Slave Ships

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Tight Pack or Loose Pack?

This question offers an unsettling insight into the inhumanity of the slave trade. "Tight Pack" is the practice of cramming as many people as would fit into the ship, realizing that many would die. "Loose Pack" is the practice of putting fewer captives on board in the hope that more sanitary conditions would produce more survivors at the end of the voyage. Fights sometimes broke out over which approach would produce the best results.

I allude to this in my novel, "A Promise Moon," in a dream sequence:

The cargo hold was cramped and dark. Three-foot ceilings had small slits cut into the floors and provided inadequate ventilation. Large jars sat in the corner of each hold for a privy, but they were impossible for her to reach because the woman chained to her was dead. The slaves above and below suffered equally. Women gave birth and people died; a child drowned in one of the large jars. Some captives jumped off board with maniacal laughter, singing as the sharks dragged them under water. Some slaves starved themselves, hoping for death, but Grandma’s mother was a survivor. She endured the middle passage. She reached from beyond understanding to remind Rachel of an infinite truth.

I survived a boat ride across the ocean, child, means you can survive anything, too. This is what I passed on to you: the will to live, the pride in not giving up.


One or two successful voyages could pay for a ship. 

Click here for some additional insight into the economics of the slave trade.

A research grant to study slavery and the Underground Railroad in Kentucky inspried, "A Promise Moon." I alluded to, or drew inspiration from my findings as I wrote my latest novel which is set during the Civil War. RESEARCH FINDINGS

Return to "A Promise Moon."


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