Starting at the middle

“In the workings of memory, there is an endless reiteration and enactment of this condition of loss and displacement… The Middle Passage, the great event of breach, engenders this discontinuity” (Saidiya Hartman, 1997, Lose Your Mother).

My journey begins with and in the Middle Passage. Stephanie Smallwood (2007) suggests that there is nothing “middle” about this experience for Africans. Middle implies a beginning and ending, something linear, or progressive. Instead, the Middle Passage was the beginning of a permanent removal from home for most Africans (Morgan, 2004).

For millions, it would be the end of their lives. Their bodies would be thrown overboard after dying painfully horrible and isolated deaths.

For those who survived the Passage, it was the death of an old life, and the beginning of a life full of violence, re-membering, forgetting, and recreating that would effect them and their descendents as long as they lived and died.

I am a descendent of slaves and freed people, Africans and West Indians.

I enter this narrative in the Middle.

Morgan, Jennifer. 2004. Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.

Hartman, Saidiya V. Hartman. 1997. Scenes of subjection: Terror, slavery, and self-making in nineteenth-century America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Smallwood, Stephanie. (2007). Saltwater slavery: A middle passage from Africa to American diaspora. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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