were large cargo ships
specially converted for the purpose of
, especially newly
important routes of the slave ships led from the northern and
middle coasts of Africa to South
America and the south coast of what is today the Caribbean and the United States of
The captains and sailors of the boats were
allowed to do whatever they wanted with the slaves. This included
rape, murder, and torture because the slaves were considered their
property. As many as 20 million Africans were transported by ship.
The transportation of slaves from Africa to America was known as
the Middle Passage
. The African slave trade was outlawed in
1807, by a law passed jointly in the United States of
America and the United Kingdom, the applicable UK Act was the Abolition of the Slave Trade
Act and outlawed slavery throughout the British Empire.
The US law
took effect on January 1, 1808. After that
date all US and English slave ships leaving Africa were legally
vessels subject to capture by the
American and British navies. In 1815, at the Council of Vienna, Spain, Portugal, France and The Netherlands also agreed to abolish their slave trade.
During this time, the slave ships became smaller and more cramped
in exchange for improved performance in their new role as smuggling
craft and blockade runners.
Atlantic slave trade
Only a few decades after the discovery of America by Europeans,
demand for cheap labor to work plantations made slave-trading a
profitable business. The peak time of slave ships to the Atlantic passage
between the 17th and 18th century when large plantations developed
in the English colonies of North America.
In order to achieve profit
owners of the ships divided their hulls
into holds with little headroom, so
they could transport as many slaves as possible. Unhygienic
a high mortality rate
, on average 15%
and up to a third of captives. Only the most resilient survived the
transport. Often the ships transported hundreds of slaves, who were
chained tightly to plank beds. For example, the slave ship
"Henrietta Marie" carried about 200 slaves on the long Middle Passage
. They were confined to cargo
holds with each slave chained with little room tomove..
List of slave ships
- Adelaide, French slave ship,
sank 1714 near Cuba.
along with the Duc du
Maine, the first French slave ships that brought the first
slaves to Louisiana.
- La Amistad, cargo ship which
sometimes carried slaves (see note below).
- Braunfisch, a Brandenburgian slave ship lost in 1688 in a revolt.
- Brookes, sailing in the
- Clotilde, burned and sunk at Mobile, in autumn 1859.
captured by the USS Constellation in 1860.
- The Creole case was the result of a
slave rebellion in 1841 on board the Creole, a ship involved in the
United States coastwise slave trade.
- Duc du
Maine, along with the Aurore, the first French slave ships
that brought the first slaves to Louisiana.
- Fredensborg, Danish slave ship,
sank in 1768 off Tromøy in Norway, after a
journey in the triangular
trade. Leif Svalesen has
written a book about the journey.
- Gorch Fock , a double mass ship that
made multiple shipments to Florida and Louisiana.
- Henrietta Marie. Sank 1701 off
- Jesus of Lubeck 700-tonne ship
used on the second voyage of John
Hawkins to transport 400 captured Africans in 1564. Queen Elizabeth I was his partner and
rented him the vessel.
- Kron-Printzen, Danish slave ship,
sank in 1706 with 820 slaves on board.
- Le Concord. Slave ship turned pirate
ship aka Queen Anne's
Revenge, Sank 1717.
- Lord Ligonier. See Roots: The Saga of an
American Family by Alex
- Madre de Deus (Mother of God) 1567
John Hawkins captured this ship and
transported 400 Africans.
- Margaret Scott confiscated
and sunk as part of the Stone fleet in
- Pons American built barque captured
by the USS Yorktown 1 December 1845
with 850-900 slaves
Brandenburgian slave ship.
- Sally, of Newport,
Rhode Island - reviewed in the Report of the Brown University
Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice.
- Tecora, Portuguese slave ship that transported the slaves who would
later revolt aboard La
- Triton captured by the USS
- Trouvadore, wrecked in Turks and Caicos 1841. 193 slaves survived.
Project commenced in 2004 to locate the ship.
- Wanderer, formerly
last slave ship to the U.S. (Nov. 1858) until Clotilde reported.
- Wildfire, a barque,
arrested off the Florida coast by the US Navy in
1860; carrying 450 slaves.
- Whydah Gally, slave ship turned
into pirate ship-sank 1717.
- Zong, a
British slave ship famous of the massacre which occurred
aboard in 1781.
Note: While La Amistad
is often called a
slave ship, it was in fact a general purpose cargo ship, which
occasionally carried slaves. See the article about the ship, and
the resulting court case
, for more
Turner's The Slave Ship
- Mancke, Elizabeth and Shammas, Carole. The Creation of the
British Atlantic World. 2005, page 30-1
History: The Middle Passage
- Slave Ship Trouvadore Website
- Harper's Weekly, June 2, 1860, p344. Online at The Slave Heritage Resource Center
accessed 3 July 2006.