The Slave Ship

by Dr. Marcus Rediker

About This Lecture

Dr. Marcus Rediker's lecture "The Slave Ship" was recorded in July of 2012 at the Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies at Mystic Seaport.  The recording and web presentation of the lecture were made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

To watch an interview with Dr. Rediker, visit Rediker Interview.

1. Introduction to the Lecture

Okay, I want to talk to you today about The Slave Ship. This is a book that several of you have read, I think, subtitle A Human History. And I’ll begin with a question: How many of you can remember any significant public event marking the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade by the United States government in the year 2008? Can anybody remember anything that was done to commemorate what is one of the most purely virtuous things the American government has ever done? You would think that this would be something to be remembered. Well, in 2007, they had a fairly robust discussion in Britain. In this country, we had mostly silence. Now, I think that this is a sign of something, something deep. And I think that something deep is that we are very far from having come to grips with the history of the slave trade and more broadly the history of slavery in this country. I wrote The Slave Ship: A Human History as part of what I hoped to be a contribution to a discussion of the meaning of the slave trade and the meaning of slavery in our national life. That’s what I hoped this book would contribute to. That we might actually think in public about this part of our history. But lo and behold there was very little discussion and I think I know specifically why. Even in this time in which Americans talk endlessly about terror— after 9/11 we talk a lot about terror in this country. It’s rare that you can watch the nightly news without some discussion of terror somewhere.  And yet we can’t talk about the terror of the slave ship which was instrumental to building this country. We can’t really talk about that. Now I think that it is very important that we talk about that because I think this is really the test of any genuinely democratic society.  Can you talk about the dark pages in your history? It’s easy to talk about the glorious stuff. It’s easy to talk about to talk about the ideas of liberty that emerged from the American Revolution. Every nation can talk about those kinds of things, but can you talk about the difficult stuff? The violent stuff? And we certainly have a very violent history. Well, I believe we need to talk about it. The reason I wrote this book was in the hope that we can talk about it because I do firmly believe that memory and justice must be linked.  In other words, if we are going to imagine a better future, we have to take on board the things that got us to this point in time. And pretending that we didn’t have this history, this really violent history of the slave trade and slavery, more broadly, is not going to help us. That’s my proposition to you. That won’t help. Until we have the courage to talk about these things, in public, we are going to remain trapped. Trapped, I would say, in denial.

So this actually goes to my main purpose for this book, and that is to talk about a really difficult subject. I will tell you that I thought about writing this book for about five years before I worked up the courage, finally, to undertake it. And there were two main reasons for that. One is that I was not sure I could do justice to the people who suffered on those slave ships. I mean this is really a difficult subject to deal with. Could I do justice to those people? At a certain point I decided it was a bigger danger to try and to fail than not to try at all. So that I overcame. The second related thing that held me back was essentially wondering if I could bear to live with this subject for the several years that it would take to write the book. Because the kind of history that I do, which is history from below or peoples history, you have to try to understand the experience of the people on the lower deck. And that’s a horrible thing to try to think about and imagine on a daily basis, to reconstruct from painstaking research over a period of several years. I don’t know that I have been successful, but I thought it was at least worth a try and I can tell you that it was honestly a horror living with this book. It was a very hard book to write. I’ll say more about that later.

2. The Role of the Ship

So let’s talk a bit about the background of the slave trade. I want to talk about how it came to be, how it is part of the rise of capitalism, and eventually I want to get to that issue of the experience of people who both worked on the ships and were held down below in bondage and I think it’s a good idea that we should begin with a beautiful, tall ship. There are probably enough maritime experts in the room to be able to answer this question but maybe before you took this course, had you seen this, would you have known that it was a slave ship? Could you tell just by looking at it? Most people couldn’t. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it, this majestic, tall ship. But if you look carefully, just above the water line, there are these air ports carved into the side of the vessel. You don’t carve those air ports into the side of a vessel that’s transporting textiles or timber or sugar or any commodity that isn’t alive. So I guess my point in looking at this image is to say that we have this extraordinary romance of the tall ship and that is certainly part of Mystic Seaport. They are truly beautiful things, but what may have been the most important of these tall ships defines the limit of that romance: the slave ship. Because we really don’t want to talk about it. And here’s another way to put this very odd fact. We have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of studies of slavery and the plantation system. When I started working on this book, there were exactly four, very minor, mostly unknown studies of the slave ship. The slave ship, with the plantation, is one the two main institutions of modern slavery. You can’t have the one without the other. And yet, we have this kind of huge disproportion in the way that we have studied those two main institutions. We may want to get into a discussion later about why that is so. Why so few studies of the slave ship? Part of it is simply the horror as I have already suggested, but I think that there are some interesting and complicated reasons.  

But I also want to use this to draw attention to the fact that this is the technology that changed world history. The European tall ship changed everything. This has been known for a long time although I think we’ve been slow to recognize its importance. People like Fernand Braudel plus the Italian economic historian Carlo Cipolla talk at great length about how the gunned warship of Europe, in sailing outward to all the different ends of the earth fundamentally helped to establish the dominance of that small, little peninsula off the Eurasian land mass all around the world. And there is no better way to understand this then to ask yourself where the languages of Europe are spoken. How many different parts of the world speak Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch and English? Those are the maritime nations, right? This is why so much of the world speaks those few languages. And English of course is one of the most fascinating because you have Australia, you have the Indian subcontinent, you have South Africa, you have different parts of Africa, you have the Caribbean, North America, Canada, that’s just a tiny island that did all that! A tiny island nation and the world speaks its language in extraordinary numbers.

3. The Beginning of the Slave Trade

Well the slave trade itself began in vessels like this in the late 15th century, the Atlantic slave trade. It went on nearly 400 years into the late 1860s. I think 1867 is the last date in the trans-Atlantic slave trade database. I encourage people to take a look at it. Over that 400 years, this particular vessel was crucial to the rise of capitalism because it was crucial in creating the plantation system which was essential to the world market. And this of course is the evil genius of capitalism. It doesn’t require only wage labor, as Danny said earlier. It requires un-free labor to build the world market. And that is precisely what vessels like this did. We’re talking about the growth of the world market controlled mostly in Europe. All of the European nations that had the technical capacity to be involved in the slave trade were involved in the slave trade: Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, England, the United States all are part of this mad rush for black gold. Very important part of world history.

Now this is an image that I’m sure all of you have seen.  This was drawn originally in Plymouth, England1788, not by a merchant, owner of a slave ship or by a captain who wanted to see how bodies could be arranged, but rather by the opponents of the slave trade, abolitionists who wanted to create some sort of visual image to allow people to imagine the horror that went on in these vessels that were very far from the experience of most people. So this is what they came up with. Vessels like this, and this is actually a real ship by the way, the Brooks that sailed out of Liverpool for just over 20 years, we know a lot about it. The current estimates of the slave trade is a fairly politicized and difficult question, but the current estimate is that somewhere between 10  and 11 million people were loaded  onto ships like this in mostly West Africa, also South and South Eastern Africa and somewhere around 9 million of them were delivered alive. Now, I would like to emphasize that this does not include the many people who died on the way to the coast. It does not include the many people who died at the slave trading fortresses. It only includes the people who died in Middle Passage. And of course, there are many hundreds of thousands of them whose bodies were brought up from the lower deck each morning and thrown over the side of the ship to the schools of sharks that followed the vessels all the way across the Atlantic. You may be surprised to know that a relatively small number of the total were actually sent to the United States or what would become the United States. The United States was not as big a part of the slave trade as were, for example, the Caribbean islands and Brazil. About 40% went to Brazil, about 40% to the Caribbean, probably 4 or 5% went to what is now the United States.  Now the significance of the slave trade, however, is not reducible to these numbers because we all know the United States became one of the leading slave societies in the world in the early 19th century, partly as a matter of demographics because the un-free labor reproduced itself in ways that is did not in other areas and that’s not to say that it was necessarily milder or easier, just a different set of circumstances, material circumstances. But there is one thing that we should note about the consequences of the numbers. The plantation system of the new world—and here I mean Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, American—produced the single greatest planned accumulation of wealth the world had ever seen up to that moment of time. This is a staggering amount of capital generated by this plantation system all made possible by these kinds of vessels.

4. Working Guidelines of the Slave Ship

Now, part of the working guidelines of the slave ship is to say that sometimes we take comfort in abstractions. Sometimes when we sanitize the slave trade by presenting only a number we miss the human consequences of the number. Actually, Barry Unsworth has a beautiful comment on this in Sacred Hunger. It talks about a slave trading merchant in Liverpool who was very happy with his charts and graphs and maps because it allowed him to avoid thinking about the horror that his vessel was personally engaged with. So, my point is to try to imagine the slave trade as human experience. What kind of a human experience was it? I don’t pretend that we can understand it entirely. Too much has been lost. Too many murders took place. I mean, this was basically a vast system of organized murder because every slave ship owner knew that somewhere between 8 and 25, 30 as many as 40 to 50% of the enslaved Africans aboard the vessel were going to die! They knew that! They planned with it and around it. And so much of this history has been lost. I was thinking when Danny said this morning that you have the history of two people from that interior village of Salem on board that he was able to find in the shipping records. The port of Ouidah in Benin was the source of about a million souls loaded onto slave ships over this long period of the slave trade. We have only the smallest personal recollection of it from only two people. So this gives you a sense of the systemic violence by which not only were lives crushed but our ability to know those lives was also damaged. So it takes a special effort for us to reconstruct this experience of the slave trade.  

So I would ask everybody to think about let’s say 3-400 people, many of whom had been marched a very long distance from the interior, from their homelands, where they were enslaved by one violent means or another. Most of them had been capture by other Africans. They didn’t necessarily think of themselves as African though, they thought of themselves as Fante or Ebo, Mende. The cultural divisions of Africa proved very useful to the slave traders by arming some to attack others. But imagine people arriving at the coast, after a long march, a lot death along the way. Then they go through a quite humiliating and indeed violent medical inspection, usually by the ship’s captain who is thinking of buying some number of the people marched to the coast and also by the ships physician. They want to be sure that people are in reasonable health so that they will survive the middle passage. This, of course, has this medical examination a special terror for women, as indeed will the entire slaving voyage because rape will be one form of discipline and control that is applied to women. 

I ask you to imagine the fear, the uncertainty. Most people didn’t know where they were going. They didn’t know what would become of them. You may know, I hope most of you know the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. It’s a great teaching tool. At one point he describes his effort to talk with other people on the lower deck and basically what he wants to know is “What is happening to us?  Who are these strange people who showed up in this floating house? Do they have any wives or women, and if so where are they? And are they cannibals?” This was also frequently something that other people thought. They had been captured by cannibals. “Where are we going? What’s going to happen to us once we get there? “These are the questions that everybody has and all this is unfolding—all these questions, this experience—amid extreme violence. Whips, lashes, moving people around, trying to cow everybody as much as possible. Fear.

I would ask you to imagine what happens at that moment when a slave ship lifts its anchor and begins to drift away from the African coast because I read descriptions of the howls that emerged from the interior of the ship at the idea of losing contact with the only place that you ever knew. This became such a problem that slave ship captains developed the practice of leaving the coast at night so it wouldn’t be so obvious. I would also ask you to imagine the songs that were sang by African women. They’re just described as lamentations; efforts toremember their lives ashore. Efforts to actually retain their history, who they were, who their families were. Captains would punish this kind of singing at every opportunity. Now I’ll just tell you a personal story, I had the great good fortune on three occasions, to talk about the history of the slave ship and to be accompanied by an extraordinary African American a capella singer Karen Somerville and at a certain point, when I had been describing these women and their songs she stepped up and sangMotherless Child” with a power and a feeling that was just extraordinary. “Motherless child, a long way from my home”.This is a very important part of the experience.

This is actually another image of the slave ship, also produced by the abolitionists. It’s actually a much more realistic in the sense that the previous one had only one deck; it didn’treally go into detail. This, I think, was actually drawn by a naval architect with antislavery principles, but you see here, the men in the forward part of the vessel, the boys here, mid-ship, women and girls. This again is the Brooks, that same vessel I mentioned before which had actually been measured so all of these dimensions are drawn to scale.We actually know precisely what was the distance between this deck and the deck above, okay. I should also say, by the way, this is a platform and you would need to superimpose that on this image in order to understand how crowded the lower deck actually was. You can see it here. So this distance is five feet eight inches. Which means that if you were on a platform or underneath a platform, you would have about two feet eight inches headroom. That’s not enough to sit up. And imagine this in the context of the rolling of the ship, which would routinely wear the skin off of people’s elbows and hips and backs. The point of this illustration was to help us to imagine the horror. 

The thing that an illustration like this cannot convey is perhaps the thing that most slave ships are famous for and that is their smell. It was said that in Charleston, South Carolina, when the wind was blowing off the water a certain way, you could stand on the docks and you could actually smell a slave ship before you could see it. So this gives you an idea. There are also many stories of certain ships becoming so horrific in their smell,they had to be burned because you couldn’t really get the smell out of them. Well, this the smell of heat, frequently these ships traveled through the tropics. This is the smell of perspiration. It’s the smell of sickness of various kinds, including and especially seasickness. It’s the smell of excrement because one thing the image leaves out is what they call the “necessary tubs “that people will have to try to make their way to. And it’s also the smell of human beings in a state of great fear. I’m sure many of you know that the human body makes a very pungent smell, very common in war time for example.

The other thing I think is very important to my effort to understand this social reality was to think about the sounds of a slave ship. What did it actually sound like? Well, you would have to imagine the roaring of the waters, the creaking of the ship. Then, of course, you would have to imagine the dozens of different languages. Any 3 or 400 group of Africans might speak 15 to 20 different languages. They are trying to figure out with whom they can communicate. You also have to add the sounds of the crack of the whip. You would have to add the sounds of the sick and dying. Death rattles. Very routine on slave ships.You would have to add sounds of people singing. You would have to add the sounds of children and that’s kind of shocking, isn’t it? Over the course of the 18th century more and more children made up the human cargo of slave ships. I would also ask you to imagine the effects of this on the human capacity to breathe. People actually died of asphyxiation. There were descriptions of people grabbing hold of the hatchways and lifting themselves up to try and get a breath of fresh air, to which the captain said, “Drive them back down because they are blocking the air for everybody else,” which was literally true. But the point is that there wasn’t enough air for everybody else. So think of that. Think of the most basic thing we do, we breathe. And then think of how the European crew maintained control in this situation that we just described. I’ve argued in this book that the slave ship was defined by terror and that the slave ship was in fact an instrument of terror. And as an instrument of terror, it was made up of several smaller instruments of terror. The main one is the cat o’ nine tails which you can see, I’m sure you all know, it’s got several cords with knots at the end so as to lacerate the skin more efficiently. Some slave ship captains, I’ve discovered, laced wire through the cordage in order to cut more deeply. This was the fundamental instrument of power. It was used in all types of circumstances not least when people dared to rebel.  I’ll come back to that.

5. The Hardware of Bondage

This is what I would call the “hardware of bondage”. This is an illustration produced by the British abolitionist Thomas Clarkson who went to Liverpool and he gathered up these things, just as he gathered up stories of sailors who had been on the slave ship so that he could talk about that in his published work The Experience of the Slave Ship. This is a set of manacles for the wrists. Usually two people were manacled together, in many cases, only the men. But if a woman showed any signs of resistance, she too would be manacled and shackled. So it would be left wrist to the right wrist of someone else, left ankle to the right ankle of someone else so as to limit movement. And I must tell you here, as I was about halfway through writing this book, I found, online, and actual pair of slave ship shackles for sale found in a South Carolina plantation around 1780. And this occasioned the most extreme inner debate: should I get them? Why would I want to participate in commerce in theseinstruments of terror? And finally I decided, if you want to understand the experience, you should get as close to these things as you can. So I bought those shackles and I carried them around with me for a week, and I saw things that I could have never seen without them. I had seen them in museums but they are always under glass, you can’t hold them. You can’t experience the materiality of it. This bar was designed to go right over the Achilles tendon. I could see the patina of wear of the interior of the shackles of the people who had been forced to wear it. That thing became so much more real to me as a result of having them, I had to go back and rewrite everything I had already written about the hardware of bondage. And in the end, when I had finished the book, I gave the shackles to a museum with the stipulation they have to display them in a way that people can touch them and actually experience it more directly.This is a thumbscrew. This is a standard part of a captain’s cabin. It only has one purpose: that’s torture. People who have engaged in resistance would have their thumbs placed, the key would be turned and this would create almost unimaginable pain. But I think for diabolical purposes, this is probably, the most significant of this technology of bondage. This is called the Speculum Oris because one of the things slave captains faced all the time were hunger strikes. Those who refused to eat would have this instrument in a closed position; these prongs would be placed down that person’s throat, the key would be turned, the person’s throat would be opened up from the inside, and then gruel would be poured down that person’s throat to keep him or her alive because he or she was a capital investment and should not be allowed to die under any circumstances unless the captain should choose that person should die. Lots of people starved themselves to death anyway. It didn’t always work. 

But now we come back here. On those occasions when rebellions broke out on slave ships, and they were frequent—we have evidence that they happened on just about one voyage out of ten—the captain and his officers would usually pick one or two or three of the so called ring leaders for exemplary punishment. Everybody would be  called up onto the main deck and then you would witness one of the most grisly things imaginable. If a person were merely lashed to death with a cat o’ nine tails, that would have been merciful. Captains outdid each other to come up with evermore violent ways of torturing the rebels. This included dismemberment. This included beheadings. I mean, this folks, is a place of extreme terror. And the idea was that it must be ruled through terror. The slave ship captain, in my view, was a terrorist. And this was not the individual failing of this or that captain. This was a requirement of the job.

6. Experiences on the Slave Ship

Now, part of my purpose in writing this book was to understand the experience of everybody on board from the enslaved to the crew to the captain. Why were they there? Especially given, as Danny said, the very high mortality the crew and the captains faced. Why were people doing it? Why were they there? Well, it’s fairly easy to know why the enslaved were there. They were captured and they were sold as part of an extraordinary trade, the gun-slave cycle, some have called it. And again, here we have Olaudah Equiano, I think you Dan brought up Equiano earlier in a debate of whether he was actually Ebo as he says he was. For my money, he’s absolutely who he says he was. That both times that he mentioned beingborn in Carolina, there were very good reasons to say that and not to say that he was African. We can talk about this later, if you like. But, he wrote and extraordinary account of what an eleven or twelve year old boy experienced aboard the slave ship. I think this is a tremendous teaching tool. And once I was asked by my daughter to come and talk with her 5th grade class about the question of slavery. So I did, and without understanding it, I started talking about Olaudah Equiano and immediately the children said, “He’s the same age we are!” And suddenly, they were just riveted by his story, especially the moment of separation from his sister.So anyway, this is a tremendously valuable document. Equiano went on to become himself an extremely important abolitionist and the author of this autobiography, which I think was one of the greatest literary achievements of the abolition movement. It’s a really unusual record, precisely because of the violence I’ve mentioned. 

Now, most of you know Equiano, but I’d be willing to bet that most of you have never heard of this guy, maybe when you read the book. But this is a man I’m very happy to have discovered, in a way. His name is James Field Stanfield. He was an actor who got in touch with Thomas Clarkson and said, “I hear you want to understand the experience of sailors onboard slave ships.” He said, “Well, I have an experience that I can tell you about.” He had sailed on a vessel slaving voyage that began from Liverpool with a crew of 34. Of that 34, four of them returned alive. So what Stanfield did was talk about the dual system of violence. The violence used against the enslaved but the related system by which sailors were ruled through terror. And if you remember, one of the things Equiano describes, one of the most horrifying things he ever saw was when a sailor on board his slave ship was lashed to death. He said, “Well, if they would do that to their own kind, what will they do to us?” That was the point, okay. Anyway, Stanfield I think is representative of a small, I would emphasize that small, but extremely important group of sailors who turned against the slave trade because they were the ones who educated Clarkson about the damage that this trade was doing to British shipping. They died in roughly the same percentages as the enslaved. On some ships, of different reasons because of different immunological issues, most sailors died because of malaria. But, sailors like Stanfield,and there were lots of others, made a major contribution to the abolition movement.

And the other person, I’m sure most of you know John Newton, even if you don’t know John Newton, then I’m sure that you know his most famous work. He is the man who wrote Amazing Grace, this famous spiritual [song]. Well, John Newton was a slave ship captain and the way story of that song is usually told is to say: John Newton was working in the slave trade, he had an epiphany from God, he left the slave trade immediately knowing that it was ungodly work, and he wrote that beautiful hymn as an act of penance.  That’s a very lovely story, but it didn’t happen that way. John Newton had his great Christian conversion and then went on three voyages as a slave ship captain and writes from the captain’s cabin that he’s finally found a godly calling. He’ll write things like, “I vow to do good by my fellow human beings” as he has hundreds of them below his feet in the lower deck. He finally had a stroke, and apoplectic stroke which required him to leave the sea. He never made a conscious decision to leave the slave trade. After he left the sea and took up another kind of work, eventually becoming a minister, it was many years before he even spoke out against the slave trade. But when he did finally speak out, when the abolition movement had grown up, he was a very effective spokesperson because he knew exactly what had happened on these vessels. And I’ll tell you, one thing he mentioned in his parliamentary testimony of 1788. He said, “Yes, it is true that captains use thumbscrews and that these produce extraordinary pain.” What he didn’t say, and which you can learn if you read his unpublished journal, was that he himself used thumbscrews on children to make them confess the existence of a rebellious plot. But [for] slave ship captains like John Newton, this was a very lucrative line of work. The risks were high because of mortality. But the payoff was extraordinary, partly because you got not only wages; you got a certain percentage for the number of people delivered alive. Plus, you got what were called “privilege wages”. A certain number of free slaves you could sell on your own account. So this is a tremendously lucrative business for slave ship captains, not to mention merchants. 

Now, it’s not all a dark and dismal story. There is, and I think that this is really the only saving grace of the history that I wrote. There is an extraordinary amount of resistance on the lower deck of these vessels. A sense of community actually grew up on the lower decks. There were certain important kinds of communication among the multi-ethnic enslaved. New languages, new relationships, and the way this is best described is through something called “fictive kinship”. This is a term anthropologists use for the ways that people will invent relations of kin where no actual kin exists as a way of creating a stronger sense of connection to people. So, all those people on board any slave ship had existed in kin networks that were shattered by their moment of enslavement. They start rebuilding it on the ship. They start calling each other “brother” and “sister”. When they take that kinship ashore, for example, in Jamaica, Virginia, wherever it may be, that bond with the person who was on your vessel is preserved and nurtured. Your children will be taught to call that woman “aunt” or that man “uncle”. I find this to be an extraordinarily creative thing. 

The other creative thing is the pioneering of an extraordinary variety of resistance. Resistance was a language that everybody could understand no matter what language they spoke. This took the form of suicide, a big problem for slave ship captains. It took the form of hunger strikes, which were everywhere. And it took the form of insurrection, uprisings. You’ll see in this image that people have managed to get out of their chains. There were, after all, blacksmiths among the enslaved, who knew the properties of iron. You’ll see that on this vessel, there is what is called a Baracaldo, a defensive structure built on the slave ship which allows the crew to escape and fire down on the people who are rising up. You’ll see some people jumping overboard. One thing I discovered about insurrections, they weren’t always designed to capture the ship. Sometimes they were designed to carry out a mass suicide so that people could have their spirits returned to their African homelands. This was a very widespread belief in West Africa, that when we die, we will go home. That was the way of reversing the Middle Passage.

So my point here is that these kinds of resistance is very important and that within this vessel of howling misery, you find something new being born. I think that this is the most extraordinary thing about this story. Looked at from what will develop later historically, you could say that in the cooperation on the lower deck, you will find the origin of African American culture. Or Afro-Brazilian culture. Or Afro-Jamaican culture. Wherever people happen to be going, they’re already working things out in new ways of speaking, new ways of singing, new ways of cooperating and that this begins on the ship. Something new and defiantly alive is on those ships.

7. Final Thoughts

So, my final point is basically to say this. There is an increasing understanding around the world that the slave trade and slavery and slavery as a system were not and are not simply unfortunate moments in history. They are not even merely atrocities. They are something else which we have come to call crimes against humanity. Now, a crime against humanity is something that affects an entire society over many generations. It’s not confined to the moment of its existence. The slave trade affected the United States long after 1808 and I want to submit to you that it affects us to this day in the forms of discrimination, poverty, and massive structural inequality. These slave ships are still sailing. But they are also of interest to a great many artists. This is a work by Haitian artist name Frantz Zephirin called The Slave Ship Brooks in which he is depicted the Africans on board.

You can see many of them. It’s kind of a dungeon ship. It’s a Haitian folk belief, or maybe it’s a folk tale, that the most rebellious slaves would be chained to the outside of the ship so that they would become food for the sharks. And you’ll see here that the crew is depicted as a bunch of animals. The mate is death itself. The captain holds the scroll that will allow him to seize the land. This is the voodoo loa called Agwe, the spirits of the seas. This is Agwe’s boat. On the sail of Agwe’s boat it says, “We are in a lot of trouble.” The artist has a sense of humor. ButI would have you notice this. Notice that two of the people on the outside have broken the chains. This, the artist told me, is Boukman, famous figure in Haitian history because he led the first uprising on the North Plain of Haiti in 1791 and this isToussaint L'Ouverture. Now Toussaint L'Ouverture was actually born in Saint-Domingue, he didn’t come over on a slave ship. But in order to create an image of resistance which speaks to the revolutionary history of Haiti, he’s put Toussaint  and Boukman here to show, to forecast, a history of resistance. So even the symbol of great horror can be turned by an artist into a symbol of hope. Thank you very much.