Currently viewing the tag: "slavery"

When Columbus first arrived in the New World, he described the indigenous people as friendly and causing no problems. He had been told by Queen Isabella to treat these people with respect and kindness, except if it became clear they are cannibals, in which case, all bets were off. Initially, the Spanish were looking for gold and, when they didn’t find it, they figured that the next best thing was slaves.

Lo and behold, when Columbus came back, the indigenous people who had previously been classified as friendly were suddenly described as cannibals, so you could do anything to them. You could enslave them, take their land, murder them, and treat them like pestilence. And that’s exactly what happened, with the result that a lot of the islands were de-populated. The idea of cannibalism as a taboo was used to de-humanize the people encountered on these conquests. –Cannibalism—the Ultimate Taboo—Is Surprisingly Common by Simon Worrall

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story involving cannibalism.

Journaling Prompt: How do you feel about the way that Columbus and other explorers dealt with natives in the new world?

Art Prompt: Cannibalism

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about cannibalism in the natural world.

Photo Credit: A Cannibal Feast in Fiji, 1869 on Wikimedia


The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century enslaved people of African descent in the United States in efforts to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. The term is also applied to the abolitionists, both black and white, free and enslaved, who aided the fugitives. Various other routes led to Mexico or overseas. An earlier escape route running south toward Florida, then a Spanish possession, existed from the late 17th century until shortly after the American Revolution. However, the network now generally known as the Underground Railroad was formed in the early 19th century, and reached its height between 1850 and 1860. One estimate suggests that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the “Railroad”. –Wikipedia

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write the story of someone using a secret escape route and the perils he or she encounters.

Journaling Prompt: If you were living in the time of the Underground Railroad, would you help the fleeing slaves? Why or why not?

Art Prompt: Underground Railroad

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the Underground Railroad.

Photo Credit: Kyle J. Schultz on Flickr


I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country. To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco, I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect that some poor slave was being tortured, yet knew that I was as powerless as a child even to remonstrate. I suspected that these moans were from a tortured slave, for I was told that this was the case in another instance. Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have staid in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean; I saw his father tremble at a mere glance from his master’s eye. … And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty… . –The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story that shows the horror of slavery.

Journaling Prompt: Write about what you know about slavery in today’s world. Is there anything you could do to help?

Art Prompt: Slavery

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about slavery in contemporary society and suggest ways to combat it.

Photo Credit: Gustavo La Rotta Amaya on Flickr


Some scholars believe that the Vikings were a polygamous society that made it hard for non-elites to find brides. That may have driven the raids and ambitious exploration voyages for which Vikings are best known. Some genetic studies, for example, suggest that a majority of Icelandic women are related to Scottish and Irish ancestors who likely were raid booty.

As Viking fleets expanded, so did the need for wool to produce the sails necessary to power the ships. This also may have driven the need for slaves. “There was a significant shift in agriculture,” said Price. The pressing need for wool production likely led to a plantation-like economy, a topic now being studied by researchers.

The harsh treatment accorded slaves is amply recorded both in the archaeological and historical record. On the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, a wealthy male Viking’s tomb includes the remains of a young female killed by a ferocious blow to the top of her head and mixed in with the ashes of cremated animals. Other such examples can be found across northern Europe.

Life for thralls was clearly harsh. A 14th-century poem—the original likely dates from the end of the Viking era—gives an idea of how Vikings saw their slaves. Among their names were Bastard, Sluggard, Stumpy, Stinker, and Lout.

Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, an Arab lawyer and diplomat from Baghdad who encountered the men of Scandinavia in his travels, wrote that Vikings treated their female chattel as sex slaves. If a slave died, he added, “they leave him there as food for the dogs and the birds.” –Andrew Lawler

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story about a Viking slave.

Journaling Prompt: Write about your feelings about slavery and what you know about slavery in the current day. Do you feel called to work against it?

Art Prompt: Vikings

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about Viking culture.

Photo Credit: Katherine on Flickr

Ho Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum_MG_9364

Kill-devil was bought from Dutch shippers, who procured it from Brazilian plantations, where it was brewed using wastes from their sugar-works. The Portuguese there employed it as a cheap tonic to rout the “devil” thought to possess African slaves at the end of a long day and render them sluggish. It retailed handily as a beverage in the English settlements of the Ameri­cas, however, sometimes being marketed under the more dig­nified name of “rumbullion,” or “rum.” –Caribbee by Thomas Hoover

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story in which alcohol is used as a means of control.

Journaling Prompt: How often do you drink? What is your motivation when you drink? How does it make you feel?

Art Prompt: Kill-Devil

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell a humorous story about a time you or a friend drank too much OR write an informative piece about the history of rum.

Photo Credit: katsrcool on Flickr