In the book The Slave Dancer the conflict evolves around a boy named Jessie Bollier who is kidnapped and forced to play his fife on the ship Moonlight. Moon light is a slave ship that goes to collect slaves and brings them back to America to be sold.
While on the ship Jessie witnesses the horrible treatment of the slaves. He sees them beaten and placed in cargo holds that had barely any room, no ventilation, and inhuman conditions. The slaves were forced to go up on the deck and dance in order to keep their muscles healthy. Jessie had to play for them so they would move to the music.
The conflict comes to a head when the ship's captain and crew see a ship that will arrest them for having the slaves so the men take all the slaves and throw them overboard. Jessie has to help to save Ras, a young black boy.
The primary conflict is the internal struggle as Jessie tries to cope through the voyage while watching the horrible treatment of the slaves and being unable to do anything to help them.