In the book The Slave Dancer thirteen year old Jessie is kidnapped and brought on board a ship where they make him play his fife to get the slaves to dance. Jessie learns that they have them dance to keep the slaves muscles in shape because they will be sold. No owner wants to buy a "sick nigger" he is told by Smith.
Jessie becomes afraid of the crew on the ship after he hears what he will be doing. He is not happy about his task. The holds had been horrible for the slaves and they were ill treated and lived in stench. Several men are found dead. The bodies of the dead slaves were just dumped into the sea. He witnesses Stout take a little girl and hold her by one leg tossing her into the sea.
One night the slaves are brought up for Jessie to play for them. They look in terrible shape and very miserable. Some of them are naked. He witnesses Stout whipping the slaves with a cat-o'-nine to get them on their feet. Small children grab onto their mothers.
Jessie plays on but all he feels is self disgust. He has to play for three groups of slaves. He is to continue with this duty every other day with different groups. He dreads each morning because of the duty. (pages 87-88)