Jessie is thirteen years old and lives with his mother and little sister. When he's abducted, he sees the small space the slaves are to occupy, and Jessie's compassion for them grows even stronger than at the beginning of the book. He smells a terrible odor arising from where another group of slaves had been imprisoned earlier. For the first time, Jessie lives with men instead of women, allowing him to realize how different they are. He trusts Purvis more than anyone else.
The hardest thing for Jessie to accept is the evil of the slave trade. He sees the slaves as humans, but the crew dehumanizes them with their racial slurs. He's appalled by the abuse heaped upon the slaves by the crew and the captain. On the trip back to Cuba, Jessie is afraid he'll never get home. He vows never to visit the slave market again because he's learned how horrible the lives of the slaves are. When the ship arrives in Cuba, the crew throws the slaves overboard because American ships are coming, and Jessie saves the boy who is near his age. Jessie expresses what he's learned when he says, "But even now I can feel the urgency of our struggle, the hope that delivered me from the depths and brought me up to air again and again as though most of my life had taken place in that stretch of sea." Jessie returns to his old life, but his experiences on the ship haunt him. He moves to the North and fights on their side in the Civil War.