What was the Middle Passage?

1 Answer
Nov 16, 2016

The Atlantic Slave Trade


From 1452 to 1807 starting with the Portuguese, Europeans transported Africans to the Americas to work as slaves. About 10 to 12 Million were transported.

Starting in Africa, many Africans were captured in raids by Africans or taken from African prisons. Teenage and adult men were most desirable. Children and elders were often killed having no value. The slaves were sold to Europeans on the coast for trade goods (pots, trinkets, knives, textiles, cowrie shells, etc.). About half those gathered were killed in the collection process.

The slaves were taken on ships and chained while in the sight of land but occasionally unchained and allowed to come on deck in manageable groups. They were fed starchy food. Conditions were bad on the ships. Death rate was about the same as the crew. There were incidences of abuse but the slaves were a commodity of some value if healthy and alive and worthless if dead. There were however insurance claims. The dead were thrown overboard. The voyage took 2 to 3 months and 10 to 15% died in the process.

On arrival in the Americas, often to islands off the coast, the slaves were inspected for diseases and fattened up for sale. They were "seasoned": broken, trained and acclimatized for work. About a third of the slaves died in the seasoning process. They worked on plantations in the islands and were often sold again to the mainland.

Total deaths possibly 16 million.