[2015] Jake Jones: The Middle Passage

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Social Studies
African-American History

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[2015] Jake Jones: The Middle Passage

The Middle Passage

Slave ships varied greatly in size, with some being a medium size and others being gigantic. Ships were designed to transport as much slaves as possible, not to cater to the slaves themselves. Slaves were usually shoved below deck and not given much freedom, if they were given any at all. Since they were all below deck they were all cramped toghter, for weeks at a time, which was not good for them. The would be confined to below deck and chained to planck beds. There were instances of revolts on the ships, but they were usually put down by the well armed, fed, adn disciplined crew. Thos that were successful (which wasent common) were able to take control of the ship and regain their liberty.

The slave trade was only a fraction of the entire "middle passage", but it is the main part we are focusing on. Africans were either traded or captured from Africa (they would be captured from the coast and the Europeans would trade for those inland). After they were placed on ships, they would be shipped across the atlantic to the European colonies in the Americas. Most slaves were taken from the Ivory coast of Africa (as it wasnet to far north to be to advanced or south into uncharted territory). They would be worked in the colonies to harvest raw goods that would make the European countries flourish, and allow them to purchase more slaves.

This is an example of the types of things used on slaves to keep them in place while they were on the ships. Both of these contraptions were used to bind a slaves arms and legs toghether. They were also subject to having their necks in "collar" like devices that were chained together with other slaves. This meant that they were under the deck, within close proximity with eachother with only limited movement. This meant that life in the middle passage was hard, becasue slaves could'nt even move enough to do anything that would help improve their situation. The shackels were obviously uncomfortable, but that would be the least of the slaves worries.

The conditions abroad the ships that sailed the middle passage were atrocious. the ships themselves were built good, but it was the condition of its slave cargo that was atrocious. Becasue of their close proximity to eachother diseases could spread quickly. Becasue slaves were so imobalised by shackels and chains they couldnt move around easily if at all. this meant that if they had to use the bucket (or some designated area meant to substitute as such) they would have a hard time getting to it. this meant that feces was everywhere, which contributed to the spread of disease through the slaves.

What made the Middle Passage so horrible was the large death rates, and the horrible treatment of the slaves. If the ship didn't have enough food to feed the slaves, than a mass murder would ensue with many slaves being trown overboard in order to perserve food. One of the ways that slaves would "rebel" against the slavers is through starvation, however even the slavers wouldn't allow this. They would pry the slaves mouths open with a device known as a Speculum Oris, which would forcibly open the slaves mouth so they could be force fed. Female slaves would suffer cruel fates if not worse than the male counterparts as some would be singled out as ship whores and be raped multiple times by the slavers. This combined with the hygene state and general treatment made the trip horrendous.

The main way Europeans aquired slaves is through trading with other Africans. The europeans would trade for slaves with things such as guns and iron tools. The Africans aquired these slaves through conquest since they were weaker than the nation conquering them. The tribes that had large portions of their members enslaved were mainly inland and would otherwise be left alone by Europeans becasue of not being on the imediate coast. The African slavers however, were able to take the slaves from inland to the coast were the european forts were and made a trade. The African slavers would then take their new guns and enslave more africans and sell them for more profit.

As a result of their harsh treatment, slave revolts were quite common. They were however, almost always repelled thanks to multiple factors. The Europeans were well-armed, they were fed well, (depending on when they set sail) their morale was good, and they tended to be far more coordinated than the massive amounts of slave. The slave were able to fashion weapons out of their chains and,very rarily, could take over the ship. the most famous of these revolts was on the Dutch ship Amistad, they had intended to return to Africa. They instead ended up in America becasue they were tricked by the crew that was still alive to take them there

By: Jake Jones


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