The Slave Ship: Your brother has died
© Alistair Devine
Discuss life on board a slave ship, how the captives were kept and the views of the Captain and crew about their “cargo”. The painting Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying -Typhoon Coming on by J.B.W. Turner can be used. Excerpts from Olaudah Equiano’s book could be read. (See Resources).

What would the enslaved people be thinking as they approached the ship and went on board? How might they be treated by the sailors? Where were the slaves taken on the ship? What would the living conditions be like?

Whole class activity
Pupils are arranged as if they were below deck on a slave ship, i.e. lying on floor, with head by the feet of the next person, and ‘chained’ together. There is little room – they are crushed together. One pupil is set to watch the class - who are not allowed to move or talk.

Captain and First Mate - discuss the “live cargo” and the difficulties that lie ahead. Captain is of the opinion that the slaves are not important - but must be kept as well as possible so that they can be sold profitably. How does the First Mate feel?

Whole class activity
Class split into two groups – sailors and enslaved people. It is exercise time and the men must be kept separate from the women. Sailors mime lowering a partition that will keep them apart. Men are still chained, women and children allowed to move freely. Both groups are watched by the sailors at all times. Some groups might try to form a plan to escape or take over the ship.

Show the painting Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying – Typhoon Coming on by Turner. Ask the pupils to describe what they see and what they think is happening.

Captain and First Mate – First Mate tells Captain that, because the ship has been pushed off course by the rough winds, their food supplies are running low and asks what he should do. Captain tells First Mate to get rid of any excess “cargo” (any slaves that are ill) so that there is enough food for the healthy ones.

First Mate - does not want to comply and says that the slaves are people. Captain - sees them only as money (he is angry that he will lose some of his profit but he will lose more if all his “cargo” starve).

Whole class activity
Slow motion action of slaves being thrown overboard.

Hot seating
Teacher or pupil takes on role of First Mate. Class can ask the First Mate questions about life on board ship and his/her opinion of the Captain, and why s/he followed the Captain’s orders, etc. This exercise could also be repeated with the Captain and a Slave (eyewitness).

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