-Where do you think the shipmate is taking the group of slaves in the upper left image? -Notice how the ribs of the children show through their skin, what do you think they are looking at? -Notice the expression on the mother's face as she holds her baby in the bottom image, what things might she be thinking at that moment?
How many of these structures owned by European countries do you think existed along the coast of Africa? Do any of these slave castles or forts still exist today?
How do you think the enslaved Africans feel as they near their destination in this foreign land? What do their facial expressions tell you? What will happen to these slaves once they are transferred to slave traders in America?
The men were typically chained together at the neck or ankles. Notice the armed guards, who are Africans, and the person being whipped, probably in punishment for trying to escape or for resisting enslavement.
"Those sold by the Blacks are for the most part prisoners of war, taken either in fight, or pursuit, or in the incursions they make into their enemies' territories; others stolen away by their own countrymen..."
Inspection and sale of a captive; an African man is being inspected for sale.
Notice that other African slaves carried out the punishment orders of the slaveholder; also notice the startled appearance of the English soldier
Historians estimate that between eleven to thirteen million Africans, or more, were forcibly taken from their homelands during the 400 years of slave trade, enduring the most inhumane treatment and living conditions imaginable. Why is the image so dark? Why are the bodies so close to each other? What is a reasonable explanation for the awkward position of the slaves in the middle image of this painting?
Enslaved males were kept below deck most of the time. Usually once or twice a day, the men would be brought on deck where they were forced to dance, beat drums, and sing vigorously. It was believed that such dancing and singing helped keep spirits up and bodies fit.
It is estimated that more than 200,000 Africans were smuggled into the United States between 1808 and 1860. Slaves were usually taken on deck in small controlled groups during the day for fresh air and exercise. Returning to the dark, cramped, hull of the ship was surely dreaded by the captives.
Slavers who "tight-packed" their ships loaded as many men, women, and children as the ship could carry, operating on the assumption that a certain number would either sicken or die during the voyage. Captains who "loose-packed" their ships carried fewer slaves in the hope that the healthier conditions would reduce the impact of disease and death.
"I am resolved it is better to die than to be a white man's slave," said Joseph Cinquez (often written "Cinque"), a leader of the 1839 Amistad rebellion after the mutiny.
The scenes on either side of the central picture compare life in slavery to life in freedom. Enslaved blacks are sold apart from their families, and some are whipped and branded. In contrast, in freedom a black mother sends her children off to school, black men are paid fair wages, and white bosses treat black field hands with respect.