Mandingo fighting – did it really exist?

I saw “Django Unchained” the other night. The plot centres around the so-called Mandingo fighting in which a man fights a man using his bare hands; it resembles dog-fighting. My BA thesis was about reconstruction and I had to study a bit about what preceded this era too. In my search for study material I never came accross anything like Mandingo fighting. My question is: Was it real or did Tarantino make it up? Thank you.

9 Answers

  • You might be interested in Alex Haley’s non-fiction book, Roots, because its hero, Kunta Kinte was a Mandingan and I believe fighting was discussed in the book.

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    RE:

    Mandingo fighting – did it really exist?

    I saw “Django Unchained” the other night. The plot centres around the so-called Mandingo fighting in which a man fights a man using his bare hands; it resembles dog-fighting. My BA thesis was about reconstruction and I had to study a bit about what preceded this era too. In my search for…

  • It is fiction. Don’t forget that Tarantino enlarges on small incidents and rumours for the purpose of making and selling big movies. That’s his job.

    In this case, Tarantino said in interview about Mandingo fighting, “I was made aware those things existed.” In fact, there is no historical evidence that slave owners ever staged fights to the death between male slaves.

    There are other dramatic representations and rumors that such fights were staged. “Mandingo” is a novel by Kyle Onstott, published in 1957. Also, “Mandingo” is a 1975 film, based on the same novel. Both made claims about Mandingo slaves being trained to fight each other as a gamble. And not to the death.

    But it is fiction and it is important to realise that it does not represent real life. Slavery was cruel and unkind, but killing slaves for fun made no economic sense. Today, it would be the equivalent of farmers crashing their biggest and best tractors for fun.

  • There are plenty of Mandingo people in the city. Ask one of them. I will see some from that tribe this weekend at a graduation ceremony.

  • Actually, it’s unsure whether it was real or not. No real accounts of it have been charted, according to a slavery experts, but many iterate that it was possible.

    The modern day farming metaphor mentioned before doesn’t exactly translate to the scene from “Django Unchained”, however. The slave owners involved in the Mandingo Fighting were men of wealth and frivolity, whom chose to use their excessive funds to fight men recreationally. They were not easily likened to the image of modern farmers. True that they had plantations and may have made great wealth from their land and crops, but they were managing vast amounts of slaves in large numbers, and feasibly took a risk with some of their biggest and best because of the potential large yield. And because they had the money, and could.

    Personally, I see it as plausible. Be it fictional or not, “Django Unchained” highlights the fact that in pre-civil war America many atrocities were committed against black slaves by white owners, and especially those with great power and wealth. “Django” presents a variety of ways in which black slaves of the pre-civil war south were exploited for white entertainment. I see no reason why fighting men could not be a possible sport for bored, heartless tycoons.

  • You certainly had bare knuckled boxing and wrestling throughout history. I’m also sure that at some point slaves were forced to fight other slaves. But this wasn’t something which was at all widespread. Generally as a master you’d want to encourage passivity among your slaves, not aggression.

  • Yes bbey

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