Middle Passage Introduction
Chained together in the dark bowels of a dirty disease ridden cargo ship for weeks or sometimes months with little food or water was what millions of enslaved Africans
had to endure on the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to America or the Caribbean dubbed the Middle Passage. Countless slaves made this Middle Passage
voyage from the 1600s through the beginning of the 1800s with many dying on the journey. This topic in Black Slavery History is important to know about to truly
understand the cruelty involved in the Atlantic slave trade.
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On this page you will find a list of interesting facts including more information about how cruel the Middle Passage was, why this voyage was called the Middle Passage, and when and where these voyages took place. Both kids researching Black History Month papers and adults interested in this part of history should find this information helpful.
- The first leg of the journey involved the ship traveling from somewhere in Europe to Africa where they would trade items such as guns, ammunition, and beads for slaves.
- The second leg of the journey (The Middle Passage) was from Africa to America or the Caribbean where the slaves were sold for products such as cotton, tobacco, and coffee.
- The last leg of the trading journey involved the ship returning to Europe with the products obtained from America or the Caribbean.
Interesting Middle Passage Facts
- Most of the African people forced into slavery were captured or obtained by other means such as purchased from African or African-European dealers who maintained trading post in Africa.
- Captured African's were marched in chains, often for days, to ports along the coast of West Africa where they were held until traded. Scores of these poor African's died during this brutal march due to exhaustion and disease.
- Slave ships usually held hundreds of slaves who were packed into extremely close quarters and often chained together for most or all of the voyage. The slave traders wanted to pack their ships with as many slaves as possible in order to increase their profit.
- How long the poor slaves had to endure the horrific voyage from Africa to America varied based on many factors including weather conditions and the quality of the ship. The journey generally ranged from one month up to six months. In the later years of the slave trade the journey took a lot less time due to the building of better and faster ships.
- Disease spread rapidly in the tightly packed poorly ventilated areas within the ships where the slaves were kept, often killing many of them. As time went on slave traders built ships with better ventilation therefore decreasing the spread of disease.
- The slave traders did not consider the slaves as humans but rather as cargo. The traders did not want the slaves to die or to get ill; not out of compassion but rather out of a desire to protect their cargo and to generate a profit.
- The horrific conditions on the slave ships and depression over their future drove many of these poor souls to commit suicide; often by jumping over the side of the ship.
- It is hard to know for sure how many slaves died on the Middle Passage but some experts estimate approximately two million; which is about 15 percent.