Slave Ship Photographs & Images

At the following link, http://www.sonofthesouth.net you will find a copy of the edition of Harper's Weekly, June 2, 1860, 344-345 reporting the capture of the renegade slaveship Wildfire stocked with 510 Africans from the Congo being transported illegally to the northern coast of Cuba, by whom I am not exactly sure. 

It was reportedly captured by Lieutenant Craven of the U.S. Steamer Mohawk, the passengers were photographed and the photographs copied in etching reproductions. 

 As usual, the photographs are much more striking then the drawings which seem never able to capture the emotions of the actual photographs, especially in harrowing situations as portrayed herein. The idea of an actual slaveship being apprehended and captured in photographs seems so stunning to me. Thier appearance, the fact that so many of the "slaves" are male and obviously adolescent, that they are so emaciated like concentration camp victims shocked me at first. I knew a slave ship was no pleasure cruise but why had I not imagined that emaciation and starvation would be the inevitable result of the ordeal of the middle passage? The image of starving Africans or anybody is associated in my mind with situations in the 20th century, not in the 19th century. Anyhow, to say more isn't to further clarify. The details of the case and its portrayal in Harper's Weekly are interesting.

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I am a writer and a professor of English at the City College of New York, and the CUNY Graduate Center. My books include Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (1979), Invisibility Blues (1990), Black Popular Culture (1992), and Dark Designs and Visual Culture (2005). I write cultural criticism frequently and am currently working on a project on creativity and feminism among the women in my family, some of which is posted on the Soul Pictures blog.