Slave Narratives


Slave Narratives Essay, Research Paper

Slave Narratives

Essay submitted by Maley Thompson

The Middle Passage was almost inconceivable. Hundreds upon hundreds of Africans

were abducted from their homes to go on boats to America. They were stacked like

books on shelves in order to bring enough Negros for a profitable slave trade. The life

on the boats on the way to the New World was so bad that the Africans preferred

death to their gruesome future.

The conditions on the boats were hellish. The slaves on the ships were packed like

sardines and chained together. Among the gripping words that Olaudah Equiano, a slave

abducted when he was just eleven years old, used to describe the Middle passage are

hopeless, low, brutal, and wretched. The temperature in the disease- infested rooms

was inconceivable. There was no fresh air for the Negro inhabitants. The feeling of

shock and isolation only added to the sorrow and horror of the situation. Alexander

Falconbridge, a surgeon aboard these slave ships, recalled that the “hot floor was

covered with blood and mucus. It was like a slaughter-house.” The sickening stench

was great due to the loathsome filth from the pestilential heat. As Olaudah Equiano

said, “sleep was the only [temporary] refuge.” The dejection and despair of the

circumstances caused many people to bitterly cry, shriek, and groan in inconceivable

horror and fear. The savage cruelty of the slave traders and boat crew was terrifying.

The Negros were deprived of food and health treatments, and due to the crammed

conditions this caused great waves of sickness and disease. These ships created an

absolute hellish existence for the abandoned Africans aboard them. Although

describable, the anguish of these people cannot be fully understood.

The African’s, due to these excruciating conditions, were completely and utterly

terrified. During the slave trades, the noise and clamor was so frightening that many

slaves attempted at running away in the tumult. On the boats, many people tried to

jump overboard. Attempted suicide usually just increased the despair of the situation.

Negros were punished for any attempt at escape or purposeful personal harm. If one

did not eat, they were flogged until they ate the disgusting food.

The slave traders expressed brutal cruelty to the slaves aboard the ships. They treated

the Negros as if they were imported typical goods. They spent the least amount of

effort and money in making the conditions aboard the boats tolerable in order to ensure

a higher profitable outcome. Occasionally the crew would have intercourse with some

of the women slaves. They branded, beat, flogged, starved, and tortured the innocent

and terrified Africans because they needed to keep their power. They lied to the slaves

and told them that they were gods who controlled the water. The slave traders also

made sure that the Africans would not know the location of their destination. They

made all of the Negros stay below deck. To them, the slaves were just typical cargo

that was a little bit more difficult to handle.

The Africans felt complete shock and isolation at the harsh brutality of their slave

traders. They were utterly paralyzed at what was going on around them. They had no

control and were therefore completely terrified. They felt hopeless and despaired. They

felt extremely isolated and abandoned. The thoughts always led to back home, when

life used to be happy. Their attitudes were not optimistic. The future was unknown.

Few had any actions of rebellion towards the slave traders. Amistad, one of the ships

that was used to haul this “cargo” to America, was taken over through mutiny by the

Africans on board. However, most Negros on the ships were too terrified and shocked

to rebel.

Once arriving in the New World, things began to get better, relatively. They were still

horrible wretched, but there was still a little bit of hope. Olaudah Equiano felt optimism

when he heard that once he got to America, he could work. Working, to him, was much

better than the pestilential conditions aboard these ships of the Middle Passage. There

were bitter cries at the unknown future; some thought that they would be used as

food for the cannibals aboard the New World. However, in order to inspire hope, the

slave traders let slaves from land come aboard and tell the Negros that they would be

able to work and would see their country’s people. The selling of slaves was absolutely

miserable. There was clamor and noise that was utterly terrifying. Families were broken

up and Africans were crying.

It is impossible to imagine these experiences and conditions accurately. Without being

there, one cannot truly empathize with the “cargo” aboard the ships in the Middle

Passage. The hellish existence of these passengers is inconceivable. Since that time

there have been few incidents as horrible, brutal, and full of despair.

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