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100 Years Ago


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Sea Voyage

The journey lasted from eight to ten weeks. It was not uncommon for some of the captured to attempt to escape by jumping overboard. When others refused to eat, a slave ship's crew member would, if necessary, break the teeth of the hunger strikers and force feed them because loss of black life meant a loss of revenue. The captured slaves shared no common language and could not communicate with each other. Some went mad in the claustrophobic quarters, others murdered those next to them to gain space. Some captains used a system called loose packing to deliver slaves. Under that system, captains transported fewer slaves than their ships could carry in the hope of reducing sickness and death among them. Other ship captains preferred tight packing. They believed that many blacks would die on the voyages anyway, so carried as many slaves as their ship could hold. All captains estimated that they would lose a percentage of African cargo in death via escape, suffocation, or illness. The slave ‘voyage’ is realistically depicted in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 movie, "Amistad".

'Black History' segment written in June, 1998 by David Lodge

 

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