In The Slave Ship, how does Rediker lay bare the differing perspectives of captain, crew, and enslaved?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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To be fair, I think the compelling factual description that Rediker provides us with in his work of non-fiction does focus on the perspective of the slaves more than that of the crew and the captain, but of course the captain and the crew are brought into the narrative through their interactions with the slaves and how they treat them. In particular, Rediker explores the role of captains and crew in acquiring slaves and working with intermediaries to gain slaves, and then how the slaves were treated by the crew and captain, and in particular how they were forced to dance in chains. One of the most disturbing stories in this narrative concerns a young African girl who refused to dance naked for the pleasure of the captain and crew, and was flogged to death as a result.

It is the life of the slaves though that is explored most thoroughly in this book. In particular, this is aided through the reproduction of a drawing of the slave ship called Brooks. The text goes into great detail on how it was built with a lower deck that was calculated to accommodate 294 slaves, and how each slave was assigned the comparative space of a coffin. The height of this lower deck was just five feet and there were no toilet facilities. The many slaves who died of disease or just starvation were thrown to the sharks. If this were not bad enough, the author tells us that this is just one slave ship, and that the conditions in others were probably much worse as captains sought to maximise their profits by trying to squash as many slaves as possible on board.


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