Autobiography of the slave trade by Heena and Urvi

Jambo, hi, my name was Kwitenka. I lived in Africa in the Kingdom of Benin. I was 14 when my story starts. I lived with my mum and dad in a little hut. I will start my story on the 23rd day of the sixth moon. My birthday! The village was celebrating; there was singing, dancing and music. My family were all there they were dancing to the fast beat some villagers were beating. I could see old Mrs Mickini she was crying, her son had just been taken to be used as a slave. Katuma and I went to talk to her she kind of scared us a bit, but I can still remember what she said,” Don’t trust anyone they’re not just after men they’re after girls as well. My sister was taken, some of her friends took her so please be safe. I am warning you all.” Then she broke off into tears again. Then someone grabbed my hand it was Kunail, he is my friend from the village. I grabbed Katuma’s hand and all three of us went to dance. It was then that I forgot what Mrs Mickini said, it was a great night I can still remember it now, and it was one of the best days of my life. BUT it wasn’t over.

At the end of the celebrations Katuma and I were walking home, when we heard a rustle in the bushes either side of us. Katuma got scared and actually so did I. It was then that I saw a face, however it was different. Even though it was dark I could see that the persons skin tone was much lighter then ours, he was a foreigner. It suddenly registered he was one of those slave catchers. Katuma must have figured that out too because we both screamed and ran. The person started running as well; I could hear the rustling of the leaves.

We kept running for couple of seconds then out of nowhere these two strangers came and grabbed us by our arms and chained us together. We screamed but they just put their filthy hands on our mouths. I bit one of them and screamed again. This time instead of putting his hand over my mouth, the white man whipped me like I was an animal. He kept whipping us and then instructed us to follow the other white man. We did because if we didn’t he would just whip us again. We were marched up to the coast. I didn’t know where we were. All I could think of, was how my mother and father would react, when they found out I was missing. I was scared.

When we got to the coast we were put in wooden cages, not put in but thrown in. There were about nine cages with people crammed in them. Most of them were men but there were some women. I was scared I didn’t know what would happen then. My feet were hurting. I had been walking for what felt like hours. A couple of days passed when we all saw a big thing floating on the water. My Mother had told me about them. They were called boats.

We were forced to get on the boat, and made to lie in these weird gaps. After a couple of days it began to really stink. People were beginning to get sick and people needed to wee. I think it was a week later when we saw the sun again. The white men threw cold water on us, and then they made us dance. It was then that I realised some women were naked. After we had been forced up on the weird platform and we had exercised we were marched back down, to what began to seem like our new home. When we got back there was a little surprise, food. It was disgusting but I would rather eat than starve. It was like grain but wasn’t cooked properly; we had to eat with our hands one plate to ten of us. A man opposite Katuma and me did not want to eat so the white men whipped him until he ate. For five minutes they whipped him. It was then that we had found out he had died. We all said prayers out loud; none of us knew what they would do to him. Some said they would eat him, someone else said that they would push him over board, this I think they will do. I don’t remember clearly what happened after then, it is kind of blurry you may say. I remember doing the same thing every week. There were about six weeks of the journey on the boat, before we saw actual landed.

We were taken off the boat (still chained) and taken to a man with a weird thing on his head. We went up in turns and he put this stuff on our cuts, it didn’t look like the medicine mother used to put on us. It must have really hurt because as soon as it touched Katuma’s cuts she screamed. The white men just hit her. I tried to get in to the room they were in but the bars were too strong. I couldn’t just stand there and let these weird horrible white men hurt my best friend. It was my turn. Not even hell could put me through this much pain, words can’t describe the pain I was in. We were sent to these huts again with the weird bars.

In front of us I could see a stage. There was a person on there talking really loud. Lots of white people were coming in and standing around the stage, some little children were playing and some women were chatting. They seemed to be used to seeing black people locked behind bars. There were a couple of people looking at us really close. I told Katuma to calm down and that it was going to be ok. But I didn’t really believe what I said; I didn’t want her to worry. None of us knew what was happening Mrs Mickini didn’t tell us what happens when we got to the strange land. For some reason I was the first one to be picked to go up on the stage. Two weird white men came and looked at me from every angle and touched me in weird places, I felt dirty and cheap. Then the person on stage started speaking loudly again. I looked at Katuma I knew we would never see each other again. Then a white guy came and took me to another white guy.

For once in the whole time since I had been taken I saw a person just like us his skin colour matched ours. He was George, he told me my name was now Henrietta and that I belonged to Sir Toby’s. He owned me now and that I had to do everything he said. George said that I was going to work and live on his plantation in Michigan. Katuma was sold to someone else.

The next couple of years I worked hard. I was put in the first hand straight away. It is a long day and hard work being in the fields. It’s better than what Miley had done; she was forced into a room with a man from the fields. She felt really dirty and had to have sexual intercourse. The master made her. Then what about Cesar, he tried to escape and got his ears cut off. I have had a good life compared to others. Sometimes there are festivals in the forests and it is just like being in Africa. I miss my parents sometimes and Katuma and Kunail, they were the people who meant the most to me. Breakfast is whatever I make and so is lunch and dinner. We have ten minutes to eat each meal. We start working at dawn and finish as soon as there is not enough light to see what we are doing. We have to work through full moons. We get some days off and on those days we have celebrations and sometimes the master and his family come and they enjoy themselves, unless it is late and when we are very loud, then he gets angry. I got married to Tom. He was the master’s driver, I was glad he had a good job. He could also earn money for us buy selling the leftover vegetables in the market. I loved him so much more than anything. He visited places which I had never even heard of then.

There was a new president elected in about 1860. He had set up a law saying that the states could decide, whether they were going to be free states or slave states. A free state was where slaves were set free and Slave states were where slavery was allowed. Michigan has turned into a Free State. Most of the Northern states were Free states and most of the southern states were slave states. The southern States called themselves the CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA. Tom fought in the 54th Massachusetts against them and died. That was three years ago. It was heartbreaking. I also found Katuma and Kunail, their lives were much harder then mine. You felt like crying when you heard the stories, I know I did. Katuma’s husband died, he was burnt alive in the streets in the Northern States. He did nothing wrong and his life is over. She was badly beaten and was sexually abused by her master. However Kunail was the worse, his ears had been cut off and his wife had died when she was beaten. His children had been sold to other plantation owners. I didn’t want to have children because they would have to live as a slave and they would have lost their dad. God rest his soul.

We all live together in a house now. It is great that I have my best people again with me but I miss my husband even more now. He would have loved the life I have known and my friends. My life is better now and I hope you think so to.