But that raises the question of how much was said by those born in Africa of their experiences in the crossing, and whether perhaps this was something that was buried? Many survivors of the extermination camps would not talk of their experiences. Is there any trace in ex-slave narratives of memories of past generations talking about the Atlantic crossing?
This is, indeed, the key question. The WPA narratives seem to yield only mythic stories about red cloth tempting African on board ships as opposed to any plausible accounts of the middle passage and what preceded it. Of course the informants here would mostly be many generations removed from Africa, altho some claim to et these stories from African-born elders. Has anyone found much middle passage material in U.S. slave narratives?
Ralph A. Austen Professor of African History Chair, Committee on International Relations University of Chicago
Ralph A. Austen and Kenneth Warren (eds.), The Atlantic Slave Trade in African and Diaspora Memory. Duke University Press, ca. 2002.