Further reading and Links pertaining to History of Slavery and early colonisation in SA

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It is not easy to find first-hand information on slavery at the Cape. Some people who were enslaved in the United States of America left oral histories, letters and even books behind telling people about life as a slave. In South Africa, very few sources that described history from a slave’s point of view, such as books, diaries or letters, have survived. After the emancipation of slaves, it seems nobody took the trouble to transcribe personal slave histories.

However, there is one exception. Katie Jacobs was interviewed in 1910, seventy years after slaves were emancipated. At the time she was 96 years old. Other information on Cape slave history can be obtained from:

  • Official records such as court records and inventories
  • Church records especially churches that ministered to slaves and later to emancipated slaves and missionary societies. Many slaves settled on mission stations after emancipation.
  • Diaries and books written by slave owners and visitors to the Cape.
  • Paintings and drawings of the time
  • Archaeological excavations.

The shortcoming of all these sources is that they tell the story of slavery either from the point of view of the authorities, owners and free people or give only indirect glimpses of slave life. One can therefore easily overlook the experiences of slaves.

Last updated : 04-May-2012

This article was produced for South African History Online on 30-Mar-2011