A Greek philosopher, Herodotus – also known as the father of history – once said that “a man who does not know anything about the events that took place before he or she was born will remain forever a child.”
We all must go a step further by saying that “any human being who refuses to learn from his or her history is condemned to repeating its mistakes, and as such, will share the same fate in the consequences of such mistakes.”
Africa, as we all know is a continent rich in history. As much as we enjoy telling stories of our golden past, we must give a complete and undiluted account of our journey through slavery and man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.
Of all the atrocities committed against the enslaved Africans overseas, the use of babies as alligator bait is one which leaves anyone with a conscience, with a tear in the eye.
Just take a second to imagine that the child in question was yours, it would send shivers down your spine.
Regardless of how uneasy these things are to say, we must say them, for the sake of posterity.
Alligator bait – also referred to as gator bait – was the evil practice of using infant African children as bait to lure alligators out from water to land. This practice was popular in Louisiana, Florida, and other parts of the South in America.
During that era, there was a high demand for alligator skin, which was used in the production of leather shoes, jackets, belts, and other leather materials. The skin was very profitable in the 1800s-1900s. But the hunters often had accidents and lost their arms or lives as they rustled the swampy waters in their attempt to attract the alligators to the surface at night.
So, their other viable option was to steal slave babies and use them as bait. They didn’t find any rodents or chickens, or rabbits or little goats because those were too valuable at the time.
Instead, it had to be a baby that a woman carried for 9 months under intense pain, brutality, and hard work.
Though this account was denied by many in their attempt to cover up the atrocity. But fortunately, there are oral accounts, documentaries, and publications to substantiate our right to closure, empathy, and healing.
A publication on ‘Time Magazine in 1923‘reported that colored babies were being used for alligator bait. The infants were left to play in shallow water while expert riflemen watched from concealment nearby.
When a saurian goes out to approach his prey, he is shot by the riflemen. According to the Chipley Chamber of Commerce.
A silly lie! False and absurd!! Maybe so, but it was widely reported in the American press, so it was at least believable among white Americans of the time.
Also, there is further evidence of this vile practice which includes photos and postcards found in the Jim Crow Museum. A man in Florida had a picture framed and put on his wall showing nine naked little African boys with the words “Alligator Bait” written on them.
To further buttress this account; on the 3rd of June 1908, the ‘Washington Times’ reported that a zookeeper at the New York Zoological Gardens baited “Alligators with pickaninnies” out of their winter quarters. He sent two African slave children into an enclosure that was housing alligators and crocodiles numbering more than 25.
The reptiles were led out of their winter tanks into summer tanks so they could be seen by people.
The whites did not find any other way to do this, other than placing these innocent children in the tank to lure the alligators and crocodiles out. How artistic.
The article read:
“Two small colored children happened to drift through the reptile house among the throng of visitors, and they were ‘pressed into service'”. The alligators “wobbled out as quickly as they could after the ebony mites, who darted around the tank just as the pursuing monsters fell with grunts of chagrin into the water”. The alligators were “coaxed” into their summer quarters by “plump little Africans”.
Some sources claimed that the mothers were paid $2 (Two Dollars) for their babies to be used as bait.