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Modern Voices
Charles Joyner on the Middle Passage
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Q: Describe the Middle Passage from the point of view of an African?
Charles Joyner

A: Slaves who were herded into the slave ships, into the dark, landed on unsanded plank floors, chained to their neighbors, their right foot shackled to the left foot of the person to their right. Their left foot shackled to the right foot of the person to their left. About 18 inches or less below, another layer of slaves on another unsanded plank floor.

Every time the waves came you could see them and prepare for them, you just slid across these unsanded floors. There was no fresh air, no light. The slaves had no way of knowing where they were going [or] when, if ever, they would get there. And indeed it was a long trip. At best, if the weather was good, it was a six weeks' journey. And then they were unloaded among these strange pale-skinned people with bright colored eyes who hollered things at them. And if they didn't understand it, they hollered louder.
Charles Joyner
Professor of Southern History and Culture
Coastal Carolina University

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