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Africans First Used Face Masks During Colonial Slavery
Category :- Feature Author :- N Gelmin S 
Posted on May 18, 2020, 5:54 pm
(5 Ratings)

Wearing of face masks date as far back as the 16th century, when iron face masks were worn on slaves. This was one of the inhumane treatments meted on Africans by their slave masters during the colonial period.

African Slave Girl wearing an iron face mask

The tattered looking African slaves were sometimes made to carry this iron load on them while working, for their masters’ selfish reasons.

Considered as inferior as they were overlooked, Africans sold as slaves to work in Western Plantations were made to wear iron face masks to make sure they don’t eat of the fruits they harvested. These fruits which included; pineapples, apples as well as bananas and sugar cane amongst others were meant only for the whites (masters) and the blacks (slaves) had no rights to have a bite even in the absence of the masters.

Male slaves wearing face masks

Given that they were forcefully dragged about in the hard labor with little or nothing to eat, the slaves were sometimes tempted to want to eat the fruits.

The African culture and tradition as strong as it is, naturally, was carried along by these slaves. While at work in fields, they would chant some of their African spiritual and war songs as a source of strength and motivation. Given the power in the wordings of some of these songs, singing them gave some slaves the courage to resist and fight their masters even if it meant to die. The iron face mask was therefore a method used by the slave masters to shot the mouths of their slaves.

An African man wearaing an iron face mask chained around his head

Brought from different parts of Africa, the slave often met and served in the same fields of work. This encouraged a bond of diversity as they would learn each others’ local culture which was a uniting force against the whites. Aimed at destroying African Languages, the slave masters made iron face mask for slaves, so they could not communicate as desired and in turn thought the slaves their foreign languages.

Given that the slaves didn’t understand nor could speak the masters’ languages, they would only speak in their own local languages. Some of the slaves who served as baby sitters were not allowed to speak their dialects to the white children; they were thus forced to wear the iron masks to prevent them from speaking with the children.

In the slave camps, iron masks also served as punished for disobedience. The masters wore this so that the slaves will not have to eat or drink anything. Sometimes the masters would force an apple into the slave’s mouth before locking it up.

Apainted slave man carrying a jar

This inhumane way of treating slaves has never been considered accurate. The whites used iron masks, collars, leg shackles and spurs among other weapons, on the slaves for selfish reasons that only suited their prestige and supposed ‘superiority’.

Though considered independent, Africans are still suffering from modern slavery, a greater part of which is blamed by many to bad African government.

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