Slavery and Servitude in the Colonies

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Describe the effects of the Middle Passage on Africans.  

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During the Atlantic Slave Trade, the Middle Passage refers to the transportation of slaves from Africa to the Americas. It was a horrifying experience for the captured African. They had no idea what their destination was and had less of an idea of who the white European was. Many believed that the whites were cannibals that were taking them away to be eaten. Most of the slaves came from the interior of Africa, so they did not even understand what the ocean was. Since they came from the interior, they had already completed a harrowing trip to the coast in which they were lucky to have survived. They were held in pens on the coast until the next slave vessel was ready to take them to the New World. Most of them spoke different languages and communicating with one another was difficult. They were taken from their family and friends and obviously were heartbroken and homesick.

The Middle Passage, however, was the most difficult part of the voyage. The trip across the Atlantic Ocean took, at the least, three weeks. The slaves were packed into the bottom of the ship as tightly as possible. They had very little headroom to even move onto their sides or turn around. Being forced to lie on wooden boards for such a long period with little movement left sores on their back that sometimes festered to the bone. These sores were often filled with tar when the slaves disembarked. There were not restrooms, so the Africans had to relieve themselves in buckets if they were lucky. Vomiting was obviously common as they were in the bottom of a ship.  They suffered from vertigo, sea sickness and disease. Disease was common on the Middle Passage due to the unsanitary conditions. It is estimated that ten to fifteen percent or two million Africans, died on this voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.


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