A Chain of Slaves travelling from the Interior.
Original Author: Frederic Shoberl
Created: 1821
Medium: Hand-colored engraving
Publisher: Library of Virginia

A Chain of Slaves travelling from the Interior.

A group of slaves, collared at the neck, are marched from the interior of Africa. From the colonial era onward, a burgeoning market for slaves led European merchants to purchase Africans—most of whom had been captured during war or kidnapped—from desert traders. This image was used in an 1821 publication entitled The World in Miniature: Africa (Volume 4), written and illustrated by Frederic Shoberl. In describing this image, the author outlines the “ingenious” way that the merchants kept physical control of the line of slaves and prevented any possible escape throughout the long march to the coast:

They cut pieces of heavy wood, about five or six feet long, having at one end a fork large enough to embrace the neck of a slave. The two extremities of the fork are perforated for the admission of a large iron pin, which is stopped at one end by its head, and secured at the other by a thin piece of iron that passes through an eye made in the pin; so that the slave, whose neck is encompassed by the fork and the pin, has the handle of the fork, four feet and upwards in length, hanging down before him, and preventing him from stirring a step. When all slaves, secured in this manner, are ready to start, they are ranged in a single file; one of the dealers places himself at their head, and takes the handle of the fork of the first Negro upon his shoulder. Each slave in like manner carries on his shoulder the handle of the fork of the one who follows him ... When they would stop the chain, the merchant who leads the van, drops the heavy log of the first slave which, falling with all its weight about his neck, stops his farther advance, and consequently that of the whole caravan. During the journey this fork is never removed from the necks of the slaves, and when they halt at night, and before they set out in the morning, the merchants take care to examine whether the irons are in good condition. In this manner, as represented in the engraving, five or six armed slatees [native merchants] will escort without apprehension, chains of fifty slaves or more, from the interior ...