Gender and Age

In the Caribbean Registers of Liberated Africans, sex and height required a simple assessment and measurement of the human body. People were labeled as either varón (male) or hembra (female). Height was measured in feet and inches, which have been converted into inches and centimeters to calculate averages easily. In this dataset consisting of 10,391 individuals, 72 percent was male (7,509 individuals) and 28 percent was female (2,882 individuals). The average age listed was 20.5 years for males and 16.1 years for females. The average height for males was 4 feet 8 inches (142 cm) and females was 4 feet 5 inches (135 cm).


To determine the number of adults and children is problematic because the ages in these sources were guessed. However, slave traders used height to distinguish between adults and children. Paul Erdmann Isert, chief surgeon to Danish properties at Ouidah, explained how European traders bought slaves with a “measuring stick in hand.” Thomas Leyland explained that "full grown" people exceeded "4 Feet 4 Inches," while children were "at and under 4 Feet 4 Inches... particularly at the Havannah.” Likewise, Robert Norris confirmed that a child was “at and under Four Feet Four Inches.”


Pie Chart and Table 1 represent adults as being taller than 4 feet 4 (52 inches or 132 cm), while children are considered equal to and shorter than this measurement. Pie Chart and Table 2 use the listed ages, but assumes adults were 13 years and above, while children represent 12 years and younger. The average from Tables 1 and Table 2 suggests that this sample was approximately 51% men, 21% boys, 16% women and 12% girls. As a result, there was an male/female ratio of about 5:2 and an adult/child ratio of about 2:1.



Pie chart showing the distribution of men, boys, women and girls using the height data from the total sample of the registers of Liberated Africans

Table showing the distribution of men, boys, women and girls using the height data from the total sample of the registers of Liberated Africans


 

 


Pie chart showing the distribution of men, boys, women and girls using the age data from the total sample of the registers of Liberated Africans

Table showing the distribution of men, boys, women and girls using the age data from the total sample of the registers of Liberated Africans

 

 

 

 

Please note there were no registers for the María da Glória and the Negrita.


Sources:

Harold Cohen Library, Liverpool, Leyland Papers, MS 10/49, "Letter from Leyland to Young," 15 June 1795.

Paul Erdmann Isert, Letters on West Africa and the Slave Trade: Paul Erdmann Isert's Journey to Guinea and the Caribbean Islands in Columbia (1788), Selena A. Winsnes (ed. and trans.), (Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers, [1992] 2007), 133.

Robert Norris, “Minutes,” 2 June 1788, in Sheila Lambert (ed.), House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century: Minutes of Evidence on the Slave Trade 1788 and 1789, Vol. 68 (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1975), 4.