What did slaves do during the Middle Passage?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Middle Passage refers to the journey that African slaves were forced to take from Africa to the Americas during the Atlantic Slave Trade.  This was a harrowing journey that took several weeks on the rough open seas.  Slaves, which often spoke different languages from one another, were forced to ride in the bottom of the ship in the most macabre of circumstances. There was little light and they slept on the floor boards.  There was nowhere for the slaves to go to the bathroom, which made for very unsanitary conditions. The amount of headroom that slaves were afforded barely allowed them to turn around in their sleep.  Unsanitary conditions led to diseases that could kill the slaves. Slaves that died were thrown overboard with no pomp or circumstance.  It is estimated that as many as ⅓ of the slaves did not survive the Middle Passage.

In order to keep the slaves somewhat healthy, from time to time they were brought up to the deck of the ship to dance for exercise. It must have added to the horror when they looked in every direction and could not see any land.   Since they were all chained together it was very difficult to lead an insurrection.  Slaves could not even choose to starve themselves to death as they were force fed or tortured if they attempted to.  

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