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HIST311: The Age of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1500-1900

Unit 6: The Middle Passage   Over 30,000 slaving voyages brought Africans to the Americas. These captive Africans reached the New World through what is called the Middle Passage. During the Middle Passage, a transatlantic crossing that frequently lasted between one and three months, it is estimated that nearly 20 percent of Africans on board perished. According to regulations, approximately 350 captives were allowed to be transported, but some slavers packed upwards of 800 slaves below deck. Men, women, and children were stripped naked and branded before being forced to lie down, in their own filth, and chained to one another. Crewmembers beat, raped, or otherwise tortured their captives during the journey. In addition, many Africans died of disease, dehydration, or suicide. Some Africans were able to resist their captors; many rebellions were incited on board slave ships. When the slaving vessels finally moored in New World ports, Africans were quarantined (for disease) and then sold at auction to merchants and planters.

In this unit, we will examine the horrific voyage of the Middle Passage. We will study conditions on board slave ships, the treatment of slaves during the Middle Passage, and the auctions and quarantines that captives endured when they arrived in the New World.

Unit 6 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 9 hours.

☐    Subunit 6.1: 4.5 hours ☐    Subunit 6.1.1: 0.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.1.2: 0.75 hours

☐    Subunit 6.1.3: 3.25 hours

☐    Subunit 6.2: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 6.3: 1.5 hours

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - identify and describe the Middle Passage of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade; - evaluate and describe how the rigors of the Middle Passage affected captives; and  - describe and analyze the slave allocation systems that existed for those captives who survived the voyage through the Middle Passage.

6.1 The Middle Passage   6.1.1 Disease and Death   - Reading: Academic American: Olaudah Equiano’s Voyages from Africa: “The Middle Passage” Link: Academic American: Olaudah Equiano’s Voyages from Africa: “The Middle Passage” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this article. Note that Olaudah Equiano was also
known as Gustavus Vasa. As you read, consider the following
questions: How does the author, Olaudah Equiano, describe his first
experiences aboard the slave ship? What conditions did he find? What
did Equiano learn from his fellow countrymen also aboard the ship?
What did Equiano see two other of his countrymen do?  

 Reading this article and answering the questions above should take
approximately 30 minutes.


 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.2 Duration of Passage   - Reading: Olaudah Equiano’s “A Multitude of Black People…Chained Together” Link: Olaudah Equiano’s “A Multitude of Black People…Chained Together” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this slave narrative. As you read, consider the following questions: What did Equiano fear when he first arrived on the slave ship? What was the consequence of refusing to eat? How does he describe the circumstances and events of the journey at sea?
 
Reading this article and answering the questions above should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.3 Routes and Destinations   - Web Media: Emory University, Digital Library Research Initiative: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database Voyages: “Introductory Maps” Link: Emory University, Digital Library Research Initiative: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database Voyages: “Introductory Maps” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Study these nine maps and read the accompanying descriptions. These maps were first published in David Eltis and David Richardson’s “Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Yale University Press: New Haven, 2010).

 Studying these maps should take approximately 15 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: University of North Carolina Library’s Documenting the American South: Boyrereau Brinch’s and Benjamin F. Prentiss’s (Benjamin Franklin’s) “The Blind African Slave, or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nick-named Jeffrey Brace”

    Link: University of North Carolina Library’s Documenting the American South: Boyrereau Brinch’s and Benjamin F. Prentiss’s (Benjamin Franklin’s) “The Blind African Slave, or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nick-named Jeffrey Brace” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read the “Introduction” and “Chapters 1–4” on pages 3–94 of this incisive tale of Brinch’s horrific journey from his native Africa to the New World. This slave narrative, while published in 1810, is Boyrereau Brinch’s description of his journey across the Atlantic in 1758 and 1759. Originally from Mali in western Africa, Brinch arrived in the port of Barbados aboard a slave ship and lived as a slave in the Caribbean and the United States for most of his life. Although not often read by modern day readers, Brinch’s memoir offers a horrifying view of the Middle Passage that other writers merely gesture toward.

    Reading this article should take approximately 3 hours.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource was reposted by The Saylor Foundation from the Public Domain. This resource was dedicated to the Public Domain under a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication 1.0 Universal. 

6.2 Slave Ships   6.2.1 Types of Slave Ships   - Web Media: Emory University: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: “Images of Vessels” Link: Emory University: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: “Images of Vessels” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Scroll down and select the links for the following images: “Plan of the Slaver ‘Vigilante,’” “H.M.S. ‘Rattler’ Capturing the Slaver ‘Andorinha,’” and “Section of Canoe for Transporting Slaves, Sierra Leone, 1840’s”. Study these images, and read the accompanying text for each image. As you read and view the images, answer the following questions: what do the plans of the Brig Vigilante reveal about the design of slave ships? With which slave route was the Andorinha vessel associated? Where was it captured by the H.M.S. Rattler? Approximately how many slaves could canoes carry? What were the dimensions of canoes such at the one depicted from Sierra Leone and where were they headed?
 
Studying these images, reading the accompanying text, and answering the questions above should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.2 Life on Board Slavers   - Reading: Alexander Falconbridge’s “Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa”

Link: Alexander Falconbridge’s [“Account of the Slave Trade on the
Coast of
Africa”](http://www.recoveredhistories.org/pamphlet1.php?catid=6)
(HTML)  

 Instructions: Read pages 16–19 of the electronic document (pages
26–32 of original document). As you read, consider the following
questions: Approximately how many slaves did the ship on which
Falconbridge sail carry? What were the conditions in which slaves
were held, and how many perished during the journey due to these
conditions? What motivated captains of ships to carry more slaves
than the ship had space? What caused slaves’ flesh to rub off during
the journey? How are deceased slaves disposed of during the sea
journey? How can a surgeon be most useful to slaves aboard a ship?  

 Reading this article and answering the questions above should take
approximately 1 hour.


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6.2.3 Resistance on Slave Ships   - Reading: James Barbot, Jr.’s “Premeditated a Revolt” Link: James Barbot, Jr.’s “Premeditated a Revolt” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this slave narrative. As you read, consider the following questions: How does Barbot describe the slave revolt on the ship on which he was sailing? How was the revolt put down? What was the overall death toll of this revolt? How did the ship’s crew attempt to prevent uprisings?
 
Reading this article and answering the questions above should take approximately 45 minutes.

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.4 Labor Systems on Dutch, Danish, French, British Islands   - Reading: The National Archives: “Slavery and Negotiating Freedom” Link: The National Archives: “Slavery and Negotiating Freedom” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the text on the webpage. Afterwards, click on and enlarge the documents linked below the text. As you explore the documents, consider the following questions: with whom and what are the documents concerned? In what ways do the documents tell the story of emancipation in the Caribbean?
 
Reading this article and the documents and answering the questions above should take approximately 15 minutes.

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
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  • Reading: Connexions: Dr. James Ross-Nazzal’s “Chapter 3: British Colonial America (1588–1701)” Link: Connexions: Dr. James Ross-Nazzal’s “Chapter 3: British Colonial America (1588–1701)” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Scroll down to the section titled “Southern Colonies,” and read the brief passage on Barbados for an overview of British colonial society there. Describe the triangular trade in which sugar was one part. As you read, consider the following question: why was there a continuous increase in African slaves in British Caribbean colonies?
     
    Reading this article and answering the question above should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Dr. James Ross-Nazzal. 

  • Reading: World History Archives: Veront Satchell’s “Jamaica” Link: World History Archives: Veront Satchell’s “Jamaica” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this article up until the section titled “Slave Revolts.” This reading will give you an overview of the history of Jamaica and slavery. As you read, consider the following questions: What were the circumstances and under the rule of which country were Africans enslaved in Jamaica? How did those circumstances change for some enslaved Africans when the English took over rule of the island? What economic activity sparked an increase in the slave trade under the English? How did one become part of the “free coloured community,” and where did this community fit in the social organization of Jamaica? What rights did members of this community have? How does the author of the text define maroon communities, and who were
    members of these communities?

    Reading this article and answering the questions above should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.5 Plantation Goods: Sugar, Coffee, Indigo, Cotton   Note: This topic is partially covered in the reading assigned below subunit 5.2.1.

6.3 Arrival in the New World   6.3.1 Ports and Auctions   - Reading: Alexander Falconbridge’s “Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa”

Link: Alexander Falconbridge’s [“Account of the Slave Trade on the
Coast of
Africa”](http://www.recoveredhistories.org/pamphlet1.php?catid=6)
(HTML)  

 Instructions: Read the section titled “Sale of Slaves” on pages
19–21 of the electronic document (pages 33–36 of original document).
As you read, consider the following questions: How does Falconbridge
describe the market for slaves in the West Indies? How does he
describe the reactions of some Africans aboard the ship that arrived
in Kingston, Jamaica? What does Falconbridge say the captains of
slave ships should do prior to the sale of slaves?  

 Reading this article and answering the questions above should take
approximately 45 minutes.  
  

Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.2 Perceptions of Slave Marts   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Perceptions of Slave Marts” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Perceptions of Slave Marts” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this brief text. As you read, consider the following questions: Describe the triangular trade. How was the slave trade a traditional business? What regulated the timing of the arrival of slave ships to ports in the Americas? In what condition did many slaves arrive to these ports? What was the primary objective of ship captains and slave trade agents once a ship arrived in port? What were some of the sources of the slave purchasers’ dissatisfaction?

 Reading this article and answering the questions above should take
approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/). It is
attributed to The Saylor Foundation. 

6.3.3 Origin of Imported Slaves   Note: This topic is covered by the resources assigned below subunits 2.2.1 and 2.2.2.

6.3.4 Encomienda and Repartimento   - Reading: Country Studies US: Rex A. Hudson (ed.)’s “Encomienda” Link: Country Studies US: Rex A. Hudson (ed.)’s “Encomienda” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the selection for an overview of the labor
systems in the early Spanish American colonies, focusing on Native
American slavery and the *encomienda*. As you read, consider the
following questions: What is an *encomienda*, and how did it come to
exist in Spanish colonies in the Americas? What were the
responsibilities of the *encomendero*? How did the *repartimento*
differ from the *encomienda*?  

 Reading this article and answering the questions above should take
approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Modern History Sourcebook: “The New Laws of the Indies, 1542” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Modern History Sourcebook: “The New Laws of the Indies, 1542” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this primary source document. As you read, consider the following questions: What does the king of Spain charge his official representative, the Audiencias, with in the New Laws of the Indies (1542)? What do the laws prohibit? What provisions and protections do the laws offer to individuals working pearl fisheries? From whom do the laws take away the possibility of using Native Americans as forced labor?

    Reading this article and answering the questions above should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.