Africans Packed into a Slave Ship, 1857


The Illustrated London News (June 20, 1857), vol. 30 p. 595.


Caption, Slaves packed below and on deck, shows how Africans were crammed into a slave ship that was captured. This is one of a group of five illustrations that accompany a letter to the editor describing the capture by the British Navy of a slave ship, the Zeldina, blown off course near the coast of Cuba. Dated Kingston, Jamaica, May 11, 1857, the letter includes excerpts from two Jamaican newspapers; these provide details on the capture and the condition of the Africans on board. The engravings shown here were made from photographs sent by the writer to the Illustrated London News. In brief, these accounts relate how in April a British naval vessel captured the slave ship and brought it to Port Royal. On board were the 370 survivors of the approximately 500 Africans who had been boarded in Cabinda (Angola) approximately 46 days earlier. A contemporary newspaper describes their condition as follows: The poor captives were in a wretched condition--all of them naked; and the greater part seemed to have been half starved. They were packed closely together, and covered with dirt and vermin . . . . The slave-schooner had two decks and between them the captives were packed in such a manner that they had scarcely room to move. During each day of the voyage they sat in a painful posture, 18 inches only being allowed for each to turn in . . . in a deck room of 30 feet in length . . . [they were] brought up in platoons once every day to get a small portion of fresh air . . (ILN, pp. 595-596). Thanks to David Eltis for providing the name of the slave ship.

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