The Middle Passage Essay

1278 words - 6 pages

The Middle Passage (or Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade) was a voyage that took slaves from Africa to the Americas via tightly packed ships. The trade started around the early 1500s, and by 1654 about 8,000-10,000 slaves were being imported from Africa to the Americas every year. This number continued to grow, and by 1750 that figure had climbed to about 60,000-70,000 slaves a year. Because of the lack of necessary documents, it is hard to tell the exact number of Africans taken from their homeland. But based on available clues and data, an estimated 9-15 million were taken on the Middle Passage, and of that about 3-5 million died. While the whole idea seems sick and wrong, many intelligent people ...view middle of the document...

Meanwhile in the Americas, European empires were growing, and they realized that they needed a more efficient work force. They had tried using Native Americans, but they usually died from European diseases. Europeans couldn’t work because of the diseases that the tropical climate gave them. It seemed like Africans would be the perfect solution to their problems. They were used to the tropical climate and immune to its diseases, had experience in agriculture, and there was already a market for them. This introduced the slave trade to North America, and in 1619 the first New World slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia. Most of the earlier slaves to journey the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade were from Windward Coast and Senegambia (Present-day Mauritania), but later expanded all along the coast of Africa. The Atlantic Slave Trade was also given the name “Middle Passage”, since it was the middle leg in the Triangular trade.
The Triangular trade was a trade system among Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Europe made manufactured goods such as textiles, gun powder, firearms, iron and copper bars, alcohol, cloth and brass kitchen ware. These were traded in Africa for slaves, gold, and silver, which were transported to the Americas, where they were exchanged for tobacco, fish, lumber, flour, sugar cane, cotton, and distilled rum. This merchandise was then brought to Europe, where the cycle began again. The Triangle Trade was very successful since each country produced something that the other two did not have, making their goods go up in value. The cycle worked efficiently until Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807.
The Middle Passage was often the worst part of a slave’s life. They were frequently referred to as ‘cargo’ or ‘merchandise’, and were stripped of their human rights. Most slaves either developed seasickness or diarrhea, and got sores from where the chains rubbed their skin. Those sores opened the skin and were then feasted on by maggots and other flesh-eating insects. The slaves usually had very little space, and could be arranged in several different methods. One method was to keep slaves above deck for the whole journey (where they could get better air), even though they were still crammed and chained to one another. “Tight pack” and “loose pack” were the most thriving and successful. These methods involved storing the slaves below deck. “Tight pack” referred to packing the slaves tightly (thus creating room for more slaves), but also made them more prone to illnesses and diseases. Slaves in a “loose pack” were given a little more room compared to slaves in a “tight pack”, which helped viruses from spreading (although there were not as many slaves). In both the...

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