The Exploitation and Objectification of the African Body

Black and white oil painting on canvas of a woman in the fetal position, with lil color Tasteful nude, vulnerable, naked #lizzywallaceart

The body is something that empowers and allows people to do many things but it also allows others to greatly dis-empower people. It can be used, misused, and abused for the gains of others and unfortunately this was happening since the Atlantic Slave Trade when people from Africa were enslaved and sent over to the United States to labor. They had to deal with their bodies being objectified and exploited by imperial powers, but mainly by the ideals and image imposed by the male European man. 

The logic behind it perhaps was not based off of the color of their skin or their race but rather the White man’s rationale in deciding that Africans were not human enough and therefore could be turned into tamable objects (Block). For quite some time the U.S. adopted such beliefs about people who were not like them therefore allowing them to find a way to justify enslavement. It was nefarious that their bodies be used when African people were more than just that; they were human beings who had a culture, customs, family, and an identities.

An important account of such treatment of enslavement was told in 1789 by Olaudah Equiano, an actual victim of this torture who in chapter two of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano not only loses his sister but endures physical pain and abuse that came along with being robbed of his autonomy. He describes his experience by say things such as, “This wretched situation was again aggravated by the galling of the chains, now become insupportable and the filth of the necessary tubs, into which the children often fell and were almost suffocated. The shrieks of the women and the groans of the dying rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable” (3). Discussing the horrid conditions and circumstances Equiano himself endures on his way to becoming enslaved and making his journey across the Atlantic further showcases the abuse of his body as well as others similar in his situation.

In this short excerpt presented to us some parts are so graphic in describing the conditions of the boat and the flogging some received that it seems so unreal considering that these human beings were just that, human beings who were treated like disposable bodies. I could not imagine the post-traumatic effects that such treatment triggered, but talking about it like I am right now further makes me ponder about the cruelty endured as the result of being labeled as profit and seen as working machines. So much for having people and bodies work to produce products, that these individuals preferred death over life (Equiano 3). It is so disturbing to realize that these people who did absolutely nothing wrong were enslaved and seen as objects and machines that could be mistreated and completely depleted of life, just for the sake of the White man gaining profit and products. There simply are so many things wrong with that that there truly is no where to end or begin with it, simply that the empire of profit and the white man had only so many limits.


“The Atlantic Slave Trade: What Too Few Textbooks Told You – Anthony Hazard.” YouTube, uploaded by TED-Ed, 22 Dec. 2014, Accessed 8 June 2017.

 Black and White Oil Painting on Canvas of a Woman in the Fetal Position. 5 Jan. 2017. Etsy, Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

Block, Sharon. “Introducing Colonialism, Sex, and Race.” Humanities Core, 4 Apr. 2017, UC Irvine, HIB 100. Lecture.

Block, Sharon. “Trans-Atlantic Slavery.” Humanities Core, 6 Apr. 2017, UC Irvine, HIB 100. Lecture.

Equiano, Olaudah. “Transcript from Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Chapter 2.” PDF file, 1789.


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