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  • "The captives—snatched from their families, some of them having witnessed the murder of their parents or children—were likely to have been in shock, terrified of what was to happen to them.

    'The slaves brought here would have been from three hundred miles up the coast, three hundred miles down,' Joe said. 'They would have spoken dozens of languages, and the handlers would have had to use translators. If a slave trader was wise, he told as many people as he could what would happen to them, that they were going to become workers in America, and reassured them as best he could, because when they weren't reassured, they would sometimes lose all hope and become catatonic. That was so common that the slave traders had a name for it—they called it 'the lethargy.' People would lose contact with reality and stop eating; they wouldn't see anything in front of them, and gradually they would just die. It was abject hopelessness. People thought they would be killed, or even eaten, and they would give up hope—or they would just lose their minds.'"

    —Edward Ball, Slaves in the Family (NY: Ballantine Books, 1998), 430

    October 13, 2009