Slaves were acquired in a few different
Slaves were acquired in a few different ways. Sometimes the capturers would simply hide out and wait for a passer-by. Some traded for goods, as mentioned above, and other Africans who would receive pay captured some. However acquired, their fate would depend on physical and mental toughness. In order to survive what lay ahead these two qualities were essential for survival. Many Africans believed they were going to be eaten by the Europeans.
This was a rumor that traveled among the captive slaves. There were also rumors circulating among white slave traders about a grisly incident that took place in 1724 on an English slave ship commanded byCaptain John Hardin. Believing that the slaves onboard his ships were plotting a revolt, Harding ordered the arrest Of the man whom he believed to be the ringleader. In front of the other captives, the man’s throat was cut and his heart and liver were cut out. Then Captain Harding ordered the bloody heart and liver to be cut into three hundred pieces, and he forced each of the horrified captives to eat a piece by threatening to do the same thing to them if they refused. The the experience so traumatized and disgusted the captives that many of them refused all food after that and gradually starved o death.Death of slaves on board was very common.
There are several reasons slaves died during the Middle Passage. Starvation and malnutrition were common slave ships. Sometimes captains underestimated the amount of food needed or the journey took longer than expected and therefore the slaves went hungry. Some slaves refused to eat in hopes to die. Disease and sickness also affected slave survival rates. Many of the diseases came from the Europeans and very few doctors could treat the slaves. Ship doctors rarely understood the causes of diseases that the captives suffered from.
If he illness or disease was treatable, appropriate medical care was difficult given the situation and numbers. Some of the illnesses could be blamed on changes in diet and contaminated water. Dysentery, dehydration, and scurvy were direct results of those changes. Other “fevers” such as malaria and small pox were major killers during the voyage. An account of the slave ship, the “Regard,” records losing 142 slaves to small pox in 1706. The “Indian Queen” lost 140 slaves in 1 716 to small pox and 45 slaves had advance signs of the disease while 43 more showed early stages of the disease upon cocking .Men, women and children alike endured all of the conditions mentioned.
No one person was given a better chance of survival over the journey. Women however, faced other burdens during the voyage that men and children were not exposed to. Sexual abuse and rape from ship creamers was very common. Some women were captured during pregnancy and forced to give birth aboard the ship. Other women had to make the journey across the Atlantic pregnant and gave birth soon after arriving in the colonies. Numbers on this subject are unknown but it has been documented that it did occur.