Imagining Darwin, pt. 7 “The Most Helpless Animal”

DarwinSlaveryDetailDarwin abominated slavery. He was appalled at the cruelty and injustice he witnessed while traveling in South America. Once when crossing a river with a black ferryman, Darwin found it difficult to communicate with the man.

“In endeavouring to make him understand, I talked loud, and made signs, in doing which I passed my hand near his face. He, I suppose, thought I was in a passion, and was going to strike him; for instantly, with a frightened look and half-shut eyes, he dropped his hands. I shall never forget my feelings of surprise, disgust, and shame, at seeing a great powerful man afraid even to ward off a blow, directed, as he thought, at his face. This man had been trained to a degradation lower than the slavery of the most helpless animal.”  from The Voyage of the Beagle

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