The demand for labor in the western hemisphere created a commercial network known as the triangular trade. The second leg of the triangle went from west Africa to the Americas, which is better known as the Middle passage. This journey took about four to six weeks. Slaves were packed into ships in one of two ways, a tight pack or loose pack. They were laid on shelves, chained to each other and limited in space between them. Conditions were so bad that slaves refused to eat and often revolted. The ships’ crews tried to preserve the lives of the slaves in hopes of making a profit off them at the end of the voyage.
One such cruelty included the prying open of the slaves’ mouths with tools to feed them and they tossed the ones that did not survive in the ocean. Depending on weather conditions and diseases, the death toll increased. In the beginning of the slave trade where ships were particularly cramped, the death rate was about fifty percent. Later, as conditions improved, the death rate decreased to five percent. In addition to the decline in the African population along the middle passage, diseases in the western hemisphere affected the rate of African deaths. In the Caribbean and South America, slave populations usually were unable to sustain their numbers by natural means. Many slaves caught tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. The cause of this poor hygiene on the plantations was brutal working conditions and low standards of sanitation and nutrition.
By the time Europeans ventured to sub-Saharan Africa in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, commerce involving slaves was well established in Africa. The need for laborers in the western hemisphere popularized the slave trade. Along the middle passage, Africans were treated brutally and death among them was caused by poor treatment and malnutrition. This period in history where racism was at its highest, was so influential to our time, acute evidence shows that such attitude exists still today.