The Atlantic Slave Trade took about 12.5 million Africans across the Atlantic in the Middle Passage. Only about 10.7 million of these people actually made it to the Americas, with the other estimated 1.8 million dying during the voyage. Many others died while being seized and transported to the African Coast. The commerce in people corrupted many African societies. Elites would often use victimized slaves to earn money and power. Owning and exchanging people was a very common practice that was represented by the Atlantic Slave Trade in the Americas. Many African Societies practiced slavery and would also sale slaves in international commerce. The Atlantic Slave Trade had about twice as many men as it did women. Europeans had a low immunity to tropical diseases, and they would often wait on the coast for the African merchants or political elites to bring the slaves to them. Most African societies were very willing to sell their slaves peacefully to the Europeans, which kept them from having to raid Africa in search of slaves. Millions of African underwent horrendous conditions on slave ships to the New World, “with the Middle Passage having an overall mortality rate of more than 14 percent”. Some slaves would even jump overboard and drown themselves to avoid undergoing these despicable voyages. Almost 10 percent of these voyages faced rebellion by the captives. Africa was divided into many separate communities. These societies had “no concept of an African identity”. Africans would generally not sell their own people, but rather rival community members or outsiders who were not protected by a community. Many times Blacks would sell prisoners of war for the slave trade, and occasionally they would even sell their own children or other family members. Once aboard the slave ships, Africans had such miserable environments that they often wished to return to former slavery in their native country or for death to come. The captives were kept under the deck where the stench and the number of people was suffocating. The men are handcuffed on their wrists and legs immediately after boarding the ship. The women are kept in a separate area from the men. They are frequently packed so tight that they are forced to lay on their sides. The Africans have to use small tubs when necessary and these tubs are only cleaned out once a day. The tubs are not usually not large enough for their intended purpose. The captives are fed generally twice a day. Their meals consist of horse beans, boiled yams, rice, and occasionally a small amount of beef or pork. Many times there are fights over the small quantity of food. The slaves were given a coconut shell of water at each meal and that was all they had to drink all day. When weather allows the captives to be on deck, they are forced to dance for exercise to maintain proper health. The Africans are often highly affected by sea sickness, which often ends in death, especially for women. Since captives are often not allowed on deck, there are small air ports on the side of the ship for fresh air. These air ports commonly have to be closed due to rain. The lack of fresh air causes the rooms to be extremely hot. Breathing the same air in and out causes “fevers and fluxes which generally carries off great number of them.” The flux would cause the floor to be covered in blood and mucus. Alexander Falconbridge who often was aboard these sort of ships said, “It is not in the power of the human imagination to picture a situation more dreadful or disgusting”. Captives look for every opportunity to escape their miserable state, but few succeed. The slavers aboard the ships treated the Africans worse than they would animals. Most of them believed it was their right to have slaves. The slavers were used to seeing the mistreatment of slaves, so it wasn’t uncommon for them to hurt the slaves. They thought that the Africans were beneath them, and that they were treating the slaves the way they deserved to be treated. John Barbot, an agent for the French Royal African Company, stated that by going to the New World the Africans had the “advantage…of becoming christians, and saving their souls, if they make a true use of their condition….”. The slavers believed that they were only doing what had to be done in providing slaves for the New World. They thought that the Africans deserved to have their teeth broken for refusing to eat. They would also put hot goals on the slaves lips and threaten to make them swallow coals if they wouldn’t eat. The slavers believed that they were doing the right thing, and trying to keep the captives from starving to death. The slavers were responsible for keeping the slaves from injuring themselves or other captives. The slavers had to break up many fights, especially around meal time. The slavers would beat the captives to show who was in control of the ship. It’s hard to imagine treating another person this harshly, but was what the slavers had always know. The slavers had been taught that they were superior to the Africans their whole lifes. Even though the slavers had a considerably better experience on the slave ships than the Africans did, there were still some difficult situations for the slavers. The slavers had to go below deck daily to change out the waste tubs, check for deceased captives, and bring the slaves water and food. During these daily trips the slavers would often be attacked by the desperate captives. The slaves would use any object they could find as a weapon to try and break free. The slavers often had to disarm these rebellious captives without killing or severely injuring them. If the slaves were killed then the slavers wouldn’t get the money from selling that slave. The majority of the slavers felt no compassion for the Africans, but this wasn’t the case for all the white men aboard. James Barbot, an English slaver, was one of the few who felt that the slaves were mistreated. James stated that, “Such officers should consider, those unfortunate creatures are men as well as themselves, tho’ of a different colour, and pagans; and that they ought to do to others as they would be done by in like circumstances…”. Although slavers who felt the way James Barbot did were few and far between, they did exist. The Atlantic slave trade had significant impact on the world. The economic benefits of slavery was incomparable to the millions of people who died. The “profound and enduring human consequences” of the Atlantic Slave Trade will forever be a part of the world’s history.
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