Interrupting the Voyage: Insurrections in Africa

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Interrupting the Voyage: Insurrections in Africa
“Successful African uprisings against European captors were of course moments at which the undeniable free agency of the captives most disturbed Europeans—for it was in these moments that African captives invalidated the vision of the history being written in this corner of their Atlantic world and articulated their own version of a history that was ‘accountable’.” Stephanie Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora, 34.

Using the Trans-Atlantic slave trade database, this assignment asks you to explore how African captives interrupted the European narrative of slaving to write their own history. First, in the database select African Resistance under the heading “Voyage Outcomes” and limit your search to the variables “vessels attacked from shore” and “vessels’ boats attacked from shore.” In order to compare patterns across the centuries of the trade, leave the time frame in its default setting of 1514-1866. After searching, you should have a data set of 96 entries. With the entries you will build an essay that investigates the trends and frequency of slave resistance in Africa. Questions to think about are:

  • When did attacks happen?

  • Where did they happen?

  • Is there any correlation between the insurrections and the demographics of the African captives?

  • Were certain Europeans more susceptible to insurrections?

  • Were certain African ethnicities more likely to revolt?

  • Are the database records helpful in reconstructing slave resistance? What do they reveal or not reveal?

Your essay does not need to address all these questions they are simply a guide to help you organize your interpretations of the data. To help support you argument feel free to draw on readings and lectures from class and/or the essays included on the database’s website. Remember the objective of the assignment is to practice reading and analyzing primary documents to construct an argument that you will support in your essay.


4-6 pages, typed, double spaced, 12 pt. font

Database site:

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