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The "Middle Passage" is the term used to describe the forced journey of African slaves across the Atlantic Ocean to the American continents. The Middle Passage was endured by millions of Africans from approximately 1518 until the middle of the 1800's.
While aboard the ships that were taking them to slavery, the captives were fed simple foods such as beans, corn, yams, rice, and palm oil. When food supplies ran low, preference was given to the ship's crew, and the slaves had to make do with little or no food.
Many slaves were so horrified by the conditions on board the ships that they attempted to commit suicide. One method of suicide was by refusing to eat. The ship captains, however, wanted their precious cargo to stay alive. They would punish and torture slaves who refused to eat. Some captains force-fed the slaves by using a tool called a speculum orum, a kind of pliers that holds a person's mouth open.
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