The Middle Passage
From the 1400s to the 1800s, the voyages known as the “Triangular Slave Trade” were part of a complex system of commerce that involved
• the capture, selling, buying, and forcing of adults and children into hard labor as prisoners for life-for some fifteen generations,
• the importation to the Americas of advanced agricultural technologies from West Africa,
• ship-building and iron-working,
• trade in sugar, wine, tobacco, coffee, tea, flour, grains and timber, and
• advanced economic practices, such as insuring and financing the trading expeditions.
Many people in both the South and North were employed in this commerce. Some made fortunes that enriched their descendants for generations.
A driving force behind this trade was Europe’s desire for sugar.
Over 12.5 million Africans were taken in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Some four million of these men, women, youth and children died in the capture, on the voyage, or after their arrival.
The gallery is currently under construction. Please check back periodically to see exhibits as we add them. For upcoming exhibits please view the ‘Exhibits to Come’ exhibit below.
Alexander Falconbridge, a medical doctor, served aboard several slave ships working between the West African coast and the Caribbean in the late 1700s. He described his experiences in a popular book published in 1788. He became active in the Anti-Slavery Society and was appointed Governor of a colony established for freed slaves on the coast of modern-day Sierra Leone. His service was brief as he died in 1788 shortly after his appointment. In this exhibit Dr. Falconbridge describes what he saw and heard about how slaves were captured inland and sold on the coast to slave traders.
The importation of slaves was outlawed by England in 1807 and by the USA in 1808. Slaves could still be held and bred in the two countries, but no new slaves could be brought from Africa. The British and American navies patrolled the west coast of Africa. They stopped suspected slave traders and took hold of ships where slaves were found. Then they returned their human cargo to Africa. Rev. Robert Walsh served on one of the patrol ships. This is his eyewitness report.
See a list of of some of the exhibits planned for this gallery.