The term “fully slaved,” refers to a slave ship (slaver) that has its full complement of human cargo and is ready to sail for the Americas. The process of acquiring slaves took months, and the toll on the captives waiting below deck, as well as the sailing crew subject to sickness, was terrible. Rediker’s book details all aspects of life aboard a slaver and the economic and political web that surrounded them. It makes for horrifying reading – the first time I delved into this subject in detail. It also adds a lot to my reading of Melville’s Benito Cereno and Eugene Sue’s Atar Gull. The book is quite repetitive, and not too well-organized, but the depth of scholarship is amazing.
In the course of his narrative, Rediker touches at length on John Newton, the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace.” He points out that Newton did not speak out against slavery until nearly thirty years had passed after he left the trade. Moreover, his famous conversion to evangelical religion took place while he worked the trade, and did not prevent him from continuing profitably in it, believing he was following God’s path.
Better late than never.
The images below are of an old movie theatre in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, that startled me the first time I drove by it years ago.