Find the word definition

The Collaborative International Dictionary
Middle passage

Passage \Pas"sage\, n. [F. passage. See Pass, v. i.]

  1. The act of passing; transit from one place to another; movement from point to point; a going by, over, across, or through; as, the passage of a man or a carriage; the passage of a ship or a bird; the passage of light; the passage of fluids through the pores or channels of the body.

    What! are my doors opposed against my passage!

  2. Transit by means of conveyance; journey, as by water, carriage, car, or the like; travel; right, liberty, or means, of passing; conveyance.

    The ship in which he had taken passage.

  3. Price paid for the liberty to pass; fare; as, to pay one's passage.

  4. Removal from life; decease; departure; death. [R.] ``Endure thy mortal passage.''

    When he is fit and season'd for his passage.

  5. Way; road; path; channel or course through or by which one passes; way of exit or entrance; way of access or transit. Hence, a common avenue to various apartments in a building; a hall; a corridor.

    And with his pointed dart Explores the nearest passage to his heart.

    The Persian army had advanced into the . . . passages of Cilicia.

  6. A continuous course, process, or progress; a connected or continuous series; as, the passage of time.

    The conduct and passage of affairs.
    --Sir J. Davies.

    The passage and whole carriage of this action.

  7. A separate part of a course, process, or series; an occurrence; an incident; an act or deed. ``In thy passages of life.''

    The . . . almost incredible passage of their unbelief.

  8. A particular portion constituting a part of something continuous; esp., a portion of a book, speech, or musical composition; a paragraph; a clause.

    How commentators each dark passage shun.

  9. Reception; currency. [Obs.]
    --Sir K. Digby.

  10. A pass or en encounter; as, a passage at arms.

    No passages of love Betwixt us twain henceforward evermore.

  11. A movement or an evacuation of the bowels.

  12. In parliamentary proceedings:

    1. The course of a proposition (bill, resolution, etc.) through the several stages of consideration and action; as, during its passage through Congress the bill was amended in both Houses.

    2. The advancement of a bill or other proposition from one stage to another by an affirmative vote; esp., the final affirmative action of the body upon a proposition; hence, adoption; enactment; as, the passage of the bill to its third reading was delayed. ``The passage of the Stamp Act.''
      --D. Hosack.

      The final question was then put upon its passage.

      In passage, in passing; cursorily. ``These . . . have been studied but in passage.''

      Middle passage, Northeast passage, Northwest passage. See under Middle, Northeast, etc.

      Of passage, passing from one place, region, or climate, to another; migratory; -- said especially of birds. ``Birds of passage.''

      Passage hawk, a hawk taken on its passage or migration.

      Passage money, money paid for conveyance of a passenger, -- usually for carrying passengers by water.

      Syn: Vestibule; hall; corridor. See Vestibule.

Middle passage

Middle \Mid"dle\ (m[i^]d"d'l), a. [OE. middel, AS. middel; akin to D. middel, OHG. muttil, G. mittel. [root]27

  1. See Mid, a.] 1. Equally distant from the extreme either of a number of things or of one thing; mean; medial; as, the middle house in a row; a middle rank or station in life; flowers of middle summer; men of middle age.

  2. Intermediate; intervening.

    Will, seeking good, finds many middle ends.
    --Sir J. Davies.

    Note: Middle is sometimes used in the formation of self-explaining compounds; as, middle-sized, middle-witted.

    Middle Ages, the period of time intervening between the decline of the Roman Empire and the revival of letters. Hallam regards it as beginning with the sixth and ending with the fifteenth century.

    Middle class, in England, people who have an intermediate position between the aristocracy and the artisan class. It includes professional men, bankers, merchants, and small landed proprietors

    The middle-class electorate of Great Britain.
    --M. Arnold.

    Middle distance. (Paint.) See Middle-ground.

    Middle English. See English, n., 2.

    Middle Kingdom, China.

    Middle oil (Chem.), that part of the distillate obtained from coal tar which passes over between 170[deg] and 230[deg] Centigrade; -- distinguished from the light oil, and the heavy oil or dead oil.

    Middle passage, in the slave trade, that part of the Atlantic Ocean between Africa and the West Indies.

    Middle post. (Arch.) Same as King-post.

    Middle States, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware; which, at the time of the formation of the Union, occupied a middle position between the Eastern States (or New England) and the Southern States. [U.S.]

    Middle term (Logic), that term of a syllogism with which the two extremes are separately compared, and by means of which they are brought together in the conclusion.

    Middle tint (Paint.), a subdued or neutral tint.

    Middle voice. (Gram.) See under Voice.

    Middle watch, the period from midnight to four a. m.; also, the men on watch during that time.
    --Ham. Nav. Encyc.

    Middle weight, a pugilist, boxer, or wrestler classed as of medium weight, i. e., over 140 and not over 160 lbs., in distinction from those classed as light weights, heavy weights, etc.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary
middle passage

1788, in reference to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

middle passage

n. 1 (context obsolete English) A middle way, especially between two extremes; an intermediate path in space or time. 2 (context now historical English) Specifically, the middle part of the sea voyage by which slaves were transported from Africa to America.

Middle Passage

The Middle Passage was the stage of the triangular trade in which millions of Africans were shipped to the New World as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Ships departed Europe for African markets with manufactured goods, which were traded for purchased or kidnapped Africans, who were transported across the Atlantic as slaves; the slaves were then sold or traded for raw materials, which would be transported back to Europe to complete the voyage. Voyages on the Middle Passage were large financial undertakings, generally organized by companies or groups of investors rather than individuals.

The "Middle Passage" was considered a time of in-betweenness for those being traded from Africa to America. The close quarters and intentional division of pre-established African communities by the ship crew motivated captive Africans to forge bonds of kinship which then created forced transatlantic communities.

Traders from the Americas and Caribbean received the enslaved Africans. European powers such as Portugal, England, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Brandenburg, as well as traders from Brazil and North America, took part in this trade. The enslaved Africans came mostly from eight regions: Senegambia, Upper Guinea, Windward Coast, Gold Coast, Bight of Benin, Bight of Biafra, West Central Africa and Southeastern Africa.

An estimated 15% of the Africans died at sea, with mortality rates considerably higher in Africa itself in the process of capturing and transporting indigenous people to the ships. The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage voyage is estimated at up to two million; a broader look at African deaths directly attributable to the institution of slavery from 1500 to 1900 suggests up to four million African deaths.

For two hundred years, 1440–1640, Portuguese slavers had a near monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa. During the 18th century, when the slave trade transported about 6 million Africans, British slavers carried almost 2.5 million.

Middle Passage (novel)

Middle Passage (1990) is a historical novel by Charles R. Johnson about the final voyage of an illegal American slave ship. Set in 1830, it presents a personal and historical perspective of the illegal slave trade in the United States, telling the story of Rutherford Calhoun, a freed slave who unknowingly boards a slave ship bound for Africa in order to escape a forced marriage.

It won the 1990 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.

Usage examples of "middle passage".

She tried to imagine the heat of the middle passage when the ship lay becalmed in the baking doldrums, she tried to imagine 2,000 Of them vomiting and purging with seasickness as the ship reared and plunged in the wild seas where the Mozambique current scoured the Agulhas bank.

It reminded me all too vividly of the charnel pits 'on' Jamaica, where the bodies of slaves who had not survived the rigors of the Middle Passage were burned, and I swallowed heavily, trying not to recall the macabre roasting-meat smell of those funeral fires.

We lost it eight days ago--after being becalmed in the Middle Passage for thirteen days-- thirteen days!

I can look back now and say I've made that run more times than I can count, in everything from an Indiaman to a Middle Passage slaver, but this was not like any common voyage - why, we picnicked on Moroccan beaches, made excursions to desert ruins beyond Casablanca, were carried on camels with veiled drivers, strolled in Berber market-places, watched fire-dancers under the massive walls of old corsair castles, saw wild tribesmen run their horse races, took coffee with turbaned, white-bearded governors, and even bathed in warm blue water lapping on miles and miles of empty silver sand with palms nodding in the breeze - and every evening there was the luxury .

A historic catastrophe it may have been, but to me it was the penultimate link in my American story, which was now drawing to a close twenty-six years after John Charity Spring had brought me over the Middle Passage.

I can't say it's none of my biznai, because it was once: in my time, I've raided blacks from the Dahomey Coast, shipped 'em across the Middle Passage, driven them on a plantation - and run them to freedom on the Underground Railroad and across the Ohio ice-floes with a bullet in my rump, to say nothing of abetting J.

During the Middle Passage the slaves he saw had been confined on the slave decks, packed tight 'spoon fashion', lying on their sides with their knees bent up into the bend of the knees of the next man.