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The Middle Passage: White Ships/Black Cargo…

The Middle Passage: White Ships/Black Cargo

by Tom Feelings

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13616125,758 (4.45)4



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This book is breath-taking in visual scope and presentation! With the power of a silent movie, it conveys the brutality and unfortunate circumstances Africans endured using a limited, bur richly-textured palette of colors/tones. The ghostly, ethereal depictions of their captors hauntingly communicates their ghastly practices. The lyrical sweep of the images creates words and ideas more effectively communicated than words could articulate. A must read/see which offers much material for pondering/reflection. ( )
  raboissi | Feb 16, 2018 |
While reading this I could only imagine the emotional response from someone who is more passionate about this subject than me. It has a huge amount of detailed written and even more detailed paintings. It truly gives you a terrifying view into the past and what the experience was like for those Africans who were stolen from their land. Due to its vivid and descriptive nature I can see why people wouldn't want to read this, but I think it is almost necessary to fully understand slavery. ( )
  JasonCam1 | Feb 10, 2018 |
In Tom Feelings' introduction, he says "I began to see how important the telling of this particular story could be for Africans all over this world, many who consciously or unconsciously share this 'race memory,' this painful experience of the Middle Passage." The book was published in 1995, long before scientific acknowledgement of and inquiry into epigenetics. I would love to know how current knowledge of epigenetics might have influenced this book and how it currently affects the interpretation of the effects of the Middle Passage. ( )
  ProfDesO | Apr 30, 2017 |
I would read this book to kids to open discussions about capitalism, greed, and human captivity. ( )
  ktankers | Sep 5, 2013 |
My daughter's history text recommended The Middle Passage but suggested parents preview it. I'm glad I did. It's a beautiful and heart-wrenching book, but my 7.5-year-old is not ready for the rawness and brutality depicted here, and I'm not ready for her to see it. I want her to know the story, but not so much so soon.

According to the text that precedes the illustrations, this book took the author/illustrator 20 years to complete. I can see why. Each picture holds so much emotion and so much history.

In his preface, Feelings explains why he chose to tell the story only in illustrations. One reason he gives is the limitations and inherent bias in the English language. "It is a language so infused with direct and indirect racism that it would be difficult, if not impossible, using this language in my book, to project anything black as positive."

I think he went the right path telling the story with pictures rather than words. It's a story I've heard over and over again, but it is difficult to conceptualize the dehumanization that happens to both the enslaved and those enslaving them when I'm just reading the words.

That said, John Henrik Clarke's introduction added a dimension to the book that I would have missed had I only looked at the illustrations. In particular, I was struck by his description of the cultural differences between the people of West Africa and the Europeans. "The European temperament," he writes, "was shaped by a thousand-year-old feudal system, which was a form of slavery...Europe was just emerging from the Middle Ages, a time when poverty and disease were rampant, 'an age haunted by death and damnation.' The Africans had never dealt with such a fiercely competitive people, a people set on asserting its dominance at any cost."

This book gives people in the United States another opportunity to look into our country's dark history. By facing this past rather than avoiding it, hopefully we can help shape a future that allows each of us to be our best selves rather than being trapped in a tradition of dominance and subordination. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | May 4, 2013 |
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It took me two years and six months to finish the preliminary drawings. I didn’t know when I started this project that time was the essential thing I needed to tell the story completely in pictures—the kind of time one associates with the form of a long novel. Time for me to open myself up and explore the mind not just of one single person through this experience, but the minds of a whole people. A people who lived and still live this story with all its complex social and historical implications throughout the diaspora. A phrase began to form in my consciousness, one that I have often used to describe the creation of this story in pictures: “The pain of the present sometimes seems overwhelming, but the reasons for it are rooted in the past.”
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A collection of narrative paintings, depicting the capture of African men and women and the horrible conditions they endured on their passage across the Atlantic to be sold into slavery. In the introduction Feelings describes his experiences and the process that led to the creation of these paintings.… (more)

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