Slavery at Sea
Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage
University of Illinois Press 2016
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in African StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network December 14, 2017 Adam X. McNeil
Most scholars and members of the public believe the process of enslavement was confined to the Western Hemispheric plantation or other locations of enslavement. Sowande Mustakeem’s award-winning Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage (University of Illinois Press, 2016) disrupts that narrative. Mustakeem changes how readers understand the packaging process for how African captives became enslaved once they reached their final destinations. Slavery at Sea reveals for the first time how similar dimensions of land-based slavery were expressed largely on board slaving vessels. By highlighting the lived experiences of those groups most neglected by prior scholars of the Middle Passage—women, children, the disabled, and the elderly—Mustakeem demonstrates how Atlantic slave ships were important areas of development to land-based methods of medical treatment and violence.
Mustakeem’s approach to producing history does not end with the writing of Slavery at Sea. As a member of the St. Louis, Missouri-based band Amalghemy, Mustakeem adds to the readers experience by constructing a first of its kind soundtrack specifically for them to listen to as they read. Slavery At Sea: The Book Soundtrack pushes the public to consider how a soundtrack could mirror the “feelings, vibrations, and imagination forged in the book.” Ultimately, when coupled together, Slavery At Sea and Slavery At Sea: The Book Soundtrack alters how people of all backgrounds understand how pivotal the Middle Passage was to one of, if not the largest forced migrations of people in human history. She asserts that by the time captive Africans ultimately reached their final port of entry, the psychological and sexual trauma that would be their futures as enslaved people, had already begun during the Middle Passage.
Sowande M. Mustakeem is an assistant professor in the Department of History and the African and African American Studies Program at Washington University in St. Louis. She can be reached on Twitter at @somustakeem.
Adam X. McNeil is a graduating M.A. in History student at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, and received his Undergraduate History degree at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University University in 2015.