Conditions Aboard Ships On The Atlantic Slave Trade Essay Samples
Introduction The Middle Passage could be said to have been the most horrendous phase of the Atlantic Slave Trade. This is the part where the African slaves were transported from the western coasts of Africa toward the Americas. Eyewitness accounts and information provided by evidence-based documentaries are all in unison on the conditions encountered and survived through by the slaves throughout the 60-90 day voyage across the Atlantic.
Discussion Conditions aboard ships carrying slaves from Africa to the Americas on the Atlantic Slave Trade were appalling. The new slaves had no control over their own lives. As stated in the video on the slave trade by Anthony Hazard, most of the slaves were kept below deck, and it is estimated that each slave only had four square feet of space for himself for the entire journey to the New World. There was very little fresh air for the slaves to breathe, and the feeling was one of suffocation. As mentioned in the video of the Atlantic Slave Trade, there was no extra space for the slaves to stretch or change positions throughout the day, and aside from the cramped space around them, the slaves’ galleys were only about three feet high. The stench of human waste was often overpowering. During the few times that the slaves were allowed on the deck, fifty or sixty slaves were fastened to one another with the use of only one chain to prevent anyone from escaping. In the documentary on the Middle Passage by Steven Spielberg, it is stated that the slaves were manacled together in groups of two or three. Sometimes when a group of three was dragged upwards, there was one living and two were already dead. The unsanitary conditions inside the ships led to the slaves getting sick from a host of diseases such as dysentery, dehydration and scurvy. No mercy was shown to women and children as well. The women were subject to rape and other forms of physical abuse from the white crew (Equiano, 2015). As for sustenance, the slaves were provided with a little water, yams or beans with rice twice a day. They were sometimes allowed to relieve themselves in buckets, or if not, they had to relieve themselves in the space where they were already in. These extremely unsanitary conditions led to the quick spread of disease, and it is said that between one to two million Africans perished as a result of disease, starvation or from suicide during the centuries of the Middle Passage. Slaves who refused to eat had their teeth broken or pried open in order to force food down their throats (Barbot, 2015, 1-3).
Conclusion Slavery is said to be the most insidious transgression of all, as it pits man against his fellow man, when all men are said to be created equal, as taught in faith education and as promulgated by the Constitutions of nations around the world. African slaves were brought to the Americas under the most appalling and horrific conditions. They were treated like animals on board these ships, and it is a miracle that these individuals did survive the Middle Passage at all.
Barbot, John. 2015. Prepossessed of the Opinion That Europeans are Fond of their Flesh. In Excerpts from Slave Narratives, Chapter 1, Steven Mintz, editor.
Crash Course. The Atlantic Slave Trade. Crash Course World History #24. Online Video Clip. You Tube. 05 July 2012. Web. 04 March 2015.
Equiano, Olaudah. 2015. Olaudah Equiano, Enslaved African Man. Smithsonian – Oral Histories.
Steven Spielberg. The Middle Passage Documentary. Online Video Clip. You Tube. 02 November 2013. Web. 04 March 2015.
TED-Ed. The Atlantic Slave Trade. What Too Few Textbooks Told You – Anthony Hazard. Online Video Clip. You Tube. 22 December 2014. Web. 04 March 2015.