Slave Trade

The Atlantic Slave Trade
Demand for Labor
• Sugar and tobacco farms required a large
supply of workers.
• Europeans planned to use Native
Americans as cheap labor, but many died
from disease and warfare.
• Europeans in Brazil, the Caribbean, and
the southern colonies of North America
soon turned to Africa for workers.
• European colonists forced the Native
Americans to work in mines and
• As the Natives began dying from disease
and warfare, the Europeans became
desperate for workers.
Indian slaves working the fields
Exploration of Africa
• The first explorers were the Portuguese
during the 1400s.
• At first, the Portuguese were more
interested in finding gold, but that changed
with the colonization of the Americas.
African Slavery
• African slavery began during the 7th
century with the rise of Islam.
• Slavery was justified with the belief that
non-Muslim prisoners of war could be
bought and sold as slaves.
• Between 650 and 1600, 4.8 million
Africans (mostly prisoners and criminals)
were bought and sold as slaves.
• Later it became anyone they could
Slaves had some mobility
• In most African and Muslim lands, slaves had
some legal rights and opportunities for
• Some slaves occupied positions of power.
– Served as generals in the army
– Bought large estates and owned slaves of their own
– Marry into the family they served and earn freedom
• Slavery was NOT hereditary. Sons and
daughters born to slaves were considered free
Advantages of using Africans
• Many Africans had already been exposed
to European disease and built up immunity
to them.
• Africans had experience in farming.
• Africans had no familiar tribes in which to
hide so they were less likely to escape.
• Many African leaders had already been
involved in selling slaves to Muslims and
other African groups.
• They saw little difference in selling to the
Portuguese, Spaniards, and English.
Massive Enterprise of Slavery
• Between 1500-1600 nearly 300,000
Africans were transported to the Americas.
• Over the next 100 years, over 1.5 million
more Africans were enslaved.
• By the time, the Slave Trade ended 300
years later, nearly 10 million Africans had
been sold into slavery.
• The Portuguese imported slaves to Brazil to
work on the sugar plantations.
• The demand for sugar in Europe was high, so
more and more sugar plantations were created
in Brazil.
• During the 17th century, 40% of all slaves were
being bought by Brazilian sugar plantation
• Brazil received 3.6 million more slaves than
North America.
Sugar Cane Plantation 1850
Ledger of Sugar Shipments
Sugar Plantation, Caribbean
Working in sugar cane fields
• Slaves existed throughout the Caribbean
as well.
• Worked on sugar, tobacco, and coffee
plantations in French, Dutch, and English
Triangular Trade
• Traders left from Europe with a ship
loaded with goods to Africa.
• Traders exchanged these goods for
captured Africans.
• Africans were then transported across the
Atlantic Ocean and sold in the West
• Merchants bought sugar, coffee, and
tobacco to sell in Europe.
Another triangular trade route
• Merchants carried rum and other goods
from the New England colonies to Africa.
• They exchanged merchandise for
• The traders took the slaves to the West
Indies and sold them for sugar and
• Then they sold these goods to rum
producers in New England.
Various other triangular trade
routes existed
• The Triangular trade route encompassed a
network of trade routes criss-crossing the
Northern and Southern colonies, the West
Indies, England, Europe, and Africa.
• The network carried a variety of traded
– Furs, fruit, tar, tobacco
– Millions of African people
The Journey
• How did the African Slave Trade work, and
how did it fit into the idea of triangular
• What was the experience for a slave like?
Slave Trade In Africa
• Rather than travel inland, slave traders
waited in port cities along the western and
eastern coasts of Africa.
• African merchants, captured Africans to
sell into slavery.
• They traded them for gold, guns, and other
The Middle Passage
• The voyage that brought captured Africans
to the West Indies and later to North and
South America was known as the Middle
• This was a difficult journey, characterized
by cruelty, sickness, and death.
Travel Conditions
• Europeans crammed as many slaves as
they could fit into the slave ships.
• Africans were whipped and beaten by
• Diseases swept through the vessel.
• The smell of blood, sweat, and
excrement filled the vessel.
• Captives were surrounded by vomit and
human waste.
– “…The stench of the hold while we were on the coast
was so intolerably loathsome....The closeness of the
place, and the heat of the climate, added to the
number in the ship, which was so crowded that each
had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated
us. This produced copious perspirations, so that the
air soon became unfit for respiration, from a variety of
loathsome smells, and brought on a sickness among
the slaves, of which many died -- thus falling victims
to the improvident avarice, as I may call it, of their
• Many Africans died aboard the slave ships from
disease or cruel treatment from merchants.
• Many committed suicide by jumping into the
ocean, rather than be enslaved.
• 20% of Africans aboard each slave ships died
during the brutal trip to the Americas.
• The voyage typically lasted 3-4 months.
• Many times, there would be more than 600
slaves on the ship.
• So many people died during the middle
passage and were thrown into the sea.
The sea has been personified in this verse
as the ‘holder’ of African history.
• Where is the history of the people? It died
with them in the sea. Where is their
heritage and culture? It is dead in the sea.
• When slaves died during the middle
passage, their histories died with them.
• In Africa, numerous cultures lost
generations of their young to slave traders.
• Families were torn apart.
• The slave trade also brought guns to
• Warfare began spread throughout Africa
as kings tried to conquer new territories
with these new weapons.
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