Blood Men

Ephraim town, showing with King Eyo of old Calabar, Honesty's Canoe and British royal steam sloop Rattler c.1850, around the year Blood Men was formed in Calabar. Eyo ended human sacrifice of slaves.
Ephraim town, showing with King Eyo of old Calabar, Honesty’s Canoe and British royal steam sloop Rattler c.1850, around the year Blood Men was formed in Calabar. Eyo ended human sacrifice of slaves. Photo: London News.

Blood Men is a society of Igbo slaves in the Calabar oil palm plantation formed in 1850 to oppose their encroachment and oppression in the Delta especially the use of their brethren in human sacrifice. The revolutionary movement of slaves grew among the very lowest class, who, to historian Elizabeth Isichei’s chagrin, were supposed to have no idea of a better life- being recent arrivals from the interior without any European influence.

The Blood Men society developed as a protest against the worst act of dehumanization they were subjected to, as it was the custom of rulers in the Delta to be accompanied at death with many of their fellow slaves. Members came to town in armed bandits with intent to terrorize and arrested ones usually had their release bargained for by members at the plantations who confiscate owner’s properties. Eventually, the largely peaceful Blood Men society won a victory over the culture of human sacrifice, but never subscribing to push their success further with any advocacy against slavery itself or even the economic exploitation of members. A few forces combined to make the stoppage to the killing of slaves possible; persuasive programs of Reverend Waddell, Jamaican born missionary of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, activities of the Society for the of Eradication of Human Sacrifices in Calabar, and the use of force by the Naval squadron.