What does "the middle passage" represent when we talk of African American history?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With regard to African American history, the term “Middle Passage” has to do with the slave trade that brought Africans to the Americas to be enslaved. 

The Atlantic slave trade was part of a bigger set of trade connections called the “triangular trade.”  The triangular trade connected Africa to the Americas, the Americas to Europe, and Europe to Africa.  From the perspective of the Europeans, the passage from Africa to the Americas was the “middle passage.” 

The Europeans brought things like textiles, manufactured goods, and rum to the coast of West Africa to trade for slaves.  They took the slaves on the Middle Passage to the Americas.  From the Americas, they brought things like sugar and tobacco to Europe.

Because the middle passage is so closely connected to slavery, it represents a horrible part of African American history.  It represents the inhumanity with which the first African Americans were treated as they were taken from their homes in Africa and brought to the Americas as slaves.  Thus, it represents the worst aspects of the ways in which African Americans were treated in the past.