The Slavery Of The Slave Ships

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From the moment of capture, African men, women and children endured a relentless chain of pain and abuse. Life onboard the slave ships became a constant battle for survival, as the gruesome conditions below the deck presented formidable physical health problems. Burnside describes the African slaves descent into hell: Once aboard the ship, the prisoners entered a frightening new world…Whatever miseries they had experienced in Africa were nothing compared to the ordeal they now faced, and however ignorant they were of the exact course of the nightmare would take, they could sense the horror. Some of the captives, like Equiano, feared they would be eaten or sacrificed. Others realized that every chance of seeing their families and homelands again had vanished. European slave traders restructured their merchant ships to squeeze as many African slaves as possible below the decks. Tightly packed, European traders chose to haul more human cargo than regulated to compensate for anticipated losses. This system of packing yielded a greater profit margin. Feelings comments about the horrifying environment of the slave ships, “In the dank, crowded hold, which was about five feet high, the captives confined in a prone position, occupying no more space than a coffin.” o Each slave had approximately four square feet of space. The ship’s crew ordered all slaves to lay on the unfinished wooden planks. o Bound together with iron handcuffs, as well as iron ankle cuffs, these

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