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 (kô′fəl, kŏf′əl)
A group of animals, prisoners, or slaves chained together in a line.
tr.v. cof·fled, cof·fling, cof·fles
To fasten together in a coffle.

[Arabic qāfila, caravan, feminine active participle of qafala, to close, return; see qpl in Semitic roots.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(esp formerly) a line of slaves, beasts, etc, fastened together
[C18: from Arabic qāfilah caravan]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


 a train of slaves or of beasts driven along together.
Examples: coffle of asses, 1799; of beasts; of horses, 1873; of slaves, 1799.
Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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References in periodicals archive ?
During the trek to Kabul, snow came down in coffles. I cut off
(18) In A Lecture Delivered before the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Salem, 1847, Brown tells his audience that coffles are driven by the Capitol and "yet the American Legislators, the people of the North and the people of the South, the 'assembled wisdom' of the nation, look on and see such things and hold their peace; they say not a single word against such oppression, or in favor of liberty" (16).
Already by 1625, coffles of slaves brought to New Netherland by the Dutch West India Company operated as "municipal workers, building and repairing fortifications, roads, warehouses, and other structures of the corporate state" (Moore 2005: 37).
Tams wrote detailed accounts of the slave coffles. They travelled in single file along the narrow paths of the savanna but kept closely together lest any stray members be attacked by wild animals.
Ironically, while details on the transmission and genetics of the disease were insufficiently understood in the 1930s, recent research by the Pasteur Institute in Paris revealingly suggests that the explanation for the high incidence and spread of the malady in the sub-Sahara and the Caribbean can in fact be traced to the earlier migratory patterns of slave coffles and the intercontinental transportation of human cargo during the tragic years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Two iron slave coffles on display date from about 1800.
The unimaginable successes of Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion, and, later, Joe Louis showed that the coffles of racism could be bent, if not broken, when one relies on individual determination and skill.
Other African-American narratives report slaves improvising and singing laments and dirges to console themselves in times of despair--e.g., at funerals, while chained in coffles en route to the slave market, imprisoned in dungeons at slave markets, or at traumatic farewells before transport to unknown places further South.
Brown had seen slave coffles before, but the sight of his child and his wife being taken away "assume[s] the appearance of unusual horror" (53)--indeed, a hellish vision of "little children of many different families, which as they appeared rent the air with their shrieks and cries and vain endeavours to resist the separation which was thus forced upon them, and the cords with which they were thus bound" (53).
(Insurers sued the Zong's owners after the ship's captain threw overboard entire coffles of slaves--living and dead chained together--in an effort to take advantage of a provision in the vessel's policy that allowed claims for property jettisoned to save the ship but not for ordinary cargo losses, such as slaves who dies of disease in transit.) Instead, the book careers back and forth between four storylines: the development of the early British antislavery movement, black participation on the British side in the American Revolution, British resettlement of black loyalists in Nova Scotia, and British abolitionist efforts to establish a colony of free blacks in Sierra Leone.
White Americans and Europeans will walk silently through the streets literally yoked together with the chains and coffles used to control the slaves traded at those ports 200 years ago.