Whip Used on Slaves, Barbados

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This record was last updated on 01 Jul 2012

Image Reference

Jerome S. Handler, personal collection (copyright, Jerome Handler); see comments.

Modern replica of plaited leather whip that historical evidence indicates was used on slaves. The whip shown in this photograph was collected by Handler in Chalky Mount, a village in Barbados, during 1961-62. Villagers called it a "hunter" and used it while herding cows or small livestock. The villagers were unaware of the history of this object. The following 18th century description perfectly fits the "hunter" illustrated here. William Dickson, who had lived in Barbados during the 1770s and 1780s, wrote the following in his famous work on British West Indian slavery: "The instrument of correction commonly used in Barbadoes, is called a cow-skin, without which a negro driver would [not] . . . . think of going into the field . . . . It is composed of leathern thongs, platted in the common way, and tapers from the end of the handle (within which is a short bit of wood) to the point, which is furnished with a lash of silk-grass, hard platted and knotted, like that of a horse-whip but thicker. Its form gives it some degree of elasticity towards the handle; and when used with severity . . .it tears the flesh, and brings blood at every stroke" (Letters on Slavery [London, 1789], pp. 14-15).