Slave Ships and the Middle Passage
Between 1500 and 1866, Europeans transported nearly 12.5 million enslaved Africans to the Americas; 1.8 million died on the Middle Passage, their bodies thrown into the Atlantic, and 128,000 were forced to work in tobacco fields in the Chesapeake Bay region.
Slave ships ranged in size from the ten-ton Hesketh to the 566-ton Parr after the Royal African Company lost its monopoly in 1698. About a quarter of all African-born slaves came to the Americas after abolition. African men and women used the children as a means of communication and plotting insurgency.
The dangers of the Middle Passage for its crew increased as the ship got closer to Africa; escape attempts and insurrections were also a risk. Diseases common along the African coast, such as malaria and yellow fever, took their toll on captives below decks. The captain’s job was to maintain order and discipline; too much violence could spark mutiny, insurrection, or obscene behavior.
Captains used manacles and leg shackles to restrain Africans; some refused to restrain certain ethnic groups. The men and women who were subjected to the Middle Passage’s brutalities came from all over Africa. African slaves believed that European men intended to kill and eat them, and they were subjected to often-heinous punishments and sexual exploitation.
What are the lasting effects of the Middle Passage?
In bad weather, the oppressive heat and noxious fumes in the unventilated and unsanitary holds caused fevers and dysentery, with a high mortality rate; deaths during the Middle Passage have been estimated at 13%, due to epidemics, suicide, “fixed melancholy,” or mutiny.
What role did Africans play in the Middle Passage?
Enslaved Africans who were captured and forced onto ships for the Middle Passage resisted by organizing hunger strikes, forming rebellions, and even committing suicide by leaping overboard rather than live in slavery; scholars estimate that one out of every ten slaving voyages experienced major rebellions.
How does the Middle Passage affect us today?
While the massive transport of millions of people does not occur openly today, a smaller, more deeply hidden, but no less insidious Middle Passage does: thousands of people, many of them women and children, are kidnapped, transported, and sold every day all over the world.
How many slaves could fit on a ship?
Slaves were transported on ships that carried anywhere from 250 to 600 slaves and were generally overcrowded; many ships were packed like spoons, with no room to turn, though in some ships a slave could have a space of about five feet three inches high and four feet four inches wide.
What was the middle passage answer?
Millions of enslaved Africans were forcibly transported to the Americas as part of the Atlantic slave trade’s triangular slave trade during the Middle Passage.
How long did the Middle Passage last?
The Middle Passage lasted about 80 days, on ships ranging from small schooners to massive, purpose-built “slave ships.” Humans were crammed on or below decks with no room to sit up or move around, and about 15% became sick and died due to a lack of ventilation and water.
Do sharks follow ships?
More came from Captain Hugh Crow, who went on ten slave voyages and wrote that sharks u201chave been known to follow vessels across the ocean, as they might devour the bodies of the dead when thrown overboardu201d based on personal observation.
How did Europe get slaves from Africa?
According to John K. Thornton, Europeans typically purchased enslaved people captured in endemic warfare between African states, and some Africans had made a business out of capturing and selling Africans from neighboring ethnic groups or war captives.
How did the Portuguese initially acquire African slaves?
Initially, Portuguese explorers attempted to obtain African labor by conducting direct raids along the coast, but they discovered that these attacks were expensive and ineffective against West and Central African military strategies. Manikongo (Kongo leaders) receiving the Portuguese, ca. pre-1840.
Why was the second Middle Passage important?
Between 1790 and the start of the Civil War in 1861, the Second Middle Passage, a turning point in the history of the domestic slave trade in the United States, enslaved peoples were relocated from the upper South to the lower South of the United States to accommodate the spread of the cotton industry.
What did the slaves eat?
Every Saturday, slaves received food rations consisting of corn meal, lard, some meat, molasses, peas, greens, and flour, as well as fresh produce from vegetable patches or gardens, if permitted by the owner. Morning meals were prepared and consumed in the slaves’ cabins at daybreak.
What did the slaves eat on the ship?
Enslaved Africans were fed beans, corn, yams, rice, and palm oil at best; however, enslaved Africans were not always fed every day; if there was not enough food for both the sailors (human traffickers) and the slaves, the enslavers would eat first, and the enslaved would go hungry.
Where were slaves kept on a ship?
Slave Guardians were assigned to watch over and keep the other slaves in check, as they were naked and shackled together with various types of chains, stored on the floor beneath bunks with little to no room to move.