Rough Passages

Coffin Ships - The Middle Passage - Timeline - Equiano's Travels

 

Coffin Ships

From Wikipedia, "Coffin Ship" and "Great Famine (Ireland)" 

The term coffin ship (Irish: long cónra) is used to refer to the ships that carried Irish immigrants escaping the Great Irish Famine [1845-9] as well as Highlanders displaced by the Highland Clearances [18th-19th C.]. A coffin ship was also a ship in poor condition that was overloaded and overinsured so it was more valuable to its owners if it sunk. [...] Coffin ships … resulted in the deaths of many people as they crossed the Atlantic, and led to the 1847 North American typhus epidemic at quarantine stations in Canada. Owners of coffin ships provided as little food, water, and living space as was legally possible – if they obeyed the law at all. [...] mortality rates of 30% aboard the coffin ships were common. 

Skibbereen_by_James_Mahony,_1847.jpg
The scene at Skibbereen, west Cork, in 1847. From a series of illustrations by Cork artist James Mahony (1810-1879), commissioned by Illustrated London News 1847; Coffin ship statue in Murrisk, County Mayo, Ireland.

The scene at Skibbereen, west Cork, in 1847. From a series of illustrations by Cork artist James Mahony (1810-1879), commissioned by Illustrated London News 1847; Coffin ship statue in Murrisk, County Mayo, Ireland.

 

The Middle Passage

From Wikipedia, "Triangular Trade" (in "Atlantic Slave Trade") and "Slave Ship": 

The first side of the triangle [of the transatlantic slave trade] was the export of goods from Europe to Africa. A number of African kings and merchants took part in the trading of enslaved people from 1440 to about 1833. For each captive, the African rulers would receive a variety of goods from Europe. These included guns, ammunition, and other factory-made goods. The second leg of the triangle [also called "The Middle Passage"] exported enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas and the Caribbean Islands. The third and final part of the triangle was the return of goods to Europe from the Americas. The goods were the products of slave-labour plantations and included cotton, sugar, tobacco, molasses and rum. Sir John Hawkins [1532 - 1595], considered the pioneer of the British slave trade, was the first to run the Triangular trade, making a profit at every stop.

“A painting c.1830 by the German artist Johann Moritz Rugendas depicts a scene below deck of a slave ship headed to Brazil. Rugendas had been an eyewitness to the scene.”

“A painting c.1830 by the German artist Johann Moritz Rugendas depicts a scene below deck of a slave ship headed to Brazil. Rugendas had been an eyewitness to the scene.”

“A plan of the slave ship  Brookes , showing how 454 slaves were accommodated on board. This same ship had reportedly carried as many as 609 people. Published by the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.”

“A plan of the slave ship Brookes, showing how 454 slaves were accommodated on board. This same ship had reportedly carried as many as 609 people. Published by the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.”

Bussa_statue-1.png

From Wikipedia: the Bussa Emancipation Statue "is a public sculpture symbolising the "breaking of the chains" of slavery at Emancipation. It is located in Barbados, east of Bridgetown at centre of the J.T.C. Ramsay roundabout formed at the junction of the ABC Highway and Highway 5. Many Barbadians refer to the statue as Bussa, the name of a slave who helped inspire a revolt against slavery in Barbados in 1816, though the statue is not actually sculpted to be Bussa. [...] The statue, made of bronze, was created in 1985 by Bajan sculptor Karl Broodhagen 169 years after the rebellion."

Amistad-le-film-de-Steven-Spielberg-est-il-tire-d-une-histoire-vraie.gif

A still from Amistad, Spielberg, 1997

Timeline

This timeline lists information relevant to the transatlantic slave trade, “Caliban,” and related topics in the poetry and lyrics of  Kanye West, Langston Hughes, Billy Holiday, Leonard Cohen, Beyoncé, Lauryn Hill, Marilyn Manson, and Jarabe de Palo. I’ve numbered and put in italics five texts related to colonialism, slavery, abolition, and African independence. Key dates and events are from "Transatlantic Slave trade," “Civil Rights Act,” and from individual years in Wikipedia.

1492

1. On the earliest colonial takeover of the New World: Bartolomé de las Casas, Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias / A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, 1552

2. On being taken into slavery in Africa, surviving the transatlantic slave trade, and arguing for the abolition of slavery: Olaudah Equiano, Equiano's Travels, 1789

1806 and 1831: slavery abolished in Britain and then in the British Empire

1838 The People's Charter is drawn up in the United Kingdom, demanding universal suffrage

1863 Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation

1888 Slavery abolished in Brazil

1956 the United States Supreme Court declares illegal the state and municipal laws requiring segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama, thus ending the Montgomery Bus Boycott - Fidel Castro and Che Guevara depart from Tuxpan, Veracruz, Mexico, en route to Santiago de Cuba aboard the yacht Granma with 82 men

1963 — January 14 George Wallace becomes governor of Alabama. In his inaugural speech, he defiantly proclaims "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!" — April 12 Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth and others are arrested in a Birmingham, Alabama protest for "parading without a permit". — June 11 Alabama Governor George Wallace stands in the door of the University of Alabama to protest against integration, before stepping aside and allowing black students James Hood and Vivian Malone to enroll. — President John F. Kennedy broadcasts a historic Civil Rights Address, in which he promises a Civil Rights Bill, and asks for "the kind of equality of treatment that we would want for ourselves" — June 12 Medgar Evers is murdered in Jackson, Mississippi. (His killer, Byron De La Beckwith, [[was] a member of the White Citizens' Council. This group was formed in 1954 in Mississippi to resist the integration of schools and civil rights activism. … All-white juries failed to reach verdicts in the first two trials of Beckwith in the 1960s. He was convicted in 1994 in a new state trial based on new evidence. - “Medgar Evers” Wikipedia]. — August 28 Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech — September 15 The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, in Birmingham, Alabama, kills 4 and injures 22. — November 10 Malcolm X makes an historic speech ("Message to the Grass Roots"). — November 22 Assassination of John F. Kennedy

1964 https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/11/raised-voice Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” — February 25 Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) beats Sonny Liston, and is crowned the heavyweight champion of the world. — April 12 In Detroit, Malcolm X delivers a speech entitled "The Ballot or the Bullet" — April 13 Sidney Poitier is the first African-American to win an Academy Award in the category Best Actor in a Leading Role in Lilies of the Field. — July 2, The Civil Rights Act is a landmark civil rights and US labor law in the United States that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.

3 and 4. On the transition from life in tribal Africa to life under British rule: Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, 1958, and Arrow of God, 1964

5. On the transition from colonial rule to independence in Ghana: Margaret Lawrence, The Tomorrow-Tamer, 1963

 

Equiano's Travels, 1789

Excerpts:

The stench of the hold while we were on the coast was so intolerably loathsome, that it was dangerous to remain there for any time, and some of us had been permitted to stay on the deck for the fresh air; but now that the whole ship's cargo were confined together, it became absolutely pestilential. […] This wretched situation was again aggravated by the galling of the chains, now become insupportable; and the filth of the necessary tubs, into which the children often fell, and were almost suffocated. The shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable. [...]

While I was thus employed by my master I was often a witness to cruelties of every kind, which were exercised on my unhappy fellow slaves. I used frequently to have different cargoes of new negroes in my care for sale; and it was almost a constant practice with our clerks, and other whites, to commit violent depredations on the chastity of the female slaves; […] And yet in Montserrat I have seen a negro man staked to the ground, and cut most shockingly, and then his ears cut off bit by bit, because he had been connected with a white woman who was a common prostitute: as if it were no crime in the whites to rob an innocent African girl of her virtue; but most heinous in a black man only to gratify a passion of nature, where the temptation was offered by one of a different colour, though the most abandoned woman of her species. [...]

May the time come--at least the speculation to me is pleasing--when the sable people shall gratefully commemorate the auspicious era of extensive freedom. Then shall those persons particularly be named with praise and honour, who generously proposed and stood forth in the cause of humanity, liberty, and good policy; and brought to the ear of the legislature designs worthy of royal patronage and adoption. May Heaven make the British senators the dispersers of light, liberty, and science, to the uttermost parts of the earth: then will be glory to God on the highest, on earth peace, and goodwill to men:--Glory, honour, peace, &c. to every soul of man that worketh good, to the Britons first, (because to them the Gospel is preached) and also to the nations. 'Those that honour their Maker have mercy on the poor.' 'It is righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people; destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity, and the wicked shall fall by their own wickedness.' May the blessings of the Lord be upon the heads of all those who commiserated the cases of the oppressed negroes, and the fear of God prolong their days; and may their expectations be filled with gladness! 'The liberal devise liberal things, and by liberal things shall stand,' Isaiah xxxii. 8. They can say with pious Job, 'Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor?' Job xxx. 25.

As the inhuman traffic of slavery is to be taken into the consideration of the British legislature, I doubt not, if a system of commerce was established in Africa, the demand for manufactures would most rapidly augment, as the native inhabitants will insensibly adopt the British fashions, manners, customs, &c. In proportion to the civilization, so will be the consumption of British manufactures.

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