By Jueseppi B.
Throughout the month Of February, TheObamaCrat™ will post a daily series called The Black History Moment Series. Each day for 28 days of this historic month you will be given the food of Black History to satisfy your hunger for knowledge.
The series starts now: The Black History Moment Series #2. The Middle Passage.
THE Middle Passage Documentary by Steven Spielberg
Published on Nov 2, 2013
Narrated by Debbie Allen
For weeks, months, sometimes as long as a year, they waited in the dungeons of the slave factories scattered along Africa’s western coast. They had already made the long, difficult journey from Africa’s interior — but just barely. Out of the roughly 20 million who were taken from their homes and sold into slavery, half didn’t complete the journey to the African coast, most of those dying along the way.
And the worst was yet to come.
Vicissitudes by Jason deCaire Taylor
Jason DeCaire Taylor, a British sculptor, creates beautiful and haunting life-size sculptures underwater in the oceans. These evolve to become reefs, many in places where the original reefs have suffered environmental degradation. His exhibits can be seen either by diving or glass-bottom boats, all over the world.
“Vicissitudes” is a large circle of figures shackled together and holding hands, off the coast of Grenada in the Caribbean.
“It remembers the captive Africans who died on slave ships during the Middle Passage, the crossing from Africa to the Americas. About a third of captives died from the horrible conditions on board. Their bodies were thrown into the Atlantic. Others, particularly women with children, who were often allowed to move about unshackled on deck, threw themselves over. Many believed in reincarnation and hoped to escape slavery and be reborn to a life of freedom.”
Slaves packed like cargo between decks often had to lie in each other’s feces, urine, and blood.
Africans were often treated like cattle during the crossing. On the slave ships, people were stuffed between decks in spaces too low for standing. The heat was often unbearable, and the air nearly unbreathable.
Women were often used sexually. Men were often chained in pairs, shackled wrist to wrist or ankle to ankle. People were crowded together, usually forced to lie on their backs with their heads between the legs of others.
This meant they often had to lie in each other’s feces, urine, and, in the case of dysentery, even blood. In such cramped quarters, diseases such as smallpox and yellow fever spread like wildfire.
The diseased were sometimes thrown overboard to prevent wholesale epidemics. Because a small crew had to control so many, cruel measures such as iron muzzles and whippings were used to control slaves.
Over the centuries, between nineteen and twenty million persons were estimated to have died in the crossing. This meant that the living were often chained to the dead until ship surgeons had the corpses thrown overboard.
All servants imported and brought into the Country. . . who were not Christians in their native Country. . . shall be accounted and be slaves. All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominion. . . shall be held to be real estate. If any slave resists his master. . . correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction. . . the master shall be free of all punishment. . . as if such accident never happened.
- Virginia General Assembly declaration, 1705
The Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade took place across the Atlantic Ocean from the 16th through to the 19th centuries. The vast majority of slaves transported to the New World were Africans from the central and western parts of the continent, sold by Africans to European slave traders who then transported them to North and South America. The numbers were so great that Africans who came by way of the slave trade became the most numerous Old-World immigrants in both North and South America before the late 18th century. The South Atlantic economic system centered on making goods and clothing to sell in Europe and increasing the numbers of African slaves brought to the New World. This was crucial to those European countries which, in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were vying with each other to create overseas empires.
The Portuguese were the first to engage in the New World slave trade, and others soon followed. Slaves were considered cargo by the ship owners, to be transported to the Americas as quickly and cheaply as possible, there to be sold to labor in coffee, tobacco, cocoa, cotton and sugar plantations, gold and silver mines, rice fields, construction industry, cutting timber for ships, and as house servants. The first Africans imported to the English colonies were also called “indentured servants” or “apprentices for life”. By the middle of the 17th century, they and their offspring were legally the property of their owners. As property, they were merchandise or units of labor, and were sold at markets with other goods and services.
The Atlantic slave traders, ordered by trade volume, were: the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, the Dutch, and the Americans. They had established outposts on the African coast where they purchased slaves from local African tribal leaders. Current estimates are that about 12 million were shipped across the Atlantic, although the actual number purchased by the traders is considerably higher.
The slave trade is sometimes called the Maafa by African and African-American scholars, meaning “great disaster” in Swahili. Some scholars, such as Marimba Ani and Maulana Karenga, use the terms “African Holocaust” or “Holocaust of Enslavement”.
Slavery was practiced in some parts of Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas for many centuries before the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade. There is evidence that enslaved people from some African states were exported to other states in Africa, Europe and Asia prior to the European colonization of the Americas. The African slave trade provided a large number of slaves to Europeans.
The Atlantic slave trade was not the only slave trade from Africa, although it was the largest in volume and intensity. As Elikia M’bokolo wrote in Le Monde diplomatique: “The African continent was bled of its human resources via all possible routes. Across the Sahara, through the Red Sea, from the Indian Ocean ports and across the Atlantic. At least ten centuries of slavery for the benefit of the Muslim countries (from the ninth to the nineteenth)…. Four million enslaved people exported via the Red Sea, another four million through the Swahili ports of the Indian Ocean, perhaps as many as nine million along the trans-Saharan caravan route, and eleven to twenty million (depending on the author) across the Atlantic Ocean“.
According to John K. Thornton, Europeans usually bought enslaved people who were captured in endemic warfare between African states. There were also Africans who had made a business out of capturing Africans from neighboring ethnic groups or war captives and selling them. People living around the Niger River were transported from these markets to the coast and sold at European trading ports in exchange for muskets (matchlock between 1540–1606 but flintlock from then on) and manufactured goods such as cloth or alcohol. However, the European demand for slaves provided a large new market for the already existing trade. Further, while those held in slavery in their own region of Africa might hope to escape, those shipped away had little chance of returning to Africa.
European colonization and slavery in the Americas
It was not just along the west African coast, but also in the Americas that Europeans began searching for commercial viability. European Christendom first became aware of the existence of the Americas after they were discovered by an expedition led by Christopher Columbus in 1492. As in Africa however, the indigenous peoples widely resisted European incursions into their territory during the first few centuries of contact, being somewhat effective in doing so. In the Caribbean, Spanish settlers were only able to secure control over the larger islands by allying themselves with certain Native American tribal groups in their conflicts with neighbouring societies. Groups such as the Kulinago of the Lesser Antilles and the Carib and Arawak people of (what is now) Venezuela launched effective counterattacks against Spanish bases in the Caribbean, with native-built boats, which were smaller and better suited to the seas around the islands, achieving success on a number of cases at defeating the Spanish ships.
16th, 17th and 18th centuries
The Atlantic slave trade is customarily divided into two eras, known as the First and Second Atlantic Systems.
The First Atlantic system was the trade of enslaved Africans to, primarily, South American colonies of the Portuguese and Spanish empires; it accounted for only slightly more than 3% of all Atlantic slave trade. It started (on a significant scale) in about 1502 and lasted until 1580 when Portugal was temporarily united with Spain. While the Portuguese traded enslaved people themselves, the Spanish empire relied on the asiento system, awarding merchants (mostly from other countries) the license to trade enslaved people to their colonies. During the first Atlantic system most of these traders were Portuguese, giving them a near-monopoly during the era, although some Dutch, English, and French traders also participated in the slave trade. After the union, Portugal came under Spanish legislation that prohibited it from directly engaging in the slave trade as a carrier, and become a target for the traditional enemies of Spain, losing a large share to the Dutch, English and French.
The Second Atlantic system was the trade of enslaved Africans by mostly English, Portuguese, French and Dutch traders. The main destinations of this phase were the Caribbean colonies and Brazil, as European nations built up economically slave-dependent colonies in the New World. Only slightly more than 3% of the enslaved people exported were traded between 1450 and 1600, 16% in the 17th century.
It is estimated that more than half of the slave trade took place during the 18th century, with the British, Portuguese and French being the main carriers of nine out of ten slaves abducted from Africa. By the 1690s, the English were shipping the most slaves from West Africa, maintaining this position to become the biggest transporters of slaves across the Atlantic during the 18th century.
European colonists initially practiced systems of both bonded labour and “Indian” slavery, enslaving many of the natives of the New World. For a variety of reasons, Africans replaced Native Americans as the main population of enslaved people in the Americas. In some cases, such as on some of the Caribbean Islands, warfare and diseases such as smallpox eliminated the natives completely. In other cases, such as in South Carolina, Virginia, and New England, the need for alliances with native tribes coupled with the availability of enslaved Africans at affordable prices (beginning in the early 18th century for these colonies) resulted in a shift away from Native American slavery.
Journey through Slavery prt 1 – Terrible Transformation
Published on Mar 13, 2013
Documentary that examines the origins of the transatlantic slave trade which took place across the Atlantic Ocean from the 16th through to the 19th centuries. it was one of the largest forced human migrations in record history.
The first side of the triangle was the export of goods from Europe to Africa. A number of African kings and merchants took part in the trading of enslaved people from 1440 to about 1833. For each captive, the African rulers would receive a variety of goods from Europe. These included guns, ammunition and other factory made goods. The second leg of the triangle exported enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas and the Caribbean Islands. The third and final part of the triangle was the return of goods to Europe from the Americas. The goods were the products of slave-labor plantations and included cotton, sugar, tobacco, molasses and rum.
However, Brazil (the main importer of slaves) manufactured these goods in South America and directly traded with African ports, thus not taking part in a triangular trade.
The transatlantic slave trade resulted in a vast and as yet still unknown loss of life for African captives both in and outside of America. Approximately 18.2 – 20.4 million Africans died during their transport to the New World. More died soon upon their arrival. The amount of life lost in the actual procurement of slaves remains a mystery but may equal or exceed the amount actually enslaved.
The savage nature of the trade led to the destruction of individuals and cultures. The following figures do not include deaths of enslaved Africans as a result of their actual labour, slave revolts or diseases they caught while living among New World populations.
A database compiled in the late 1990s put the figure for the transatlantic slave trade at more than 31 million people. For a long time an accepted figure was 40 million, although this has in recent years been revised down. Estimates by Patrick Manning are that about 25 million slaves entered the Atlantic trade between the 15th and 19th century, but about 19.5 million died on board ship. That is about 19.5 million slaves arrived in the Americas. Besides the slaves who died on the Middle Passage itself, even more Africans probably died in the slave raids in Africa. Manning estimates that 9 million died inside Africa after capture, and many more died young. Manning’s estimate covers the 12 million who were originally destined for the Atlantic, as well as the 6 million destined for Asian slave markets and the 8 million destined for African markets.
Slavery in the United States
Slavery in the United States was the legal institution that existed in the United States of America in the 17th to 19th centuries. Slavery had been practiced in British North America from early colonial days, and was recognized in the Thirteen Colonies at the time of the United States’ Declaration of Independence in 1776. After the Revolutionary War, abolitionist sentiment gradually spread in the Northern states, while the rapid expansion of the cotton industry from 1800 led to the Southern states strongly identifying with slavery, and attempting to extend it into the new Western territories. The United States was polarized by slavery into slave and free states along the Mason-Dixon Line, which separated Maryland (slave) and Pennsylvania (free).
Although the international slave trade was prohibited from 1808, internal slave-trading continued, and the slave population would eventually peak at four million before abolition. Of all 1,515,605 free families in the fifteen slave states in 1860, nearly 400,000 held slaves (roughly one in four, or 25%), amounting to 8% of all American families. By the time of the United States founding, even though some free persons of color were present, the status of slave was largely limited to those of African descent, creating a system and legacy in which race played an influential role.
As the West opened up, the Southern states believed they needed to keep a balance between the numbers of slave and free states, in order to maintain a balance of power in Congress. The new territories acquired from Britain, France and Mexico were the subject of major political compromises. By 1850, the newly rich cotton-growing South was threatening to secede from theUnion, and tensions continued to rise. With church ministers under pressure to preach the relevant policies, the Baptist and Methodist churches split into regional organizations. When Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election on a ticket of no new slave states, the South finally broke away to form the Confederacy. This marked the start of the Civil War, which caused a huge disruption of Southern life, with many slaves either escaping or being liberated by the Union armies. The war effectively ended slavery, before the Thirteenth Amendment (December 1865) formally outlawed the institution throughout the United States.
A total of about 600,000 slaves were imported into the Thirteen Colonies and the U.S, constituting 5% of the twelve million slaves brought from Africa to the Americas. The great majority of African slaves were transported to sugar colonies in the Caribbean and to Brazil. As life expectancy was short, their numbers had to be continually replenished. Life expectancy was much higher in the U.S. and the slave population began to reproduce; enslaved peoples’ numbers grew rapidly, reaching 4 million by the 1860 Census. From 1770 until 1860, the rate of natural growth of North American enslaved people was much greater than for the population of any nation in Europe, and was nearly twice as rapid as that of England.
The first 19 or so Africans arrived ashore near Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, brought by Dutch traders who had seized them from a captured Spanish slave ship. The Spanish usually baptized slaves in Africa before embarking them. As English law considered baptized Christians exempt from slavery, these Africans joined about 1,000 English indentured servants already in the colony. Like Anthony Johnson, who arrived in 1621 as an indentured servant, some Africans achieved freedom and became property owners.
Constitution of the United States
The Constitution of the United States was drafted in 1787, and included several provisions regarding slavery. Section 9 of Article I forbade the Federal government from banning the “importation” of persons that state law considered “proper to admit” until January 1, 1808, though a tax of ten dollars each was allowed. Article V prohibited amending those portions of Section 9 before 1808. By prohibiting changes for two decades to regulation of the slave trade, Article V effectively protected the trade until 1808, giving the States 20 years to resolve this issue. During that time, planters in states of the Lower South imported tens of thousands of slaves, more than during any previous two decades in colonial history.
As further protection for slavery, the delegates approved Section 2 of Article IV, which prohibited states from freeing slaves who fled to them from another state, and required the return of chattel property to owners.
In a section negotiated by James Madison of Virginia, Section 2 of Article I designated “other persons” (slaves) to be added to the total of the state’s free population, at the rate of three-fifths of their total number, to establish the state’s official population for the purposes of apportionment of Congressional representation and federal taxation. This increased the power of southern states in Congress for decades, affecting national policies and legislation. The planter elite dominated the southern Congressional delegations and the United States presidency for nearly 50 years.
The first Africans in America arrived as Indentured Servants via Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. From 1619 to about 1640, Africans could earn their freedom working as laborers and artisan for the European settlers. By 1640, Maryland became the first colony to institutionalize slavery. In 1641, Massachusetts added written legislation stating that “bondage was legal” servitude, at that moment changing the conditions of the African workers. They became chattel slaves who could be bought and solely owned by their masters.
The rising demand for sugar, coffee, cotton and tobacco created a greater demand for slaves by other trading countries. Spain, France, the Dutch, and English were in competition for the cheap labor needed to work their colonial plantation system. By 1672, slave trade had become very profitable on the open market.
The Middle Passage has been defined in several ways. Some refer to these routes as the “triangle trade” or “round about” or “transatlantic trade” routes. The term “Middle Passage” refers to that middle leg of the transatlantic trade triangle in which millions of Africans were imprisoned, enslaved, and removed from their homelands.
The typical voyage for slaves taken by the British went south down the coast of Africa into the area adjacent to the Gulf of Guinea. These English slave captors brought cargoes of rum, brandy, cloths, beads and guns from Europe. They traded these appealing goods with African leaders in exchange for their tribesmen. Some slave captors entered the shores and kidnapped unsuspecting natives and took them aboard slave ships or kept them in waiting areas near the shore called “barracoons” or slave barracks.
Slavery And The Making Of America
When the desired number of African slaves were met for shipping, the voyage of the middle passage continued from Africa on the slave ships going across the Atlantic Ocean with a destination in one of several ports in the West Indies and Caribbean (including: Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Santo Domingo and the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix. In the West Indies, some slaves were offloaded and sold to work at the sugar plantations, also called the “Sugar Islands.” Other stops along the Atlantic coast where Africans were sold into slavery were Charleston, South Carolina and Boston, Massachusetts. The goods and produce that were produced by slave labor were loaded aboard the now empty slave ships for the trip back to England, some of which went directly back to Africa for bartering on more slaves. By 1768, the English slave trade had a figure of 53,000 slaves a year being shipped to the North American continent.
African slaves in hold of slave ship on the transatlantic voyage through the Middle Passage to America. The slaves were faced with starvation, dehydration and many diseases. Only the strongest of the strong survived. We are part of their fiber.
One of the most distressing aspects of American history was the institution of slavery. For over two hundred years, Africans were brought against their will to British American colonies and to the new United States of America.
12 YEARS A SLAVE – Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Northup – full unabridged audiobook – biography
Published on May 4, 2013
12 Years a Slave: TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE by Solomon Northup – full unabridged audiobook – read by Rob Board. This audiobook was sourced from http://www.LibriVox.org and is in the public domain.
The Destruction of the Black Family- Part 2
. . . But I now entered on my fifteenth year — a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl. My master began to whisper foul words in my ear. Young as I was, I could not remain ignorant of their import… [mean- ing]. I tried to treat them with indifference or contempt. . . He tried his utmost to corrupt the pure principles my grandmother had instilled.
He peopled my young mind with unclean images, such as only a vile monster could think of. I turned from him with disgust and hatred. But he was my master. I was compelled to live under the same roof with him — where I saw a man forty years my senior daily violating the most sacred commandments of nature. He told me I was his property, that I must be subject to his will in all things. My soul revolted against the mean tyranny. But where could I turn for protection? No matter whether the slave girl be as black as ebony or as fair as her mistress.
In either case, there is no shadow of law to protect her from insult, from violence, or even from death; all these are inflicted by fiends who bear the shape of men. The mistress, who ought to protect the helpless victim, has no other feelings towards her but those of jealousy and rage. The degradation, the wrongs, the vices, that grow out of slavery, are more than I can describe. They are greater than you would willingly believe. . . .
. . . If God has bestowed beauty upon her [a female slave], it will prove her greatest curse. That which commands admiration in the white woman only hastens the degradation of the female slave. I know that some are too much brutalized by slavery to feel the humiliation of their position; but many slaves feel it most acutely and shrink from the memory of it. I cannot tell how much I suffered in the presence of these wrongs, nor how I am still pained by the retrospect. My master met me at every turn, reminding me that I belonged to him, and swearing by heaven and earth that he would compel me to submit to him. If I went out for a breath of fresh air after a day of unwearied toil, his footsteps dogged me.
If I knelt by my mother’s grave, his dark shadow fell on me even there. The light heart which nature had given me became heavy with sad forebodings. The other slaves in my master’s house noticed the change. Many of them pitied me, but none dared to ask the cause. They had no need to inquire. They knew too well the guilty practices under that roof, and they were aware that to speak of them was an offense that never went unpunished. . . .
The secrets of slavery are concealed like those of the Inquisition. My master was, to my knowledge, the father of eleven slaves. But did the mothers dare to tell who was the father of their children? Did the other slaves dare to allude to it, except in whispers among themselves? No, indeed! They knew too well the terrible consequences. . . .
Southern women often marry a man knowing that he is the father of many little slaves. They do not trouble themselves about it. They regard such children as property, as marketable as the pigs on the plantation, and it is seldom that they do not make them aware of this by passing them into the slave- trader’s hands as soon as possible, and thus getting them out of their sight. . . .
No pen can give an adequate description of the all-pervading corruption produced by slavery. The slave girl is reared in an atmosphere of licentiousness and fear. The lash and the foul talk of her master and his sons are her teachers. When she is fourteen or fifteen, her owner, or his sons, or the overseer, or perhaps all of them, begin to bribe her with presents. If these fail to accomplish their purpose, she is whipped or starved into submission to their will. She may have had religious principles inculcated by some pious mother or grandmother or some good mistress; she may have a lover whose good opinion and peace of mind are dear to her heart; or the profligate men who have power over her may be exceedingly odious to her. But resistance is hopeless.
“The poor worm
Shall prove her contest vain. Life’s little day Shall pass, and she is gone!”
The slaveholder’s sons are, of course, vitiated, even while boys, by the unclean influences everywhere around them. Nor do the master’s daughters always escape. Severe retributions sometimes come upon him for the wrongs he does to the daughters of the slaves. The white daughters early hear their parents quarrelling about some female slave. Their curiosity is excited, and they soon learn the cause. They are attended by the young slave girls whom their father has corrupted; and they hear such talk as should never meet youthful ears or any other ears.
They know that the women slaves are subject to their father’s authority in all things, and in some cases they exercise the same authority over the men slaves. I have myself seen the master of such a household whose head was bowed down in shame, for it was known in the neighborhood that his daughter had selected one of the meanest slaves on his plantation to be the father of his first grandchild.
She did not make her advances to her equals nor even to her father’s more intelligent servants. She selected the most brutalized, over whom her authority could be exercised with less fear of exposure. Her father, half frantic with rage, sought to revenge himself on the offending black man, but his daughter, foreseeing the storm that would arise, had given him free papers and sent him out of the state.
In such cases the infant is smothered or sent where it is never seen by any who know its history. But if the white parent is the father, instead of the mother, the offspring are unblushingly reared for the market. If they are girls, I have indicated plainly enough what will be their inevitable destiny.
You may believe what I say, for I write only that whereof I know. I was twenty-one years in that cage of obscene birds. I can testify from my own experience and observation that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks. It makes the white fathers cruel and sensual, the sons violent and licentious. It contaminates the daughters and makes the wives wretched. And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation.
Yet few slaveholders seem to be aware of the widespread moral ruin occasioned by this wicked system. Their talk is of blighted cotton crops — not of the blight on their children’s souls.
If you want to be fully convinced of the abominations of slavery, go on a southern plantation and call yourself a negro trader. Then there will be no concealment, and you will see and hear things that will seem to you impossible among human beings with immortal souls.
The “Middle Passage” was considered a time of in-betweenness for those being traded from Africa to America. The close quarters and intentional division of pre-established African communities by the ship crew motivated captive Africans to forge bonds of kinship which then created forced transatlantic communities. These newly established bonds greatly impacted and altered African identity and culture within each community. It was a significant contributing aspect to the slaves’ survival of the “Middle Passage” and carried into their life in America.
Traders from the Americas and Caribbean received the enslaved Africans. Europeans such as Portugal, England, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Brandenburg, as well as traders from Brazil and North America, took part in this trade. The enslaved Africans came mostly from eight regions: Senegambia, Upper Guinea, Windward Coast, Gold Coast, Bight of Benin, Bight of Biafra, West Central Africa and Southeastern Africa.
An estimated 15% of the Africans died at sea, with mortality rates considerably higher in Africa itself in the process of capturing and transporting indigenous peoples to the ships. The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage voyage is estimated at up to twenty million; a broader look at African deaths directly attributable to the institution of slavery from 1500 to 1900 suggests up to forty million African deaths.
For two hundred years, 1440–1640, Portuguese slavers had a near monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa. During the eighteenth century, when the slave trade transported about 6 million Africans, British slavers carried almost 2.5 million.