Social History for Every Classroom


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Many Passages: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Brookes

In this activity, students use facts and make inferences to create narratives about the journey of the slave ship Brookes. Students work in groups to create narratives from one of three different perspectives: Captain, Sailor, or Captive.


  • Students will develop historical interpretations based on facts and inferences, and be able to describe the differences between the two.

  • Students will craft narratives about the journey of one ship's voyage to demonstrate their understanding of different perspectives and experiences of those involved in the slave trade.  


Step 1: Divide students into three smaller groups. Assign each group a perspective on the transatlantic slave trade to represent in their narratives: Captain, Sailor, or Captive. 

Step 2: Hand out the documents. In their groups, students should review the documents and discuss what information or insights each document tells about their assigned historical perspectives.

Step 3: Using evidence from the documents, each group should reconstruct the story of the Brooks voyage with a beginning, middle, and end. Each narrative should be told from the group's assigned historical perspective (Captain, Sailor, or Captive) and should address the following questions:

  • When and where did the voyage start for you?

  • Where did you go?

  • What happened en route?

  • Where and how did it end?

  • What did you gain or lose along the way?

Step 4: Each group should complete the "Writing History" worksheet, showing which parts of their stories are based in historical facts and which parts are historical inferences.  

Step 5: Each group should select one member to narrate their story using the Atlantic World Map projected on a Smartboard or screen.  As students listen to the other groups share their stories, they should jot down which facts they think were used to reconstruct the narratives. 

Step 6: After each group presents, the whole class should discuss what in each story was based in facts and what was inferred or imagined from the facts.  The teacher may use the Smartboard to track the discussion by highlighting evidence from the documents, making a list of inferences, etc.

Step 7: Lead the class in a comparison of the perspectives and experiences narrated in the three stories.  

Historical Context

The transatlantic slave trade began in the early 16th century, when Spanish and Portuguese merchants began purchasing African captives on the west coast of Africa and transporting them to work on plantations in the Caribbean and Americas. Two hundred years later, the English dominated the triangular trade that brought European goods to Africa, African slaves to the Americas, and American commodities back to Europe. Those involved in the trade on all three continents—ship owners, financiers, merchants, shipbuilders, and many local tradespeople who served the trade and its workers—profited politically and economically from this system. Others, including sailors and middlemen, were paid poorly and faced harsh conditions. The captives endured brutal, crowded, unsanitary conditions in which many died from disease or violent attempts to resist their captors. The British abolished the slave trade in 1808, but other European nations continued to participate and the trade did not finally cease until the middle of the 19th century. Over the nearly 400 years of the trade, an estimated 2.5 million Africans were enslaved and forcibly transported to the Americas; about 1.7 million died during the grueling "Middle Passage" across the Atlantic. Most of the enslaved went to work in the Caribbean and south America; only 4% ended up in North America.

Source | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, 2008.
Creator | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning
Rights | Copyright American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Item Type | Teaching Activity
Cite This document | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, “Many Passages: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Brookes,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 27, 2023,

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