The Middle Passage

The “Middle Passage” was the journey of slave trading ships from the west coast of Africa, where the slaves were obtained, across the Atlantic, where they were sold or, in some cases, traded for goods such as molasses, which was used in the making of rum. However, this voyage has come to be remembered for much more than simply the transport and sale of slaves. The Middle Passage was the longest, hardest, most dangerous, and also most horrific part of the journey of the slave ships.With extremely tightly packed loads of human cargo that stank and carried both infectious disease and death, the ships would travel east to west across the Atlantic on a miserable voyage lasting at least five weeks, and sometimes as long as three months.

Although incredibly profitable for both its participants and their investing backers, the terrible Middle Passage has come to represent the ultimate in human misery and suffering. The abominable and inhuman conditions which the Africans were faced with on their voyage clearly display the great evil of the slave trade.The Middle Passage was the most infamous route of this triangular trade. Although danger lurked constantly throughout the voyage across the Atlantic, the greatest danger to the slave ships always came when they were loading on the African coast. Once aboard the ships, the Negroes realized that they were being sent far away from home, and often there was violence even before the ship set sail. However, most of these uprisings were easily put down. Others jumped overboard and plunged from the ship into the sea, choosing to either drown or be devoured by blood-thirsty sharks rather than be taken from their homeland.

The Middle Passage took anywhere from one to five months depending on weather conditions with wind conditions varying by time of year. The ships used were designed for the transport of goods rather than people since two of the legs of the triangular trade involved cargo such as casks of rum or molasses or crates of textiles and other goods such as bales of cotton and tobacco. Due to this design, the conditions aboard ships running the Middle Passage with human cargo were poor with practically nonexistent sanitation facilities as the ships were not designed for the transport of several hundred people.African kings, warlords and private kidnappers sold their captives to Europeans who held several coastal forts. When rare opportunities arose, the Europeans themselves kidnapped African people. The captives were usually force-marched to these ports along the western coast of Africa, where they were held for purchase to the European or American slave traders. People were usually packed into the ships transporting at least 400 slaves that were chained in the cargo hold, guarded by approximately 35 crew.

Many ships contained up to 700 slaves aboard one slave ship.The male captives were normally chained together in pairs to save space; right leg to the next man’s left leg CLC while the women and children may have had somewhat more room. The captives were fed very small portions of beans, corn, yams, rice, and palm oil, normally just enough to sustain them. Slaves were fed two meals a day with water, but if food was scarce, slaveholders would get priority over meals. Sometimes captives were allowed to move around during the day, but many ships kept the shackles on throughout the arduous journey. About 1 1 millionAfricans were forcefully taken from Africa and took the voyage overseas. Disease and starvation due to the length of the passage were the main contributors to the death toll with amoebic dysentery and scurvy causing the majority of deaths.

Additionally, outbreaks of smallpox, syphilis, malaria, measles, and other diseases spread rapidly in the close-quarter compartments. The number of dead increased with the length of voyage, since the incidence of dysentery and of scurvy increased with longer stints at sea as the quality and amount of food and water diminished with every passing day.In addition to physical sickness, many slaves became too depressed to eat or function efficiently because of the loss of freedom, family, security, and their own humanity. This often led to worse treatment like force- feeding or lashings. Some even committed suicide before they arrived in the New World. The Haitian revolution of 1 804 led to the outlawing of the Atlantic Slave Trade by the primary slave trading nations, Great Britain and the United States, in 1807. However, the transport of captives from Africa to the Americas continued on a reduced scale until the middle of the century.

Within the United States, several Southern slave states (primarily Virginia) provided slaves to other slave states especially the new states coming into existence as the United States expanded westward (see Northwest Ordinance). This slave trade internal to the Lignite States ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, the American Civil War, and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution What has not been a subject of debate is that the experience of the African slaves along the Middle Passage remains today as the paramount example of unman mistreatment and suffering.The conditions which the slaves were faced with on this journey graphically display the absolute terror which was African-American slavery. For centuries the blacks were victimized by the heartless greed of a European class which was more advanced, and thus in a position to exploit them. The Africans, who were captured, branded, and locked in chains, had their humanity completely stripped away by slavery. Exemplified by the horror of the Middle Passage, slavery and the slave trade have permanently imbrue the character Of all humanity.

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