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What Was Life Like for Slave-Traders Aboard a Slave Ship?

John Newton, a slave-trader-turned-abolitionist, wrote a diary during his slave-trading days. Calling slaves by numbers, not names, he and his crew encountered shipboard woes from bad weather to slave insurrections.

Slaves were keen to change their circumstances and attempted insurrections more than once, on Newton’s ship, during a middle-passage journey. Newton’s diary states:

Put the boys in irons and slightly in the thumbscrews to urge them to a full confession.

Why would anyone fault someone who was wrongfully captured, then turned into a slave, from trying to regain freedom?

How would it feel if you were placed in irons and thumbscrews?

Would you try to escape?


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