Friday, January 9, 2009


Author and historian Marcus Rediker recalls his encounter with authentic shackles in an interview: "I was writing about the hardware of bondage, especially the shackles I'd seen in museums. Then one day I got notice of an authentic set of 18th-century slave ship shackles (from a South Carolina plantation) that were up for auction by an early Americana dealer."

"I had a debate with myself. Should I buy a piece of evil? Should I get as close as possible to this gruesome artifact and see what I might learn from it?"
"I bought the shackles and soon found that I had to go back and rewrite everything I'd written on the subject, because now they were more real to me."

"I felt the texture of the metal, how the rod would press against the Achilles tendon, how the loops would rub the flesh raw. In the end, holding those shackles in my hands, even though they made me shudder, enabled me to understand and write about them in a more realistic, even truthful way."

The slave ship was a floating prison in which the captives outnumbered the guards by an order of 10 to one; male prisoners and rebellious females were shackled to limit their capacity to resist. Collection of the Author


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