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Common Core Standard RI.6.10 Questions

By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 6–8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

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Grade 6 Summarizing CCSS: CCRA.R.10, RI.6.10

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The Slave Trade
By Brenda B. Covert

1 Slavery has existed for thousands of years. It is described and even defended in early writings of the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Egyptians, and later in Ancient Greece and Rome. People of many different nationalities and cultures have both owned slaves and been themselves enslaved. Even today slavery continues in some parts of the world. However, because of the widespread use of African slave labor in America's early years, we automatically think of the slave trade as primarily African in nature.

2 Initially, most slaves were people who had been captured in warfare. On a smaller scale, criminals and people who could not pay their debts could also be enslaved. The "rules" were different back then. Slaves could earn or simply be given their freedom, and free people and slaves could sometimes marry each other. Over time something changed. Because slave labor was much cheaper than hired labor and new lands needing cultivation were being discovered, the market for slaves began to grow.

3 The Portuguese, Dutch, and British wound up controlling most of the Atlantic Slave Trade - shipping slaves across the Atlantic Ocean to work in the Americas. The Portuguese started the Atlantic Slave Trade with the practice of kidnapping Africans. Then Africans began to offer captives for sale. African peoples fought each other in an effort to capture people to sell as slaves to the European traders. Some African kings were also persuaded - for the right price - to sell some of their own people into slavery!

4 Despite all that, the supply did not meet the demand. Slave traders reverted to the old ways of obtaining slaves. Raiding parties were organized to capture young Africans. Forts were built on the coast of Africa where captured Africans were kept until the arrival of the slave ships.

5 What followed next is called the "Middle Passage." That is the trip across the ocean to the Americas. Slave ships were made to hold as many slaves as possible. The ships' captains packed from 150 to 600 humans into their cargo holds. From about 1520 to the mid-1800's, millions of African men, women, and children were crowded into slave ships for a voyage that lasted from 21 to 90 days. They were wedged horizontally, chained to low-lying platforms that were stacked in tiers. Male slaves were kept shackled together or chained to the ship to prevent mutiny. They were fed twice daily on a pitiful diet of water and boiled rice, millet, cornmeal, or stewed yams. If storms or calms prolonged the trip, rations were reduced even more, resulting in near starvation. Sometimes the captives were made to exercise on deck. If they were lucky, crew members would clean up their "living quarters." Otherwise, the heat and fumes from the filthy holds caused dreadful illnesses and even death. In any event, shock, disease, injuries, suicide, and mutiny killed off at least one sixth during the crossing. Their bodies were thrown overboard.

6 The slave ships stopped first in the West Indies. There the surviving captives would be taught the basics of English as well as the routine and disciplines of plantation life. The captives taken from Africa were generally farming people who also raised livestock. They had grown cotton, sugar, and rice. Africans were also skilled at iron working, music and musical instruments, the decorative arts, and architecture. Those skills served to make them very appealing to the plantation owners who were the prospective buyers at the slave markets.

7 In 1619 the first African slaves arrived in the English colonies in North America. The Dutch ship that delivered them had started out with about 100 captives, but it had run into extremely bad weather that had tossed the captives around like rag dolls in the hold. When the ship finally put into Jamestown, only 20 captives had survived to be sold to the struggling colony.

8 Europeans abolished slavery in the 1800's, but Arab slave traders continued the practice anyway. To put a stop to their activities, fleets of British ships patrolled the coast of Africa to protect Africans from further enslavement.
Grade 6 Reading Strategies CCSS: CCRA.R.10, RI.6.10

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