar fields. I had to cut down the canes, and then give them to other workers so they could carry them back. In return I would get lots of food and water, a place to live and clothes. I was a bit disappointed as I wouldn’t get any money, but at least I would survive. My first day of work was really hard. I was in the fields for 16 hours, cutting down canes. It was hard work, but I managed it. Overseers watched us and threatened us with their whip if we were slacking, but it was a more relaxed atmosphere than I expected. This happened every day for a month, but us slaves are allowed Sundays off to rest and have fun. The first Sunday I had off, there was a big party. There was singing and dancing, and I was happy to join in. I asked one of the girls I liked to dance with me and she said yes. 6 weeks later we were getting married. We weren’t allowed a proper ceremony, so one of the older villagers did it for us. We had to jump over the broom to make us together. It was great and there was another big party afterwards. By this time I was pretty fluent in English, and I felt like this village of slaves was like a huge family, and our master was really nice. 9 months later Shelly gave birth to twins. A bay girl and a baby boy. We named my girl Amie and my boy Toby. Master was very lenient in work as we had to look after them. I am so happy. Now I see them all grown up at the age of 16, about to start their own family. Amie is expecting her first child soon. I can’t believe how fast this has all happened. Master likes me and thinks I am a good worker. I am now his driver. I get to see lots of places others can only dream of. I tell my children and grand children about them and about Africa as well. Me and shelly want the memories of our beautiful homeland passed on. Master told me to drive to a local plantation. He told me it was owned by Roswell King, and that they are brothers, and when one of them dies the other gets his plantation. Roswell was very sick and about to die. I told master that my sister was sold to him, and I asked if I could have a quick look to see if I could find her. When we got there, he said I could go for ten minutes to try to find her. I asked one of the elders if they knew what Sirrah’s new name was. He told me It was Sarah-may. I called out that name, and one girl stepped forward. I told it was Modou, her brother, and my new name was James. She said, is that really you? She ran up to me and gave me a hug. I took her to my master and introduced her. As I was now earning money by growing goods and selling them at markets when I drove to one, I asked if I could buy her freedom, so she could live with me. Sarah had been told she must pay 40 pounds for her freedom. I had 100. I gave it to her, and she managed to get her freedom and her husbands too. She was expecting children too, but her owner didn’t know that. My master said they could live with my family in my house if they wanted to, and they did. Sarah gave birth to a little girl who she named Jennifer. It was a happy ending all round. I never thought of running away. I knew it would all turn out fine in the end. As I am getting older, I have been given lighter work. A rebellion would ruin everyone’s lives and what would be the point. I am happy working on the plantation even if I am a slave. I don’t care. My life is great the way it is. Now my time has nearly come, and even though I still vividly remember what happened, the nightmares have almost stopped. So this is my life story, and may this be a message that although most slavery is dreadful, sometimes it can be something really good.

James, or Modou as he was known in Africa, died on the 4th of July, happy at home, laughing until the very end, surrounded by all his family and close friends in 1805 at the age of 53, and his legacy shall live on forever more.

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