These authentic and extraordinarily RARE, hand-forged, wrought iron, Slave Ship Ankle Shackles were de-accessioned from a private collection. Ankle shackles such as these were used to restrain and imprison kidnapped Africans below decks in the slaver ships' holds during what is known as the ‘Middle Passage’, the brutal voyage endured by captured Africans from the West Coast of Africa to enslavement in the Americas- the second portion of what was known as the transatlantic slave trade.
While the precise age of this late 18th to early 19th century old shackle is unknown, this type of ankle shackle has been documented to have been in use as far back as the 1780's by English slave traders, and was likely in continued use up until the 1860 onset of America's Civil War. In 2015, the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England, acquired a set of ankle shackles identical to the set offered here. In referring to the museum's acquisition, the museum's Head, Dr Richard Benjamin, stated the following:
“A similar pair of shackles was purchased in Liverpool by the campaigner Thomas Clarkson as evidence against the transatlantic slave trade. They were presented in front of Privy Council in 1788 as part of its enquiry into the transatlantic slave trade. An engraving of the shackles with a detailed description also appeared in Clarkson’s antislavery pamphlet."
These hand-forged, wrought iron ankle shackles remain in all-original and untouched condition, measuring approximately 11.75 inches in length. The cuff sizes vary slightly ranging from approximate lengths of 3.75 to 4 inches and approximate widths from 2.75 to 3 inches, a set likely used on a female slave. The shackles can be described as consisting of a wrought iron bolt with a pair of loops slid onto it via holes in both ends of each loop. One end of the iron bar is fixed closed by a triangular-shaped flange large enough to prevent the loops from being removed from the bar. The other end of the bar ends in a circular "eye" that is secured closed by a hand-wrought circular "lock washer" inserted at the time the shackles were applied.
An utterly gruesome, tangible testament to the malevolence and horrors of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.