The Middle Passage was the stage of the triangular trade in which millions of West Africanswere forcibly transported to the New World as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Ships departed Europe for West African markets with manufactured goods (first side of the triangle), which were traded for humans, as African warlords and kings were willing to capture and sell members of other tribes.
Special slave ships transported the human cargo, in wretched conditions, males and females separated, across the Atlantic (second side of the triangle). Mortality was high; those with strong bodies survived. Young females were raped by the crew. The proceeds from sale of the enslaved Africans were then used to buy hides, tobacco, sugar, rum, and raw materials[ which? ], which would be transported back to northern Europe (third side of the triangle) to complete the triangle.
The First Passage was the forced march of captives (future slaves) from their inland homes to African ports, such as Elmina, where they were imprisoned until they could be loaded onto a buying ship. The Final Passage was the journey from the port of disembarkation, such as Charleston, South Carolina, to the plantation or other destination where they would be put to work. The Middle Passage across the Atlantic joined these two. Voyages on the Middle Passage were large financial undertakings, generally organized by companies or groups of investors[ example needed ] rather than individuals.
The "Middle Passage" was considered a time of in-betweenness for those being traded from Africa to America. The close quarters and intentional division of pre-established African communities selling the cargo of enslaved by the ship crew motivated captive Africans to forge bonds of kinship which then created forced transatlantic communities.The "Middle Passage" refers to the journey from Africa to America and the conditions under which these Africans lived.
Traders from the Americas and Caribbean received the enslaved Africans. European powers such as Portugal, Britain, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark–Norway, Sweden, Courland and Brandenburg, as well as traders from Brazil and North America, took part in the trade. The enslaved Africans came mostly from the regions of Senegambia, Upper Guinea, Windward Coast, Gold Coast, Bight of Benin, Bight of Biafra, and Dutch Loango-Angola.Between 1525 and 1859, the slave trade from the Bight of Biafra alone accounted for over two-thirds of slaves exported to the New World.
An estimated 15% of the Africans died at sea, with mortality rates considerably higher in Africa itself during the process of capturing and transporting indigenous people to the ships.The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage voyage is estimated at up to two million; a broader look at African deaths directly attributable to the institution of slavery from 1500 to 1900 suggests up to four million African deaths.
The first known transatlantic slave ship sailed from São Tomé to New Spain in 1525, outsourced by Genoese bankers who paid the Spanish court for the Asiento de Negros . Portuguese slavers had a near monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa until about 1640, while in the second half of the 17th century competing Dutch, British and French traders concentrated the trade in slaves on the Caribbean islands of Curaçao, Martinique and Barbados from where they would be exported to the mainland. During the 18th century, when the slave trade transported about 6 million Africans, British slavers carried almost 2.5 million.
The duration of the transatlantic voyage varied widely,from one to six months depending on weather conditions. The journey became more efficient over the centuries; while an average transatlantic journey of the early 16th century lasted several months, by the 19th century the crossing often required fewer than six weeks.
It is believed that African kings, warlords and private kidnappers sold captives to Europeans who held several coastal forts. The captives were usually force-marched to these ports along the western coast of Africa, where they were held for sale to the European or American slave traders in the barracoons. Typical slave ships contained several hundred slaves with about 30 crew members.
The male captives were normally chained together in pairs to save space; right leg to the next man's left leg — while the women and children may have had somewhat more room. The chains or hand and leg cuffs were known as bilboes, which were among the many tools of the slave trade, and which were always in short supply. Bilboes were mainly used on men, and they consisted of two iron shackles locked on a post and were usually fastened around the ankles of two men.At best, captives were fed beans, corn, yams, rice, and palm oil. Slaves were fed one meal a day with water, if at all. When food was scarce, slaveholders would get priority over the slaves. Sometimes captives were allowed to move around during the day, but many ships kept the shackles on throughout the arduous journey. Aboard certain French ships, slaves were brought on deck to periodically receive fresh air. While female slaves were typically permitted to be on deck more frequently, male slaves would be watched closely to prevent revolt when above deck.
Slaves below the decks lived for months in conditions of squalor and indescribable horror. Disease spread and ill health was one of the biggest killers. Mortality rates were high, and death made these conditions below the decks even worse. Even though the corpses were thrown overboard, many crew members avoided going into the hold. The slaves who had already been ill ridden were not always found immediately. Many of the living slaves could have been shackled to someone that was dead for hours and sometimes days.
Most contemporary historians estimate that between 9.4 and 12.6 million Africans embarked for the New World.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, measles, and other diseases spread rapidly in the close-quarter compartments.
The rate of death increased with the length of the 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. In addition to physical sickness, many slaves became too depressed to eat or function efficiently due to loss of freedom, family, security, and their own humanity.
The need for profits in the 18th century's Atlantic market economy drove changes in ship designs and in managing human cargo, which included enslaved Africans and the mostly European crew. Improvements in air flow on board the ships helped to decrease the infamous mortality rate that these ships had become known for throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. The new designs that allowed ships to navigate faster and into rivers' mouths ensured access to many more enslaving posts along the West African coast.The monetary value of enslaved Africans on any given American auction-block during the mid-18th century ranged between $800 and $1,200, which in modern times would be equivalent to $32,000–48,000 per person ($100 then is now worth $4,000 due to inflation). Therefore, ship captains and investors sought technologies that would protect their human cargo.
Throughout the height of the Atlantic slave trade (1570–1808), slave ships were normally smaller than traditional cargo ships, with most slave ships weighing between 150 and 250 tons. This equated to about 350 to 450 enslaved Africans on each slave ship, or 1.5 to 2.4 per ton. The English ships of the time normally fell on the larger side of this spectrum and the French on the smaller side. Ships purposely designed to be smaller and more maneuverable were meant to navigate the African coastal rivers into farther inland ports; these ships therefore increased the effects of the slave trade on Africa. Additionally, the ships' sizes increased slightly throughout the 1700s; however the number of enslaved Africans per ship remained the same. This reduction in the ratio of enslaved Africans to ship tonnage was designed to increase the amount of space per person and thus improve the survival chances of everyone on board. These ships also had temporary storage decks which were separated by an open latticework or grate bulkhead, Ship masters would presumably use these chambers to divide enslaved Africans and help prevent mutiny. Some ships developed by the turn of the 19th century even had ventilation ports built into the sides and between gun ports (with hatches to keep inclement weather out). These open deck designs increased airflow and thus helped improve survival rates, diminishing potential investment losses.
Another major factor in "cargo protection" was the increase in knowledge of diseases and medicines (along with the inclusion of a variety of medicines on the ships). First the Dutch East India Company in the 18th century, followed by some other countries and companies in the late 18th early 19th centuries, realized that the inclusion of surgeons and other medical practitioners aboard their ships was an endeavor that proved too costly for the benefits. So instead of including medical personnel they just stocked the ships with a large variety of medicines; while this was better than no medicines, and given the fact that many crew members at least had some idea of how disease was spread, without the inclusion of medical personnel the mortality rate was still very high in the 18th century.
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Slaves' treatment was horrific because the captured African men and women were considered less than human; they were "cargo", or "goods", and treated as such; they were transported for marketing. Women with children were not as desirable for they took up too much space and toddlers were not wanted because of everyday maintenance.For example, the Zong, a British slaver, took too many slaves on a voyage to the New World in 1781. Overcrowding combined with malnutrition and disease killed several crew members and around 60 slaves. Bad weather made the Zong's voyage slow and lack of drinking water became a concern. The crew decided to drown some slaves at sea, to conserve water and allow the owners to collect insurance for lost cargo. About 130 slaves were killed and a number chose to kill themselves in defiance, by jumping into the water willingly. The Zong incident became fuel for the abolitionist movement and a major court case, as the insurance company refused to compensate for the loss.
While slaves were generally kept fed and supplied with drink as healthy slaves were more valuable, if resources ran low on the long, unpredictable voyages, the crew received preferential treatment. Slave punishment and torture was very common, as on the voyage the crew had to turn independent people into obedient slaves.Pregnant women on the ships who delivered their babies aboard risked the chance of their children being killed in order for the mothers to be sold. The worst punishments were for rebelling; in one instance a captain punished a failed rebellion by killing one involved slave immediately, and forcing two other slaves to eat his heart and liver.
As a way to counteract disease and suicide attempts, the crew would force the slaves onto the deck of the ship for exercise, usually resulting in beatings because the slaves would be unwilling to dance for them or interact.These beatings would often be severe and could result in the slave dying or becoming more susceptible to diseases.
Slaves resisted in many ways. The two most common types of resistance were refusal to eat and suicide. Suicide was a frequent occurrence, often by refusal of food or medicine or jumping overboard, as well as by a variety of other opportunistic means.If a slave jumped overboard, they would often be left to drown or shot from the boat. Over the centuries, some African peoples, such as the Kru, came to be understood as holding substandard value as slaves, because they developed a reputation for being too proud for slavery, and for attempting suicide immediately upon losing their freedom.
Both suicide and self-starving were prevented as much as possible by slaver crews; slaves were often force-fed or tortured until they ate, though some still managed to starve themselves to death; slaves were kept away from means of suicide, and the sides of the deck were often netted.Slaves were still successful, especially at jumping overboard. Often when an uprising failed, the mutineers would jump en masse into the sea. Slaves generally believed that if they jumped overboard, they would be returned to their family and friends in their village or to their ancestors in the afterlife.
Suicide by jumping overboard was such a problem that captains had to address it directly in many cases. They used the sharks that followed the ships as a terror weapon. One captain, who had a rash of suicides on his ship, took a woman and lowered her into the water on a rope, and pulled her out as fast as possible. When she came in view, the sharks had already killed her—and bitten off the lower half of her body.
In order to interact with each other on the voyage, slaves created a communication system unbeknownst to Europeans: They would construct choruses on the passages using their voices, bodies, and ships themselves; the hollow design of the ships allowed slaves to use them as percussive instruments and to amplify their songs. This combination of "instruments" was both a way for slaves to communicate as well as create a new identity since slavers attempted to strip them of that. Although most slaves were from various regions around Africa, their situation allowed them to come together and create a new culture and identity aboard the ships with a common language and method of communication:
[C]all and response soundings allowed men and women speaking different languages to communicate about the conditions of their captivity. In fact, on board the Hubridas, what began as murmurs and morphed into song erupted before long into the shouts and cries of coordinated revolt.
This communication was a direct subversion of European authority and allowed slaves to have a form of power and identity otherwise prohibited. Furthermore, such organization and coming together enabled revolts and uprisings to actually be coordinated and successful at times.
Aboard ships, the captives were not always willing to follow orders. Sometimes they reacted in violence. Slave ships were designed and operated to try to prevent the slaves from revolting. Resistance among the slaves usually ended in failure and participants in the rebellion were punished severely. About one out of ten ships experienced some sort of rebellion.
Ottobah Cugoano, who was taken from Africa as a slave when he was a child, later described an uprising aboard the ship on which he was transported to the West Indies:
When we found ourselves at last taken away, death was more preferable than life, and a plan was concerted amongst us, that we might burn and blow up the ship, and to perish all together in the flames.
The number of rebels varied widely; often the uprisings would end with the death of a few slaves and crew. Surviving rebels were punished or executed as examples to the other slaves on board.
Slaves also resisted through certain manifestations of their religions and mythology. They would appeal to their gods for protection and vengeance upon their captors, and would also try to curse and otherwise harm the crew using idols and fetishes. One crew found fetishes in their water supply, placed by slaves who believed they would kill all who drank from it.
While the owners and captains of slave ships could expect vast profits, the ordinary sailors were often badly paid and subject to brutal discipline. Sailors often had to live and sleep without shelter on the open deck for the entirety of the Atlantic voyage as the entire space below deck was occupied by enslaved people.
A crew mortality rate of around 20% was expected during a voyage, with sailors dying as a result of disease (specifically malaria and yellow fever), flogging or slave uprisings.A high crew mortality rate on the return voyage was in the captain's interests as it reduced the number of sailors who had to be paid on reaching the home port. Crew members who survived were frequently cheated out of their wages on their return.
The sailors were often employed through coercion as they generally knew about and hated the slave trade. In port towns, recruiters and tavern owners would induce sailors to become very drunk (and indebted) and then offer to relieve their debt if they signed contracts with slave ships. If they did not, they would be imprisoned. Sailors in prison had a hard time getting jobs outside of the slave ship industry since most other maritime industries would not hire "jail-birds", so they were forced to go to the slave ships anyway.
The Atlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, or Euro-American slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of various enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage, and existed from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave trade were people from Central and West Africa, who had been sold by other West Africans to Western European slave traders ; Europeans gathered and imprisoned the enslaved at forts on the African coast and then brought them to the Americas. Except for the Portuguese, European slave traders generally did not participate in the raids because life expectancy for Europeans in sub-Saharan Africa was less than one year during the period of the slave trade. The South Atlantic and Caribbean economies were particularly dependent on labour for the production of sugarcane and other commodities. This was viewed as crucial by those Western European states which, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with one another to create overseas empires.
United States v. Schooner Amistad, 40 U.S. 518 (1841), was a United States Supreme Court case resulting from the rebellion of Africans on board the Spanish schooner La Amistad in 1839. It was an unusual freedom suit that involved international issues and parties, as well as United States law. The historian Samuel Eliot Morison described it in 1969 as the most important court case involving slavery before being eclipsed by that of Dred Scott in 1857.
Triangular trade or triangle trade is a historical term indicating trade among three ports or regions. Triangular trade usually evolves when a region has export commodities that are not required in the region from which its major imports come. Triangular trade thus provides a method for rectifying trade imbalances between the above regions.
The Zong massacre was a mass killing of more than 130 enslaved Africans by the crew of the British slave ship Zong on and in the days following 29 November 1781. The William Gregson slave-trading syndicate, based in Liverpool, owned the ship and sailed her in the Atlantic slave trade. As was common business practice, they had taken out insurance on the lives of the enslaved people as cargo. According to the crew, when the ship ran low on drinking water following navigational mistakes, the crew threw enslaved people overboard into the sea.
The British Royal Navy established the West Africa Squadron at substantial expense in 1808 after Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807, an Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. The squadron's task was to suppress the Atlantic slave trade by patrolling the coast of West Africa. With a home base at Portsmouth, England, it began with two small ships, the 32-gun fifth-rate frigate HMS Solebay and the Cruizer-class brig-sloop HMS Derwent. At the height of its operations, the squadron employed a sixth of the Royal Navy fleet and marines. In 1819 the Royal Navy established a West Coast of Africa Station and the West Africa Squadron became known as the Preventative Squadron. It remained an independent command until 1856 and then again 1866 to 1867. Between 1830 and 1865, more than 1,500 British sailors died on their mission of freeing slaves with the West Africa Squadron.
Slave ships were large cargo ships specially built or converted from the 17th to the 19th century for transporting slaves. Such ships were also known as "Guineamen" because the trade involved human trafficking to and from the Guinea coast in West Africa.
The Slave Dancer is a historical novel written by Paula Fox and published in 1973. It tells the story of a boy called Jessie Bollier who witnessed first-hand the savagery of the Atlantic slave trade. The book not only includes a historical account, but it also touches upon the emotional conflicts felt by those involved in transporting the slaves from Africa to other parts of the world. It tells the story of a thirteen-year-old boy, Jessie Bollier, who is put in a position which allows him to see the African slave trade in person. Jessie is captured from his New Orleans home and brought to an American ship. There he is forced to play the fife in order to keep the other slaves dancing, and thus strong when they arrive at their destination. The book received the Newbery Medal in 1974.
The Golden Age of Piracy is a common designation for the period between the 1650s and the 1730s, when maritime piracy was a significant factor in the histories of the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, the Indian Ocean, North America, and West Africa.
Tecora was a Portuguese slave ship of the early 19th century. The brig was built especially for the slave trade although the transport across the Atlantic of human beings as slaves had already been outlawed by several nations in international treaties in the first decade of the 19th century. She was fast and maneuverable in order to evade British patrols that attempted to stop such illegal slave ships off the coast of Africa.
La Amistad was a 19th-century two-masted schooner, owned by a Spaniard colonizing Cuba. It became renowned in July 1839 for a slave revolt by Mende captives, who had been captured by Portuguese slave hunters in Sierra Leone in violation of all extant treaties and brought to Cuba. Two Spanish plantation owners, Don José Ruiz and Don Pedro Montes, bought 53 captives, including four children, in Havana, Cuba and were transporting them on the ship to their plantations near Puerto Príncipe. The revolt began after the schooner's cook jokingly told the slaves that they were to be "killed, salted, and cooked". Sengbe Pieh, a Mende man, also known as Joseph Cinqué, unshackled himself and the others on the third day and started the revolt. They took control of the ship, killing the captain and the cook. In the melee, three Africans were also killed.
The Hannibal was an English slaver of the Atlantic slave trade. The wooden sailing ship was 450 tons and mounted thirty-six guns, which it was frequently forced to use; seven hundred people could be forced into its hold at one time. Many slavers rigged shelves in the middle called a "slave deck," so that individuals could not even sit upright during the entire voyage. The owners of the ship were paid 10.50 for every slave, but only for those brought to the "New World" alive. As a result, the slaves were fed regularly twice a day a meal of corn meal and beans, given a litre of water per day, and given exercise for an hour every evening to keep them fit. Despite these efforts, an average 47% of the slaves died from disease, physical injuries, or suicide on the Hannibal's voyages.
Brooks was a British slave ship launched at Liverpool in 1781. She became infamous after prints of her were published in 1788. Between 1782 and 1804 when she was condemned as unseaworthy she made 11 slave–trading voyages. During this period she spent some years as a West Indiaman, and also captured a French merchantman.
Seasoning, or The Seasoning, was the period of adjustment that slave traders and slaveholders subjected African slaves to following their arrival in the Americas. While modern scholarship has occasionally applied this term to the brief period of acclimatization undergone by European immigrants to the Americas, it most frequently and formally referred to the process undergone by enslaved people. Slave traders used "seasoning" in this colonial context to refer to the process of adjusting the enslaved Africans to the new climate, diet, geography, and ecology of the Americas. The term applied to both the physical acclimatization of the enslaved person to the environment and that person's adjustment to a new social environment, labor regime, and language. Slave traders and owners believed that, if a person survived this critical period of environmental seasoning, they were less likely to die and the psychological element would make them more easily controlled. This process took place immediately after the arrival of enslaved people during which their mortality rates were particularly high. These "new" or "saltwater" slaves were called "outlandish" on arrival. Those who survived this process became "seasoned", and typically commanded a higher price in the market. For example, in eighteenth century Brazil, the price differential between "new" and "seasoned" slaves was about fifteen percent.
The Igbo, whose traditional territory is called the Bight of Biafra, became one of the principal ethnic groups to be enslaved during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. An estimated 14.6% of all slaves were taken from the Bight of Biafra between 1650 and 1900. The Bight’s major slave trading ports were located in Bonny and Calabar. The majority of Igbo slaves were kidnapped during village raids. The journey for Igbo slaves often began in the ancient Cave Temple that was located in Arochukwu Kingdom. During this period, the three Igbo Kingdoms followed the same culture and religion, yet tended to operate very differently from each other. The Kingdom of Nri and the Independent Igbo States did not practice slavery, and slaves from neighbouring lands would often flee to these kingdoms in order to be set free. Arochukwu, on the other hand, practiced a system of indentured servitude that was remarkably different to chattel slavery in the Americas. Eventually, with Europeans beginning to encroach on Igbo territory, causing the kingdoms to desire weaponry to defend themselves. In order to obtain European goods and weaponry, Arochukwu began to raid villages of the other Igbo kingdoms - primarily those located in the Igbo hinterlands. People would be captured, regardless of gender, social status, or age. Slaves could have been originally farmers, nobility, or even people who had committed petty crimes. These captured slaves would be taken and sold to European slave traders on the coast. Another way people were enslaved was through the divine oracle who resided in the Cave Temple complex. All Igbos practiced divination called Afa, but the Kingdom of Arochukwu was different because it was headed by a divine oracle who was in charge of making decisions for the king. During this time, if someone committed a crime, was in debt, or did something considered an "abomination", they would be taken to the cave complex to face the oracle for sentencing. The oracle, who was also influenced by the demands of European slave traders, would sentence these people to slavery, even for small crimes. The victim would be commanded to walk further into the cave so that the spirits could "devour" them, but, in reality, they were taken to an opening on the other side and loaded directly onto a waiting boat. This boat would take them to a slave ship en route to the Americas.
Sunny South, an extreme clipper, was the only full-sized sailing ship built by George Steers, and resembled his famous sailing yacht America, with long sharp entrance lines and a slightly concave bow. Initially, she sailed in the California and Brazil trades. Sold in 1859 and renamed Emanuela, she was considered to be the fastest slaver sailing out of Havana. The British Royal Navy captured Emanuela off the coast of Africa in 1860 with over 800 slaves aboard. The Royal Navy purchased her as a prize and converted her into a Royal Navy store ship, Enchantress. She was wrecked in the Mozambique Channel in 1861.
Piracy was a phenomenon that was not limited to the Caribbean region. Golden Age pirates roamed off the coast of North America, Africa and the Caribbean.
A scramble was a particular form of slave auction that took place during the Atlantic slave trade in the European colonies of the West Indies and the United States. It was called a "scramble" because buyers would run around in an open space all at once to gather as many bondspeople as possible. Another name for a scramble auction is "Grab and go" slave auctions. Slave ship captains would go to great lengths to prepare their captives and set prices for these auctions to make sure they would receive the highest amount of profits possible because it usually did not involve earlier negotiations or bidding.
Hydrarchy, is the organizational structure of a ship, or the ability for individual(s) to gain power over land by ruling through the instrument of water, as defined by English poet Richard Braithwaite (1588-1673), who coined the term.
Byam was a snow launched at Oban, or possibly Padstow, in 1800. She made four voyages trading slaves between West Africa and the West Indies before the French captured and burnt her in late 1807 or early 1808 as she was about to deliver slaves on her fifth voyage.
William Gregson was a British slave trader. He was responsible for at least 152 slave voyages, and his slave ships are recorded as having carried 58,201 Africans, of whom 9,148 died. Gregson was the co-owner of a ship called the Zong, whose crew perpetrated the Zong massacre.