Semester Two Book Review – Saltwater Slavery

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In her novel Saltwater Slavery, Stephanie Smallwood punctiliously analyzes the transformation of humans into essential commodities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by detailing the horrors of captivity and annihilation of social structure. Before identifying the slave life nascent in America, Saltwater Slavery begins by examining the slave trade in West Africa. Smallwood focuses her work on the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of those who were adversely affected by slavery. The author then takes the reader away from the Gold Coast and focuses her attention on African uprisings, death, starvation, and maltreatment. In the first three chapters of the book, Smallwood details the process of turning African captives into human commodities by describing how strategically merchants pushed their slaves almost to death as well as how the West African slave market shaped the slaves and prepared them for what was to come in the Americas. Following this account, Smallwood expands on the process of preserving and recreating of African identities in the Americas by drawing from records of slaves and social relations formed amongst the African minority. The last two chapters deal with the immersion of the African slaves into the American culture and their challenges in the New World.
Despite the fact that a plethora of historical references regarding slavery and the Atlantic slave trade exist, Smallwood interestingly and uniquely comes up with a book more personal to the inner workings of the slave trade. Smallwood wrote a chronicle that places more importance on personal experiences to enlighten the readers in a more captivating fashion. This point of view is showcased when she identifies an old African female slave named ‘Sibe...

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...anufactured goods for slaves with the Americas. In Saltwater Slavery, Smallwood effectively encompasses these intricate details on a smaller scale and shows how they affected American slave life.
Overall, the novel Saltwater Slavery is very well crafted and easy to follow. It offers a very detailed account on the personal aspects of what it was like to be a slave and endure those horrendous conditions. Smallwood’s use of personal accounts makes the book credible, interesting, and unique, and her thoughtful execution of all of the elements of the Atlantic slave trade makes it an enjoyable read for anyone interested in the global timeline of slavery from the west coast of Africa to the prosperous lands of the New World.

Works Cited

Smallwood, Stephanie E. Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2007. Print.

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