Life on board slave ships

Slave ships spent several months travelling to different parts of the coast, buying their cargo. The captives were often in poor health from the physical and mental abuse they had suffered. They were taken on board, stripped naked and examined from head to toe by the captain or surgeon.

Conditions on board ship during the Middle Passage were appalling. The men were packed together below deck and were secured by leg irons. The space was so cramped they were forced to crouch or lie down. Women and children were kept in separate quarters, sometimes on deck, allowing them limited freedom of movement, but this also exposed them to violence and sexual abuse from the crew.

The air in the hold was foul and putrid. Seasickness was common and the heat was oppressive. The lack of sanitation and suffocating conditions meant there was a constant threat of disease. Epidemics of fever, dysentery (the ‘flux’) and smallpox were frequent. Captives endured these conditions for about two months, sometimes longer.

In good weather the captives were brought on deck in midmorning and forced to exercise. They were fed twice a day and those refusing to eat were force-fed. Those who died were thrown overboard.

The combination of disease, inadequate food, rebellion and punishment took a heavy toll on captives and crew alike. Surviving records suggest that until the 1750s one in five Africans on board ship died.

Some European governments, such as the British and French, introduced laws to control conditions on board. They reduced the numbers of people allowed on board and required a surgeon to be carried. The principal reason for taking action was concern for the crew and not the captives.

The surgeons, though often unqualified, were paid head-money to keep captives alive. By about 1800 records show that the number of Africans who died had declined to about one in eighteen.


I just wanted to know why there is a whole topic of History of slavery as if this magazine did not put enough efforts to research on History and Kingship!It simply gives the impression that the African people where just born SLAVES. Well, they were not!So please, stop feeding us with Slavery, start researching just like your colleagues did in this month issue of the New African Magazine, it will be more beneficial to us all.

    Black History Month magazine is a resource used for a number of schools across the country who are teaching slavery to many children for the first time. It is more than just Black History, it is American and European history too.
    Now whilst we will be moving onto topics like the great Ghanaian Empires, Pre-colonial African history, the Wealth Africa had to offer to the Middle and Far East on the Silk Road and the Migration of Africans over the course of 500 years; we do have to address the elephant in the room so that when we do cover more interesting topics, nobody can complain that we didn’t cover the most obvious and well taught aspect of Black History so far. So please bear with us, we will cover the better things soon.


@ Saran Keita, no human being was born slave, not even the slaves captured by the Keita or Diallo and sold to the European merchant slave traders!!! However all those embarked from the Gore island and other infamous slave ships point of departure became immediately slaves irrespective of whether they were Keita, Diallo or something else… I’m sick and tired of some African continuing to express their kingship or superiority to other African.. I always repeat it to my grand parents..
Diallo, your next door neighbour:)

this website is really good, and this bit of info about the slave ship told me all i needed to know for my school project.
thanks u guys

I think that this website is good and we should support it!

you did not do enough research for this to be an actual article. my advice is to research more accurate and just more facts in general. blacks were not the only slaves. slaves were all races and genders the location that the majority of the slaves came from was Africa that is why there were more blacks than any other race. but the first slaves were strong men(any race) stolen from their families and sent to work for people who didn’t pay them. life on the slave ships was gruesome and horrible. they were fed slop like pigs from a ladle. water was so scarce that when they were given water, they would do anything for it even if it meant fighting for it.

i think blacks was picked more often because there more stronger and healthy. there was women slaves and children and the ships and they abused the women more. they picked children more because they are faster at putting seed at the farms they go to.

just yesterday i was telling my friend about this website that talk about the passion of every pan African around the globe

i really feel for them

All that were taken to slavery weren’t Africans.. King John 2nd.. said the first slaves has to come from Portugal or Spain not Africa.. King John expelled all the Jews from Spain and Portugal to the western part of Africa .. st.thomas cape Verde ..islands Ghana… And then when I went to saint Thomas cape Verde and Ghana King John said go to the kingdom of Judah then bringing then first… Eight or nine years for the Atlantic slave trade.. .. a scientist done of cranial examination of two guys of color and prove there were not the same people. One was afro Portuguese which means Jew or negro and one was African.. two different race of people.. when they say Africans are selling Africans no Africans with Selling Hebrew Israelites..

Why is everyone here rambling on. I think that this is a good website and if you think that they didn’t do enough research then go to a new website.

This really helped! Thanks! 🙂


wow. must have been a very horrid way of life. poor them. I’m glad this shit was abolished

This article doesn’t tell me what they did during the day though.

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