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The Middle Passage
Transcript of The Middle Passage
What is the Middle Passage?
The Middle Passage was the crossing from Africa to the Americas, which the ships made carrying their ‘cargo’ of slaves. It was so-called because it was the middle section of the trade route taken by many of the ships.
The negro slave trade became one of the most important business enterprises of the seventeenth century.”
The Middle Passage might take three to nine weeks. However, unfavorable weather conditions could make the trip much longer and anywhere up to 14 weeks.
The Middle Passage
People were packed so close that they could not get to the toilet buckets, and so lay in their own filth. Seasickness, heat and lack of air all contributed to the terrible smell. These conditions also encouraged disease, particularly fever and the ‘bloody flux’ or gastroenteritis (a serious stomach bug).
Two philosophies that dominated the loading of a slave ship.
Mortality in the middle passage was regarded merely as an unfortunate trading loss, except for the fact that Negroes were more costly than cattle.
The average losses were between 10 and 20%, through sickness, suicide and even murder at the hands of the slave crew and captains.
The Dolben Act of 1788
Anywhere in between ten and twenty million Africans were introduced to the New World.
Some Ships and their Statistics
1651 Dutch Ship St. Jan lost 110 of their 219 slaves
1678 Ship Arthur a Royal African Company lost more than 20% of their slaves
1694 Ship Hannibal had 700 slaves and buried 320 if them, a loss of 45%
Born in 1745 to the Ibo people of Benin along the Niger River
Expected to be a chief, an elder, and a judge after his father
At age 11, he was kidnapped and forced into slavery with his sister
First transported to the Caribbean, eventually ending up in North America
Sold to Michael Henry Pascal, re-named Gustavus Vassa
Learned how to read and write
Re-sold to Quaker Robert King
After 3 years, saved over 40 pounds, which freed him
Equiano as a Free Man
Returned to London
Worked aboard ships in Europe
In the 1780s, he became involved in the abolitionist movement
In 1789, he published his slave narrative, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
In 1792, he married Susanna Cullen and eventually they had two daughters
In 1796, Susanna died
In 1797, Equiano died, with his older daughter passing months after him
Leaving his youngest daughter his fortune of about £950
10 years after his death, the English slave trade was abolished
Equiano and the Middle Passage
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African
is a primary source that depicts life in Africa, the Middle Passage and being enslaved.
The narrative is and has maintained an important aspect of the abolition movement and a historical document.
Amanda Medellin and Kaliegh Meza
“The Abolition of Slavery- Interactive Map”. BBC. Web. 31 March. 2014.
“The Middle Passage”. Discovering Bristol. Port cities Bristol. Web. 31 March. 2014.
“The Middle Passage”. US history. Hall Association. Web. 31 March. 2014.
Gupta Das Tania, James E. Carl, Maaka C.A., Roger, Galabuzi, Grace-Edward, Andersen, Chris. Race and Racialization: Essential Readings. Toronto, Ontario: Canadian Scholar’s Press Inc., 2007. Print.
Stillinger, Jack, Deidre Lynch, Stephen Greenblatt, and M. H. Abrams. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York, NY: W.W. Norton &, 2006. Print.
Slave Narrative One---Olaudah Equiano. Perf. Maya Angelou. Museum of the African Diaspora, 2010. Youtube.
Assignment Discovery: The Middle Passage. Perf. Jeffery Bolster. How Stuff Works. How Stuff Works, 2014.
Excerpts from the Middle Passage
“Indeed such were the horrors of my views and fears at the moment, that if ten thousand worlds has been my own, I would have freely parted with them all to have exchanged my condition with that of the meanest slave in my own country” (Equiano 2851).
“I now saw myself deprived of all chance of returning to my native country, or even the least glimpse of hope of gaining the shore, which I now considered as friendly; and I even wished for my former slavery in preference to my present situation, which was filled with horrors of every kind, still heightened by my ignorance of what I was to undergo” (2852).
“I would have jumped over the side, but I could not; and, besides, the crew used to watch us very closely who were not chained down poor African prisoners most severely cut for attempting to do so, and hourly whipped for not eating” (2852).
“I had never seen among any people such instances of brutal cruelty; and this not only shewn towards us blacks, but also to some of the whites themselves” (2852).
Excerpts from the Middle Passage
“However two of the wretches were drowned, but they got the other, and afterwards flogged him unmercifully for thus attempting to prefer death to slavery” (2854).
“Are slaves more useful by being thus humbled to the condition of brutes, than they would be if suffered to enjoy the privileges of men? The freedom which diffuses health and prosperity throughout Britain answers you-No. When you make men slaves you deprive them of half their virtue, you set them in your own conduct an example of fraud, rapine, and cruelty, and compel them to live with you in a state of war; and yet you complain that they are not honest or faithful!” (182).
“Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty, which, while it has no advantage to atone for it, thus aggravates distress, and adds fresh horrors even to the wretchedness of slavery” (2855).