The Middle Passage and Early American Slavery
African Americans have faced a lot of challenges, oppression, and injustices among other racist-related problems in America for centuries. This has been the situation since the historic period up to the present days. Even though African Americans have faced these many problems and challenges, their cultural and spiritual gifts are still intact. As quoted by Margaret Walker, African Americans have faced racism, slavery, segregation, and dehumanizing conditions from the pre-historical time up to date. Despite these challenges, they have developed ways and means to counter them and to enable them survive under discriminative conditions. African Americans faced different challenges during the middle passage period. They were also enslaved but despite all those challenges, they sought ways to counter them. This paper looks into some challenges faced by African Americans during the middle passage, and during the slavery period, some of the ways in which they demonstrated resistance to the racism they experienced (Kolchin, 2003).
During the era of the middle passage, most of the Africans who were driven from their African homes did not reach their destination, as they died on the way (Sharp & Schomp, 2007). The middle passage was a voyage that began and ended in Europe and Africans faced many challenges during the entire journey. Africans faced hunger and death. The hunger was as a result of their failure to eat as a form of resistance. Other Africans committed suicide, as they preferred death to slavery. They committed suicide by jumping overboard into the sea, where sharks fed them on. The Africans were tortured in case they refused to eat as suicide was opposed as much as was possible.
There was execution of Africans during the middle passage period. The execution was to serve the purpose of teaching other African slaves a lesson. The execution was as a result of a failed uprising, where the rebels who survived were tortured or executed. Sailors faced threats of imprisonment if they did not perform the task (Sharp & Chomp, 2007). Most of the sailors were employed forcefully. Slavery was legalized in America in 1661 and this legalization stripped African Americans of their civil rights. Slavery institution enhanced cruel political and social sanctions for the slaves to ensure the continuity and viability of the institution. African Americans faced racial segregation in the alien country. This kept them in inferior status by denying them equality in access to public amenities and making sure that the blacks were entirely separated from the whites. Some restrictive legislation was enacted in 1944 that restricted African Americans from standing witness in their defense in courts of law against the Native Americans (Rosenblatt, 2014). These laws robbed African Americans of their civil liberties.
The culture of the African American citizens is different in regard to the culture of other ethnic groups. Their behaviors, values, basic conditions and other aspects prove to be different when compared to those of the native groups. The African Americans have a positive and strong regard for the family unit, which provides their resilience and adaptability in the alien country. There are historical evidences of avoidance behaviors depicted by the African American communities in an attempt to maintain their culture on family matters. African Americans developed some music that they used in communication during the slavery period. Music kept them connected, and it strengthened them in surviving the harsh conditions that they were exposed to (Diedrich, Gates & Pedersen, 1999).
The African Americans developed civil rights movements e.g. the National Negro Congress that helped in raising awareness and advocating their issues to the relevant bodies. These movements also united with labor unions and renowned politicians to fight racism. In the 19th century, some organizations were established, and they advocated the movement of African Americans to areas where they would have more freedom and better living conditions. African Americans demonstrated resistance by preserving their culture. For example, some of the communities kept the culture of their food e.g. corn. During the middle passage, the African Americans resisted the harsh treatment from their superiors through uprisings. They enhanced the spirit of togetherness in order to achieve their objectives (Kolchin, 2003).
Racism is a subject of critical significance in the United States of America and its societies. Racism in the U.S can divide or unite the citizens and hence calls for enlightened approaches to deal with it. Americans should consider Africans Americans as family, a part of the nation’s citizenry. As such, they should extend their care and support towards them. Through the slavery of African Americans that lasted for over two hundred and forty years, African Americans contributed to the development and growth of the American industries and the economy at large (Diedrich, Gates & Pedersen, 1999). For this reason, therefore, the US government should pay reimbursement or compensation to the African Americans. This will act as a sign of respect and appreciation to the Africans Americans, and it will enhance the creation of a better relationship between the Americans and the African Americans.
Diedrich, M., Gates, H. L., & Pedersen, C. (1999). Black imagination and the Middle Passage. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kolchin, P. (2003). American slavery, 1619-1877. New York (N.Y.: Hill and Wang.
Rosenblatt, P. C. (2014). The impact of racism on African American families: Literature as social science.
Sharp, S. P., & Schomp, V. (2007). The slave trade and the middle passage. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark.