The Middle Passage, was it Just the route taken by the slave ships across the Atlantic, or rather, the time in our history when humans were ripped from their native land,chained & shackled aboard a slave ship, being transported to a “New World”. Which will you recall,the route or the ship? The combined talents of authors, David Manning & Malcolm Cooley offers an in depth view into our history as it relates to The Middle Passage in their February 1962 issue of American Heritage & our supplemental reading chapter 4.
The authors makes it clear right away, that Europeans did not originate the idea of exporting slaves along the African coast. This had been a practice of the merchants of Timeout & the Moorish kingdoms north of the Sahara. There had also been a long history of transatlantic slave trade. Negroes (as called during this time period,refers to the African Americans of today) were in Santos Domingo by 1503, & the first 20 slaves were sold in Jamestown,Virginia in 1619. Once the sugar,tobacco,& rice plantations begin to flourish, so did the need for labor.
Thus, the widespread growth of slave trade,exporting over 70,000 slaves across the Atlantic per year. This endeavor yield approximately 5 million enslaved persons to the New World. Manning&Cowley reminds us that “possibly one or two of a hundred_were free Africans kidnapped by Europeans”. A large portion of those being brought to America against their wills ” had been enslaved and sold to the whites by other Africans”. This triangular slaving voyage proved to be profitable for all, but the base, known as The Middle Passageway the most profitable, carrying it’s black cargo…. At the highest cost in human suffering”. Then comes a shift, when the authors takes their readers from the route of the middle passage, to aboard the slave ship of The Middle Passage. Thru the personal writings of slave captains,& articles found in newspapers during that time period, they are able to paint a vivid picture of what took place aboard those slave ships transporting the enslaved Africans from their native lands to a New World. The writings are so descriptive as they spoke about the naked,shackled & chained slaves that “were forced to sleep without covering on bare wooden floors…. E skin over their elbows might be worn away to the bare bones” (pig 31). The writings of Newton in 1788 reports, a surgeon on board a ship “he made the most of the room in storing the slaves & wedged them 32). Often reported of tight quarters, foul smells, intolerable heat,blood,mucus,”resembled a slaughter -house. ” (Pig 37). Death,suicide,disease was Just a part of the Journey. Those that survived across the Atlantic were solo “Into ten Nell AT slavery”(pig In conclusion, The Middle Passage is an essential part of our history, both the route & the ship.
The 4,000 miles of West African coastline in it’s triangular shape was used to transport the enslaved African people from their native land to that of a New World by way of the Middle Passage, leaving behind the many stories untold, lost at sea. This reading has increased my knowledge base & dispelled the myth of only “white people” were involved in the capturing & selling of the African slaves. My steps will be a little lighter as I walk across the soil that holds the blood & sweat of my ancestors that was shed for the betterment of the New World. I will recall the ship more so than the route.