Since 2019 marks the year of return for all black folks around the globe, we have decided to bring out one of the saddest histories to have ever hit the black race from the cupboard. Our feelings about the history we are about to share is one of great sadness. Herodotus, who is considered as the father of history said “a man who does not know the events that took place before he was born will forever remain a child”.
To add something to what the great Greek philosopher said, will be a step in the right direction. With that we say, ” any human being born by a woman who refuses to learn from history is bound to repeat the mistakes of the past”. As we enjoy reading our history books, it has become very important on our part to give an accurate and undiluted account of our journey through slavery and man’s ill-treatment to man. Of all the atrocities meted out to enslaved Africans in the world, the use of black babies as alligator bait is one that drives us insane. Alligator bait was the demonic practice of using black babies as bait to lure alligators out from water to land.
This practice was very rampant in Louisiana, Florida and some southern parts of America. Why the hunt for alligators ? In the late 1700s and early 1800s, there was a high demand for alligator skin, which was use in the production of bags, belts, leather shoes and other leather materials. Alligator skin became a huge business in some parts of America. The hunters faced great difficulties in their hunt for these alligators. They often lost their arms and lives in their attempts to attract the alligators to the surface of the water at night. The only option that crossed their minds at the time was to steal black babies and use them as bait. They never bothered to use rodents, chickens or rabbits.
These animals were considered too valuable as compared to black babies. It had to be a black baby that a black man spent sleepless night hitting on a black woman ! It had to be a black baby that a black woman would carry for nine months, after getting all the hits from a black man. There have been several attempts to cover up this atrocity committed against the black race but for the spirit of our ancestors who died on board during their deadly voyages, there are oral accounts, publications and other relevant documents to substantiate the reality of this article. Some sources claimed the mothers of these babies received two dollars as compensation for their babies.
Others claimed the babies were not hurt. To be honest with you, the above claims are not true and should be treated as rubbish. They have fabricated these claims just to suppress the seriousness of the crime. Which sane mother created by God and living on the surface of the earth, would allow her child to be tied with a rope around the neck or waist and kept by the river banks as bait ? No mother would do that. Not even Amin’s mother ! Oral account of this practice says, most at times the babies are eaten by the alligators before the hunters would shoot at it. The hunters would sometimes aim to kill the alligator and end up killing the baby.
Sometimes these babies were violently skinned alive in preparation of this practice. The smell of their blood is even enough to attract the alligators. This practice can be found in movies and popular songs. The lullaby composed by Henry Wise and Sydney Perrin in 1899 is a clear evidence to buttress the use of black or African babies as alligator bait. There is a conscious effort by those who actively engaged in slavery to hide this part of slave history. Nothing has been done by them to apologize and make reparations for the slave trade, yet they want to hide this part of the history. Africans in the diaspora are always being asked to forget these things.
They keep on saying, “those who committed these crimes and their victims are long dead, so let us allow the history to die with them”. They soon forget that the Jews remember and still talk about the Holocaust every year. They are quick to forget that Japan still remembers the bombing of Hiroshima. So, why should not we (Africans) unfold our tongues about the crimes committed against us ? Why always the black race ? To forgive is divine, but to forget is complete non-sense.
Written by: Team OMARE-KWARTENG (Omare Asante Bright and Kwarteng Emmanuel) Department of History Education University of Education, Winneba Nanaeyeson5@gmail.com