U.S. History 1
April 22, 2013 The Middle Passage The Middle Passage was a small piece of a much larger system. The system it belonged to is known as the Triangular Trade. The first stage of the Triangular Trade was the journey from Europe to Africa to trade goods like copper, clothing, guns, and ammunition to African kings and royalty in exchange for young African men and woman. The second stage, or the Middle Passage, was the transport of African people to the Caribbean and to the Americas in exchange for raw materials such as sugar cane, tobacco, and hemp. The Triangular Trade was a very lucrative system, however it was quite brutal for those involved.
Diagram of Triangular Trade The major countries involved in the Middle Passage were European powerhouses such as
Portugal, England, and France. These powerhouses got slaves from various regions in Africa like Senegambia, Guinea, and areas of Southeast Africa. Originally slaves came from settlements near the shore, but as the word spread that unknown people were taking natives, settlements moved further inland to escape the foreigners. They weren’t very successful in hiding because they were often found and taken anyway. The journey from Africa to the Americas was horrific for the slaves as well as the sailors and the crew members, but it was especially brutal for the slaves. Some voyages lasted a month, others lasted six months to nine months, and some unlucky crews were at sea for a grueling year. Ships contained several hundred slaves and about 30 crew members. All of the slaves were crammed into the bowel of the ship where each person had less room than needed to breathe. Male captives were typically shackled in pairs in an attempt by the captains to save space, while woman and young children were allowed slightly more room. Because of the lack of space, slaves sat in their own filth and bodily wastes.
Illustration of ship conditions Slaves were treated extremely cruel on the slaves ships. They were considered goods or cargo, and they were treated as such. Slaves were often beaten, tortured, and raped for unapparent reasons. A perfect example of the cruelties on the slave ships took place on the slave ship Zong, captained by Luke Collingwood. Collingwood was a brutal, money hungry captain who was willing to do the most demented things to make money. Collingwood was responsible for the Zong Massacre