Not a lot of people know the gravity of slavery in Africa. Many even think that Africans went of their own accord across the sea before they were made to work in plantations. However, that is not the case, as Africans were sold by their fellow Africans, and some were captured during wars before being sold into slavery.
There is also the phenomenon of the “Triangular Trade”. Goods like iron bars, rum and trinkets, were brought from Europe to Africa for sale. However, the medium of exchange was purchased or kidnapped slaves. These slaves were returned to Europe to complete the triangular trade through the middle passage.
The middle passage was the stage of shipping the slaves to Europe and parts of America via the Atlantic. This middle passage was a voyage undertaken by large companies and groups of investors whose returns were usually in millions.
Enslaved Africans were mostly from Senegambia, Upper Guinea, Windward Coast, Gold Coast, Bight of Benin, West Central Africa and Southeastern Africa. They were shipped to Portugal, England, Spain, France, the Americas, and Caribbean etc. These voyages lasted up to 6 months.
The middle passage was not without mortalities, as an estimated 15% of Africans captured died at sea. The captured slaves were considered less than human and so, they were treated in horrifying manners. On one of such voyages across the Atlantic, the Zong Voyage recorded one of the voyages with the most recorded deaths.
The Zong was a British slaver, who took many slaves on the ship in 1781. The slaves were overcrowded and so became malnourished. Soon, disease struck and several crew members and slaves numbering up to 60 died.
Drinking water soon became a problem and many slaves were drowned to conserve water and allow the owners collect insurance for lost cargo. About 130 slaves were killed; this was aside the number that decided to kill themselves willingly, in defiance to the slave masters.
Slave revolts occurred at sea, and quite a number were successful. However, some were unsuccessful. Among the unsuccessful, was on particular incident in which the slave master killed the leader of the revolt and forced the two subordinates to eat his heart.
We know about these slave revolts from accounts of the captains of the ship or even crew members who survived.
Some of the slave revolts include:
1730 – In June, Captain George Scott had sailed from the Guinea coast with 96 slaves aboard the ship, LITTLE GEORGE. Six days into the journey, the slaves revolted and imprisoned the captain and some of the crew. After which, they steered the ship back to the coast of Africa and escaped.