Middle passage

There were children on the ship. I couldn’t believe it. I think that is what shocked me the most. Kids as young as 7 chained up to each other and then to the rafters above. The more I saw the more I didn’t like what I saw. How a great injustice, was being done to all these poor people who have no choice or say in how their lives are lived.

I was beginning to wish I hadn’t taken James up on his offer to come along for the journey, the Middle Passage.

James’s family owned a plantation in the Caribbean. A vast estate in which they grew sugar mostly, as it was greatly in demand now. A new wonder food that gave our food that little sweetness. Now everyone craved it.

It was May 1780, and the slave trade was at an all time peak. Some 78,000 slaves that year were shipped across the oceans.

It was also the year that James had asked for my hand in marriage. Much to the relief of my family, as he had been away for nearly two years, and I had kept to my promise of waiting for the one I loved so dearly.

But before we were to be married his father had ordered him to go on one more voyage, across the ocean again.

I couldn’t bare to be apart from him not a moment longer, and after much persuasion, my father finally agreed to let me go with James.

We set sail from Bristol on a horrid wet and cold late May day to Ghana in west Africa. The ship full of Cloth, copper and metal, all to be used in exchange for the slaves.

Although James didn’t totally agree with the trade, he had no choice and had assured me that they would be better off once they docked. For a new and better life awaited them in the tropical islands across the vast Atlantic. With promise of regular meals, a home to share, he had told me how they wouldn’t have the hardships and famine that they faced in their homelands. I could do no more than believe him this man that I loved with all my heart.

The down journey across the Atlantic was quite uneventful, although the weather improved the further south we got. There was the Captain, about fifty or so sailors and a few soldiers all armed. Just as a precaution James had said. Pirates were known in these waters, he had teased me.

We were met by the slavers the dealers who captured the slaves and then sold them on.

I had never seen such a sight before. Men women and children for sale, just like a human market. Chained by the ankles. Hundreds of them all looking frightened and scared. I ask James what was going on, and he just said it was a precaution again. Precaution for what I didn’t know. But I didn’t quite like the sound of it.

2 days later and we were ready to set sail. The ship now filled with our travellers and food supplies for the 8 week journey across.

James and I were lucky as we had our own quarters on top deck next door to the captain, whom we ate a feast of mystical delights with every evening. Then we would retire to our quarters, where James would tell me stories of his adventures and travels.

I wasn’t allowed under any circumstances to go down below deck. It wasn’t a place for a lady of my calibre the captain and both James had warned me. These foreign people who knows what disease they carried, so I was ordered to stay away even before we had left Bristol. It was a condition of me coming aboard. I think now that the least I saw the better James thought it would be.

But my curiosity got the better of me, and I still wasn’t satisfied with the answers to my questions. I just had to see for myself. I wanted to see these people with their darkened skin, who James’s family had just traded their goods for.

So I waited for James to fall asleep and then crept quietly out of the door. Down past the guard who I quietened with a coin.

To the deck stairs I went down, handing another coin to the guard on duty there. Who was either half asleep or drunk as he fell over himself when I walked into view.

Then I opened the door.

The smell was unbearable, as I quickly took my handkerchief to my nose to block out the stench. But nothing could stop my eyes from the sight that was before me. Nothing could have prepared me for anything worse.

The End

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