English missionary and author William Ellis describes first seeing the wooden collar in “Three Visits to Madagascar” during the mid-19th century:
“In one of their houses . . . a number of female slaves were at work. Some of them were carrying baskets of cotton or other articles from one room to another . . . I saw one young girl who had a couple of boards fixed on her shoulders, each of them rather more than two feet long, and ten inches or a foot wide, fastened together by pieces of wood nailed on the under side. A piece had been cut out of each board in the middle, so that, when fixed together they fitted close to her neck, and the poor girl, while wearing this instrument of punishment and disgrace, was working with the rest. On another occasion I saw a boy, apparently about fifteen years of age, with a rough, heavy iron collar on his naked neck. It seemed to be formed by a square bar of iron, about three-quarters of an inch thick, being bent around his neck, and the two ends then joined together. yet he was . . . employed in carrying fire-wood to the beach for shipping.”
Whipping or flogging was the most common use of torture against captured Africans.
The crack of a whip is actually a small sonic boom. The strikes of the whip were so severe that pieces of flesh were torn right off the victim, and losing an eye in the process was common. Victims would lose so much blood it was normal for them to fall into a state of hypovolemic shock.
Captured Africans were often branded, dismembered, castrated and mutilated as forms of punishment. The image above was based on drawings by John Gabriel Stedman, a young Dutchman who joined a military force against rebellions of the enslaved in the Dutch colony in the late 18th century. In his autobiographical work, Five Years’ Expedition, Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, he remembered: “In this case, the victim’s left hand was cut off before he died as additional punishment for theft and to serve as an example to others. This method of torture was intended to keep the victim alive long enough to endure extreme pain before his eventual death.”
John Gabriel Stedman recalled another incident where a captured Black man was hung alive by the ribs.
“An incision was made in the victim’s ribs and a hook placed in the hole. In this case, the victim stayed alive for 3 days until clubbed to death by the sentry guarding him, who he had insulted,” Stedman wrote.