The transatlantic slave trade also known as the triangular trade was a system of connecting economies of three continents seen as Europe, Africa and America and is often regarded as the first system of globalization. However, the transatlantic slave trade was seen as the biggest extraditions in history and a influential factor during the 16th to 19th centuries where millions of Africans were torn from their homes and shipped to the New World, known as the Americas on a crossing known as the middle passage. It was estimated that those transported amounted to roughly 17 million people and this figure excludes those who died aboard the ship. The journey across the transatlantic and the middle passage during the 16th to 19th century was extremely brutal and inhumane for the African captives as they had to adjust to a different lifestyle and culture.
The most notorious aspect of the transatlantic slave trade would be the journey the enslaved Africans underwent which is seen as the middle passage and this would usually take 50 to 80 days. Two by two the men and women were forced beneath deck into the bowels of the slave ships and this was done as efficiently as possible as they were shackled to their neighbors, they could barely move as each person had around two square meters of space and so little headroom that they had to crouch throughout the journey and their elbows and wrists were scraped to the bone by the motion of the rough seas and a result of this they got sea sick and some even died of diseases. Generally it was done like this because the captains believed that more slaved, despite higher fatalities, would harvest a greater profit at their trading block.
The captives were fed twice daily and some captains made futile attempts to clean the hold at this time. The immobilized enslaved Africans were often unable to reach toilets buckets this meant the rapid spread of diseases such as diarrhea and the “bloody flux” which often killed
many of the destabilized African captives. They were also predisposed to other diseases such as malaria, pleurisy, yellow fever, small pox and scurvy. Some of the captives even refused to move about, refused food and they eventually died, some took even more extreme measures such as throwing themselves and their children overboard in acts of suicide and infantry, this happened so frequently that they ships were then fixed with nets to prevent them from doing such deeds. However, men were usually separated from the women and children who were allowed greater freedom of movement and kept closer to the deck, this was however not such an advantage, especially for the women and girls. Their closeness to the ship’s deck left them as prey to captains and crew members who would regularly rape them. Such sexual violence was accompanied by violent punishments of everyday beatings to avoid rebellion.
Upon reaching the New World, the cargo of slaves would be sold at an auction. The slaves would first have to be prepared, the healthier they looked to be the higher the price they would draw. Their skin was rubbed with oil to make them appear strong; the whipping scars on the backs of unruly slaves were filled with tar to hide signs of a disobedient slave whereas the older slaves had their heads shaved to hide signs of grey hairs to make them seem younger. There were two systems of selling the slaves. The first was in the auction, an auctioneer sold the slaves individually or as a group with the slaves being sold to the highest bidder. The second method was the scramble, here the slaves were kept together in an enclosure, buyers payed a fixed sum beforehand and once all the buyers had payed, the enclosure ‘s gate was thrown open and the buyers rushed in together and grabbed the slave they wanted. This was often a terrifying experience for the slaves.
When the enslaved Africans arrived on the plantation their harsh treatment continued as growing sugar was hard work. Bands of slaves entailing of men, women, children and elderly worked from dawn until dusk under the commands of a white servant. The enslaved were often flogged if they did not work hard enough. During harvest time the enslaved Africans worked in periods of up to eighteen hours. However, on a regular day they were to arrive at work at dawn and they were only allowed to rest at breakfast and lunch time otherwise they worked until nightfall and even after the left the plantations they still had more chores to do before going to bed. White masters had complete control over the lives of their slaves and treated them as property, the enslaved had no rights and those who disobeyed or tried to escape and run away were sadistically chastised.
Overall, it can be said that the journey across the transatlantic and the middle passage during the 16th to 19th century was extremely brutal and inhumane for the African captives as they had to adjust to a different lifestyle and culture because onboard the cargo ship they were placed below deck with little to no moving space, got sick, some died, were beaten and when they reached their destination, were cleaned and sold in some of the most terrifying ways, and then taken to the plantation with their new white owner and was treated as property and beaten continuously is disobedient.