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Caribbean History

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Bartolome de Las Casas was a Spanish Catholic priest who later became a Bishop in the Caribbean Islands. Las Casas had emigrated from Spain to the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola in what are today Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He witnessed the brutality of the Spaniards towards the Native Indians of the Islands they occupied (Las Casas 5). The Spaniards treated the Native Indians worse than beasts, believing they were lesser human beings, if human beings at all. However, Las Casas thought the Native Indians to be human beings and have a soul and a spirit, and therefore believed they need to be treated better. He was also worried by the rate at which the number of the Natives had reduced due to the atrocities committed against them by the Spanish colonizers. It is this brutality that prompted him to write the “Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies” (1542) addressed to the then King of Spain, Phillip II.

His readings brought to the fore the inhumane treatment that was exercised to the Indians and the Africans by the White colonizers. The readings became the rallying point for the antislavery crusaders. They cited it to show that slavery was evil and that no race was superior and therefore one race should not be used by the other to provide free forced labor for its enrichment. They argued that on the basis that all races are equal, people of a particular race should not be owned by another people as their property. Las Casas pleadings were very influential, as he belonged to the oppressing race.

The “curse on the sons of Ham” was used by proslavery clergymen in the USA to support slavery of the black race. It is primarily based on Genesis 9:25-27. In this scripture Noah got drunk and naked, and his son Ham who was supposedly black saw his nakedness. Annoyed by the fact that his son had seen his nakedness, Noah cursed Ham’s descendants. They were to be slaved forever and since Ham was supposedly black, some people believed the blacks are therefore supposed to be slaves of the other races. They were therefore enslaved at the time, and this was seen as fulfillments of this prophesy.

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