The Triangle Trade
    Colonial Massachusetts and Rhode Island played a major role in the "infamous triangle trade" of the 15th through mid-18th centuries.  At the time, Massachusetts and Rhode Island produced some of the best rum in the world.  It was this rum that was shipped to the western coast of Africa to be traded for slaves.

    The ports in the New England colonies of Massachusetts and Rhode Island formed a vital leg of the triangle.  In towns across New England, two forms of rum, tafia and ordinary rum, were produced.  The rum was manufactured partially for personal consumption, but even more importantly, it was shipped to the west coast of Africa to be traded for gold and slaves.  

    Most of the slaves who were bought with New England rum were from Central and Western Africa.  These slaves were transported aboard specially designed slave ships from the west coast of Africa to the sugar producing islands of the West Indies and a small portion made the trip to colonial America. 

    Upon arrival in the West Indies, the slaves were sold and traded for sugar and molasses, two of the key ingredients in rum production.  The sugar, molasses and any remaining money were then shipped to New England (Massachusetts and Rhode Island) where the molasses and sugar were used to produce the rum which would be traded for another group of slaves in Africa.  New England's rum distilleries were integral to the continuation of the immensely profitable triangle trade.  This continuous cycle of rum production and trade ensured a constant influx of capital which was used to help "industrialize New England with ventures into textile manufacturing."
    The transportation of slaves from Africa to the West Indies was know as the "Middle Passage."  The Middle Passage was the longest leg of the triangular trade route.  Slaves were kept below deck in conditions that were almost uninhabitable.  The food that they were fed was often contaminated as was the water.  For reasons such as this there was roughly a 12% mortality rate during this part of the journey alone.  Typically, slaves were allowed on the above decks of the ship for only a short while each day for "exercise".  The purpose of the exercise was not because the slave traders were friendly or caring, but they realized that the circulation of the slaves was poor because they were laying on their backs for roughly 23 hours a day in chains.  When the slaves were brought above deck revolts were not uncommon, nor was the action of slaves throwing themselves overboard to avoid a life in captivity.