Terror of the Middle Passage

Terror of the Middle Passage

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A popular literature has painted this part of the slave experience as uniquely evil and inherently more inhuman that any of the others horrors of the slave life(Klein 130). Slaves were taken from their homes and was forcibly traded.One cannot, of course, mention the Middle Passage without eliciting the horrors of tightly packed men, women and children chained together, to keep them from rebelling, or from choosing the suicidal fate of jumping overboard. The mortality of captives in Africa, therefore, included not only losses among those headed for export at the Atlantic coast but the additional losses among those destined for export to Orient among those captured and transported to serve African masters(Engerman and Inkori 117). The death that the slaves went through while they were being shipped was crucial and insane. It shows how the Middle Passage was the most terrifying journey for the slaves. The terror of the slaves in the manner in which they was carried and the mortality that they suffered, proves how the slaves was treated ruthlessly during the Middle Passage.
Klein indicates the slavers carried 1.6 slaves per registered ship’s ton, with 5 to 7 square feet of deck area given to each slave. Most of the ships were outfitted with partial decks and platforms in the space below, the main deck and above the second or between the deck (Klein 132).The ships were different lengths and could hold only a certain amount of weight. The Brooks weighed 300 tons, and it held about 609 slaves. This arrangement gives a deck estimate at over 3,000 square feet, which provided an average of just under 7 square feet per slave. The LaVigilante is shown at 240 tons with 347 slaves and probably marks the lowest bound estimate with a deck area that results in 5.6 square feet per slave(Klein 133). Most slaves were crammed in into their designed spaces like loaves of bread on a shelf, with an average of six to seven square feet and rarely more than two or three feet of head space (Postma 23). Many slaves who, were in their nakedness, crouched on the lower back. Men slaves were generally shackled two by two , making movement extremely difficult, and small groups were strung together by longer chains to take them to the upper deck for meals and fresh air. Women and children were generally confined to a separate deck space or in cabins and allowed greater mobility(Postma 23).

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The size of the ships and how many slaves it could hold determined if it was going to be a “tight packer” or “loose packer“. “Tight packers“, was when they placed the slaves together side by side as close as possible. Like for example: sardines. The “loose packers” was when the slaves had spaced inbetween each other. As a result, these were the manners that the slaves were carried as if they where an animation and not human.
Engerman and Inikori indicates, mortality in the slave trade were sometimes exaggerated by those seeking to underscore mortality was quite severe. It’s severity becomes evident when all of it's various elements are catalogued . The best-known element of mortality is that of the middle passage(120). An over whelming majority suffered extreme terror and death under many horrific circumstances( Reaiker 14).The death of the slaves on the journey was observed on the fact that they treated the slaves pitilessly. # While still on the African coast and before the full complement of slaves was boarded, food supplies were ample, but if the Middle Passage lasted longer than expected, ration was reduced. Insufficient and spoiled drinking water was often a serious problem(Postma 24). Also, malnutrition prior to boarding and deprivation of sunlight from prolonged stays below deck made illness and high death rates unavoidable. Beginning with slaves giving up to three to four meals a day depending on the amount of food that was available in weather conditions. In this case death was around the corner because slaves would die of starvation. During the eighteenth century, a growing understanding of merits of cleanliness and fresh air, along with improvements in nutrients and medical treatment undoubted contributed to the decline in deaths. For this reason approximately of the deaths were caused by malaria, yellow fever, and intestinal disorders(Postma 24-25). Death in the crossing was due to a variety of causes: some had African origins and others were either related to actual living conditions aboard ship or were combination of the two.(Klein 151) Due to the outbreaks of measles or other highly communicable diseases that were not related to time at sea or the conditions of food and water supply, hygiene, and sanitation practices(Walvin). Finally, it has been suggested that local African food crisis would affect the death and the space in mortality in the voyage(Klein 141).
In conclusion, death was a constant threat as disease, murder, starvation, suicide, asphyxiation and severe depression rampantly claimed the lives of African slaves. African slaves were treated like objects like their lives did not matter as they were stored with little or no room at all. The Middle Passage was a journey that brought the slaves down as it was vital and inhumane for the way that they were treated.No one slave should had been treated as not human. The middle passage will never be forgotten about the manner the slaves was carried and the mortality that they suffered.
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