The Lost History of the Middle Passage [PSMag.com]

 

A recent wave of popular historical scholarship on slavery and racism has swept the non-fiction landscape. One valuable new voice here is Sowande’ Mustakeem, whose debut book, Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage, charts the human history of the Atlantic slave trade.

Most people are familiar with the famous diagram of the Brookes slave ship, published by British abolitionists in 1788. The simple, two-dimensional engraving depicts cross-sections of the slave ship Brookes with the image of hundreds of African enslaved people lying on their backs in tight proximity, filling every available foot of the ship. The Brookesdiagram and similar renderings have stayed in the common imagination of the slave trade, but despite the image’s ubiquity, many aspects of the Middle Passage have remained a mystery.

Mustakeem, an assistant professor of African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, took that gap in knowledge as a challenge to fill in with as much detail as possible. In Slavery at Sea, Mustakeem begins with the kidnapping of Africans and their sale into slavery aboard European vessels, and then quickly moves into a broad but highly detailed examination of life on a slave ship. Most important, the book doesn’t limit itself to the popular tales of African men kidnapped into slavery, nor is it interested only in violence. Instead, the book brings into focus the wider range of experiences, including those of women, children, and the infirm.



[For more of this story, written by Corey Atad, go to https://psmag.com/the-lost-his...05773cb78#.2o8sdbfmt]

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