Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Power to DieSlavery and Suicide in British North America$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Terri L. Snyder

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226280561

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226280738.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Suicide and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Suicide and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

(p.23) One Suicide and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
The Power to Die

Terri L. Snyder

University of Chicago Press

Acts of suicide by captive Africans were ubiquitous aboard slave ships crossing from Africa to the Americas. Mariner's observations generated a commercial, working knowledge in the trade about Africans and suicide, one that revealed as much about the enslavers as it did about their human cargoes. This chapter examines the lore accompanied slave ships across the Middle Passage. It also analyzes shipboard suicide by captive Africans from the perspectives of both slaves and enslavers. Africans and Europeans carried competing and changing ideas of good and bad deaths with them through the Middle Passage, and these concepts shaped their views of shipboard suicide. Africans' shipboard suicides reflected specific physical, emotional, and psychological experiences of captivity. African shipboard suicides also shaped the conduct of mariners. For captains, surgeons, and crew, preventing slave suicide was essential to controlling shipboard order. As mariners and traders assessed their human cargoes' propensities for self-destruction, they effectively branded slaves according to ethnicity and temperament, qualities that made them more or less saleable commodities. These descriptions underscored the idea that slave suicide was endemic to certain types of human cargoes, specific ethnicities of Africans, rather than to the system of enslavement itself.

Keywords:   slavery, suicide, Middle Passage, disarticulation, ethnicity

Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.