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Captive Passage: The Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Making of the Americas

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
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Arrival: Life in the AmericasPreference for AfricansThe Slave Markets
European RewardsSlave Populations in the AmericasThe Ships Return to EuropeEconomics
Sugar IntroductionSlavery in North AmericaReligionSilver Mines of South America

The Slave Markets


...I was then put up to sale...the people who stood by said that I had fetched a great sum for one so young a slave. I then saw my sisters led forth and sold to different owners...

Mary Prince, from The History of Mary Prince, A Former West Indian Slave, 1831

Bahamas Slave Trading at Vendue House
Bahamas Slave Trading at Vendue House

Upon reaching the Americas, ships' crews prepared the Africans for sale. They washed, shaved, and rubbed them with palm oil to disguise sores and wounds caused by conditions on board.

TO BE SOLD on board the ship Bance Island
TO BE SOLD on board the ship Bance Island

The captains usually sold their captives directly to planters or specialized wholesalers by auction. Occasionally they organized a "scramble," in which buyers agreed on a price beforehand and then, on a signal, rushed to grab the fittest-looking slaves. Families who had managed to stay together were now often broken up. Bonds formed during the voyage were also broken.

Continue to:
European Rewards