Seasoning (slave)

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A depiction of daily life in Jamaica: "Negro hut with figures in plantain walk", pencil, ink, and watercolor.

Seasoning was a process conducted during the Atlantic slave trade for the purpose of "breaking" slaves. It also took away the slaves' identities to make them more likely to do what they are told. Also during the seasoning process the slave would sometimes have hot tar and oil poured onto their sores and wounds so that they would fetch a higher price at auction.


The practice conditioned the African captives for their new lot in life; newly arrived African captives would have to be trained into the daily rigors that awaited them in the Americas. This training was carried out on plantations in the Caribbean, such as Jamaica.

Estimated mortality rates for this process vary from 7% to 50% with duration between one and four years.[1]

Most slaves destined for island or South American plantations were likely to be put through this ordeal, though slaves shipped directly to North America bypassed this process. Jamaica held one of the most notorious of these camps. [2]

The process of seasoning had a strong profit motive. For example, the average price of adult male slaves in Jamaica (1770s) was approximately 52% higher than "New Negroes" (Africans who came to a New World).[3]


  1. ^ Kiple, K.F. The Caribbean Slave: A Biological History, p. 65.
  2. ^ Meltzer, Milton. Slavery: A World History. Da Capo Press, 1993.
  3. ^ Burnard, T. and Morgan, K. The Dynamics of the Slave Market and Slave Purchasing Patterns in Jamaica, 1655-1788. The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 58, No. 1, New Perspectives on the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Jan., 2001), pp. 205-228.