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Captive Passage: The Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Making of the AmericasActivities: Spoonways

Captive Passage
has been made
possible in part by:
National Endowment for the Humanities
Recognition of
additional sponsors
for this exhibition
can be found by
clicking on
ExhibitionSponsors.

Middle PassageSailing and StormsStowageIllness and Death
Ships and CrewsProvisionsEnduring the Middle PassageResistance

Stowage

Slave Deck of the Albatroz
Slave Deck of the Albatroz

After weeks or months of physical and mental abuse, the captives were often in poor health by the time they reached the coast. They were taken on board, stripped naked, and examined from head to toe before being placed below in the hold. South Carolinian Joseph Hawkins wrote in the 1790s that the sight of slaves being brought on board, their ropes replaced by irons, was "one of the most affecting scenes that I had ever witnessed..., their wailings were torturing beyond what words can express...."

Stowing
Stowing

The men were packed together below deck and secured by leg irons. The space was so cramped that they were forced to crouch or lie down. Women and children were kept together in separate quarters, sometimes on deck. This allowed them limited freedom of movement, but it also exposed them to violence and sexual abuse by the crew.

 Ankle and Wrist Shackles Used Onboard Slave Ship Aurore
Leg Shackles Used Onboard Slave Ship Aurore
Ankle and Wrist Shackles Used Onboard Slave Ship Aurore
Leg Shackles Used Onboard Slave Ship Aurore

Slave captains fell into one of two categories: "loose packers," who carried fewer slaves in hopes of holding off sickness and death; and "tight packers," who crowded their ships to the brim, believing that the increased load would offset inevitable deaths and result in a healthy profit.

Body Positions of Slaves in Hold of French Slave Ship Aurore
Body Positions of Slaves in Hold of French Slave Ship Aurore

 

 

 

 

 


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Activity: Spoonways