The Middle Passage and the Material Culture of Captive Africans

2009 (Jerome S. Handler) “The Middle Passage and the Material Culture of Captive Africans.” Slavery and Abolition 30: 1-26.

Scholars of the Atlantic slave trade have not systematically addressed the question of what material objects or personal belongings captive Africans took aboard the slave ships and what goods they may have acquired on the Middle Passage. This topic has implications for the archaeology of African descendant sites in the New World and the transmission of African material culture. This paper reviews the evidence for clothing, metal, bead, and other jewelry, amulets, tobacco pipes, musical instruments, and gaming materials. In so doing, the paper provides an empirical foundation for the severe limitations placed upon enslaved Africans in transporting their material culture to the New World.

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