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The Slave Deck of the Bark "Wildfire"

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The Slave Deck of the Bark

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The importation of slaves had been prohibited in the United States since [1808], and yet, the trade continued illegally on a smaller scale for many years -- even up to the outbreak of the Civil War.

Published in the June 2, 1860 issue of Harper's Weekly, The Slave Deck of the Bark "Wildfire" illustrated how Africans travelled on the upper deck of the ship. On board the ship were 510 captives, recently acquired from an area of Africa near the Congo River. The author of the article reported seeing, upon boarding the ship, "about four hundred and fifty native Africans, in a state of entire nudity, in a sitting or squatting posture, the most of them having their knees elevated so as to form a resting place for their heads and arms."

By slave ship standards, not many had died en route -- about 90 of the original 600. But the ship was not filled to capacity -- it could hold 1,000 slaves -- and the Africans were well-fed.

The ship was captured by an American steamer and brought to port at Key West. The captured Africans would soon be freed.

Image Credit: Harvard College Library

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Related Entries:
The Middle Passage

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