Also, they claimed that the babies were not hurt. But those were just false accounts in a bid to hide their heinous crimes. Which sane mother would allow her infant to be tied with a rope around the neck and kept by the river or lake banks as bait? And at the time, African slaves could neither read nor write, so how did they read the adverts and apply, as some sources have claimed that mothers applied for their children to be used as bait.
Such lies could be found in the September 21, 1923, headline of the ‘Oakland Tribune which read: “PICKANINNY BAIT LURES VORACIOUS ‘GATOR TO DEATH. And Mother Gets Her Baby Back in Perfect Condition; Also $2”.
It is indeed very callous for a person to risk a baby’s life in such manner, and then go ahead to justify it with charming words. In an article by T.W Villiers’ Chronicles, the gator bait process was described thus: “these little black morsels are more than glad to be led to the ‘sacrifice’ and do their part in lurking the big Florida gators to their fate without suffering so much as a scratch.”
But on the contrary, oral accounts of this practice report that most times, the babies are eaten by the alligator, before the hunters shoot at it. The hunters would sometimes aim to kill the alligator only after the baby was in its jaws. Evidence of this is found in the postcards, pictures, and trinkets they made at the time to commemorate the practice.
Other articles state that the infants were not only regularly used as alligator bait but violently skinned alive in preparation for this. It was believed that the smell of the blood and wounded flesh was meant to attract the alligators.
A grandson of a man who used to engage in this business of gator baiting said thus gave an account of the process:
“The slaves had babies. The hunters would steal the babies from slaves who own them during the day and sometimes when their mothers weren’t watching. He said some would be infants while some would be a year old or toddlers. He added that the children were taken down to the swamp and left in pens like little chicken coops”.
“At night, the babies would be tied up with a rope around their neck and their torso”.
“They’d be screaming… What they were doing would help them to chum the water. They would throw the babies in tied to this rope, and in a matter of minutes, the alligators were on them. He said the alligator would clamp his jaws on that child. Once he clamped on them, he was swallowed. You couldn’t see anything but the rope! Some would be infants, some would be a year old, toddlers, and some would be infants.”
Some of these evil and unimaginable practices by slave owners in America could also be found in the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia in Michigan, USA.
The practice of using African slave children as “alligator bait” could also be found in movies and popular music and the lullaby “Mammy’s Little Alligator Bait,” composed by Henry Wise and Sidney Perrin in the year 1899.
There is a deliberate attempt by those who carried out slavery to hide these parts of slave history. However, not much is done by them to apologize and make reparations for these hideous crimes against humanity. Instead, they deny this and add more grief to the descendants of the African slaves, in the sense that their children are still killed in America today.
Although, the world asks africans in diaspora to forget these things. They say those who committed these crimes and their victims are long dead, so let the history die with them. But they forgot that the Jews still remember and talk about the Holocaust every year.
Japan still remembers and commemorates the nuclear bombing at Hiroshima. So why should the African diaspora shut up about the crimes against them?
Studies have shown that the legacy of the events of slavery still affects the African American’s mental health, because trauma can be transferred from mother to child. And no one knows how many generations that psychological trauma can travel.
These accounts of painful history are meant to provide knowledge and also help the African Diaspora community in the tackling of these traumas.