Surviving the Middle Passage

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by kristamiller
Last updated 7 years ago

Discipline:
Social Studies
Subject:
African-American History
Grade:
5

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Surviving the Middle Passage

The journey began long before the slaves ever boarded a ship. They were captured and chained by West Africans, often forced to march for hundreds of miles before reaching the west coast of Africa and the slave ships.

The Middle Passage was the voyage of slave ships across the Atlantic Ocean. It was named that because it was the second stage of a three stage journey from Africa to the Americas.

The Middle PassageThe slaves faced a terrible journey. First, other West Africans put them in chains and marched them hundreds of miles to Africa’s west coast. Many slaves died along the way or after reaching the coast. Then European traders loaded the survivors onto slave ships for the voyage to the Americas.This voyage was called the Middle Passage because it was the second of three stages of the slave trade. The Middle Passage took from 21 to 90 days. In bad weather, it could take even longer. Traders sold slaves in South America, the West Indies, and the British colonies.For the slaves, the trip was a nightmare. They were allowed little exercise. Pairs of men were chained together at the ankle and wrist, without room to sit up or to stand. Often men, women, and children were packed so closely together that they could barely move. Many were covered with sores from lying on the rough floorboards. The smell and the heat were unbearable, and the ships were full of lice, fleas, and rats. Sharks followed the ships, feeding on the dead who were thrown overboard.No one knows how many West Africans made the Middle Passage, but the number has been estimated at 10 to 12 million. About 15 out of every 100 Africans died during the voyage.

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Survivingthe Middle Passage

What was it?

Where did the journey begin?

The journey began long before the slaves ever boarded a ship. They were captured and chained by West Africans, often forced to march for hundreds of miles before reaching the west coast of Africa.

It lasted anywhere from 21 to 90 days, sometimes even longer in bad weather.

How long was the voyage?

What was it like on the slave ships?

On the slave ships, the slaves were packed so closely that they could barely move. One account says that each person had less than 23 square inches of space. The ships were full of rats and bugs. The heat and smell were unbearable. Illnesses spread rapidly and almost 15 out of every 100 people died during the voyage. Dead bodies were thrown overboard.

An estimated 10,000,000-12,000,000.

How many West Africans made the voyage?

Click here to listen to Olaudah Equiano's account of life on a slave ship.

To follow four slaves on their journey, click on the ship below.

Watch to learn more.


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