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In 1830, seeking to escape an unwanted marriage, Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed slave, becomes a stowaway aboard The Republic, unaware that the ship is a slave clipper bound for West Africa.
In this savage parable of the African American experience, Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed slave eking out a living in New Orleans in 1830, hops aboard a square rigger to evade the prim Boston schoolteacher who wants to marry him. But the Republic turns out to be a slave clipper bound for Africa. Calhoun, whose master educated him as a humanist, becomes the captain's cabin boy, and though he hates himself for acting as a lackey, he's able to help the African slaves recently taken aboard to stage a revolt before the rowdy, drunken crew can spring a mutiny. <i>Middle Passage</i> won the 1990 National Book Award.