The Middle Passage: also known as Maafa ("the massive disaster"), is the middle leg or passage in the journey from Africa to one's final destination in a New World. For 50 days or more, people were forced to live like animals, caged in spaces so tight that they could barely move. Africans suffered unimaginable horrors amidst rats, vomit, excrement, disease, and sickness as the middle passage brought millions of Africans to the West Indies, North America, South America, and the countries of Europe.  The following is a diagram of a middle passage slave ship, showing the appalling conditions of transportation. [Identity and Difference 323]

Slave captains shared two schools of thought:

Tight packers herded as many Africans as possible, arguing that the net receipts from sales of slaves would offset the number who died on board.          

Loose packers preferred to give their captives "breathing room," thinking that more people would survive the journey under less crowded conditions.

Slavers used the 16-inch formula when packing their vessels, allowing only 2' of head room:
a man had 6' length & 16 inches width; and a woman had  5'10" length & 16" width, hence the name 16-inch formula

I. History of Slavery and Diaspora [info from]
Slavery and the Triangle trade (from Europe to Africa to the Americas)
a. definition
1. societal institution based on ownership, dominance, and exploitation of one human being by another and reciprocal submission on the part of the person owned.
2. Members of family can be separated at the will of the owner.
3. Slavery at present--the selling of people or self-sale for special purposes--e.g. prostitution; the outpouring of mainland Chinese workers to places such as U.S. and Taiwan
b. the Triangle Trade:
1. route: from England, with merchandise such as weapons, ammunition, metal, liquor, trinkets, and cloth, to the west Coast of Africa. From Africa, with human cargo, to either West Indies or English colonies. And then with agricultural products such as sugar back to England.
2. "Middle Passage" -was the middle leg or passage in the journey from Africa to one's final destination in a New World.
3. this trade is a source of wealth to tribal chiefs, to the shipping business, to plantation owners in the South of U.S., and to merchants and shipbuilders in the North.
4. An estimated 8 to 15 million Africans reached the Americas from the 16th through the 19th century, with a peak of about 6 million arriving in the 18th century alone.  Replaced by Indentured Labor in the 19th century

Diaspora: a scattering of peoples. The word "diaspora" is derived from the Greek verb speiro (to sow) and the preposition dia (over). When applied to humans, the ancient Greeks thought of diaspora as migration and colonization. By contrast, for Jews, Africans, Palestinians and Armenians the expression acquired a more sinister and brutal meaning. Diaspora signified a collective trauma, a banishment, where one dreamed of home but lived in exile.

Other peoples abroad who have also maintained strong identities have, in recent years, defined themselves as
diasporas, though they were neither active agents of colonization nor passive victims of persecution.

All diasporic communities settled outside their natal (or imagined natal) territories, acknowledge that "the
old country"--a notion often buried deep in language, religion, custom or folklore--always has some claim
on their loyalty and emotion. (Robert Cohen ix).

Five kinds of Diaspora: Victim(e.g. Jews, Africans, Armenians), Labour (Indian, Chinese), Trade (Chinese and
Lebanese), Imperial (the British), Cultural diasporas (the Caribbean). Reference: Cohen, Robin. Global Diaspora: An Introduction.


A Slaveship speaks:

Power Point:


The Middle Passage:


PBS series Africans in America:

Page with Links:

Time Line:

Hell Below Deck:

Picture of slave port: