The missing link in the chain of American slavery
For three centuries slave ships carted millions of people from the coasts of Africa across the Atlantic to the Americas. Much is known of the slave trade and the American plantation system, but little of the ships that made it all possible. In The Slave Ship, award-winning historian Marcus Rediker draws on thirty years of research in maritime archives to create an unprecedented history of these vessels and the human drama acted out on their rolling decks. He reconstructs in chilling detail the lives, deaths, and terrors of captains, sailors, and the enslaved aboard a "floating dungeon" trailed by sharks. From the young African kidnapped from his village and sold into slavery by a neighboring tribe to the would-be priest who takes a job as a sailor on a slave ship only to be horrified at the evil he sees to the captain who relishes having "a hell of my own," Rediker illuminates the lives of people who were thought to have left no trace.
This is a tale of tragedy and terror, but also an epic of resilience, survival, and the creation of something entirely new. Marcus Rediker restores the slave ship to its rightful place alongside the plantation as a formative institution of slavery, a place where a profound and still haunting history of race, class, and modern economy was made.