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Black History and Blacks in U.S. History
Letter from a Slave Ship

Letter from a Slave Ship
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.92

     challenging words:    barbaric, reluctance, swabbed, unduly, intensity, filth, sorrowful, squall, discomfort, yearning, religion, vomit, homeland, therefore, tended, slavery
     content words:    Dearest Mother, North America, Captain Clarkson, When Father, Middle Passage, Joseph Phillips

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Letter from a Slave Ship
By Brenda B. Covert

1     Dearest Mother,
2     I trust that you are well, along with my father and brothers. In my mind I see your flower garden in full bloom, tended by gentle hands. As for me, my lifelong yearning for a life at sea has evaporated, and feelings of homesickness startle me in their intensity. Once we arrive in North America, I will post this letter to you. I shan't be returning to the sea for a while, so my return home will be postponed for a while. Yes, I will be returning home rather than continue as a sailor on a slave ship. After I share my experiences with you, I am certain that you will understand my need to escape the memories of life at sea and my reluctance to resume on a passage so soon after reaching land.
3     Captain Clarkson seemed like a decent man for whom to work. When Father led me down to his ship to become a part with his crew, I felt I had come face to face with my destiny. A thrill coursed through my veins. That it was a slave ship did not unduly concern me. You know Father's beliefs concerning Africans. I accepted those beliefs just as I accepted my employment.
4     Things went well until we dropped anchor off the coast of Africa. We were near one of the forts where the slaves were kept waiting for us. Mother, they shackled those people as if they were dangerous criminals! I do not know what I expected, but it was not that. The leg of one slave would be shackled to the leg of another, and their necks were shackled in groups of four. Their faces were filled with dread, fear, shock, and despair. How could any man accuse those people of being less human than we are ourselves?
5     I am almost afraid to tell you how the slaves were kept on the ship during the Middle Passage. A woman ought not be aware that such horror exists in this world. And yet, I cannot contain these memories, I must release them through the ink and commit them to paper. Please forgive me, Mother dear, if my words cause you discomfort.

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