Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade involved the
transportation by slave traders of enslaved African people, mainly
Africa to the Americas, and then their sale there. The slave
trade used mainly the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage,
and existed from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The vast majority of
those who were enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave
trade were Africans from central and western Africa, who had been sold
by other West Africans to Western European slave traders (with a small
number being captured directly by the slave traders in coastal raids),
who brought them to the Americas. The South Atlantic and Caribbean
economies especially were dependent on the supply of secure labour for
the production of commodity crops, making goods and clothing to sell
in Europe. This was crucial to those western European countries which,
in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with each other to
create overseas empires.
The Portuguese were the first to engage in the
Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade in
the 16th century. In 1526, they completed the first transatlantic
slave voyage to Brazil, and other European countries soon followed.
Shipowners regarded the slaves as cargo to be transported to the
Americas as quickly and cheaply as possible, there to be sold to
work on coffee, tobacco, cocoa, sugar and cotton plantations, gold and
silver mines, rice fields, construction industry, cutting timber for
ships, in skilled labour, and as domestic servants. The first Africans
imported to the
English colonies were classified as "indentured
servants", like workers coming from England, and also as "apprentices
for life". By the middle of the 17th century, slavery had hardened as
a racial caste, with the slaves and their offspring being legally the
property of their owners, and children born to slave mothers were also
slaves. As property, the people were considered merchandise or units
of labour, and were sold at markets with other goods and services.
The major Atlantic slave trading nations, ordered by trade volume,
were: the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, and the
Dutch Empires. Several had established outposts on the African coast
where they purchased slaves from local African leaders. These
slaves were managed by a factor who was established on or near the
coast to expedite the shipping of slaves to the New World. Slaves were
kept in a factory while awaiting shipment. Current estimates are that
about 12 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic,
although the number purchased by the traders was considerably higher,
as the passage had a high death rate. Near the beginning of the
19th century, various governments acted to ban the trade, although
illegal smuggling still occurred. In the early 21st century, several
governments issued apologies for the transatlantic slave trade.
1.1 Atlantic travel
1.2 African slavery
1.3 European colonization and slavery in West Africa
2 16th, 17th and 18th centuries
2.1 Triangular trade
2.2 Labour and slavery
2.3 African participation in the slave trade
2.4 European participation in the slave trade
Africa and the
New World contrasted
Slave market regions and participation
2.7 African kingdoms of the era
2.7.1 Ethnic groups
3 Human toll
3.1 African conflicts
3.2 Port factories
3.3 Atlantic shipment
3.4 Seasoning camps
4 European competition
New World destinations
6 Economics of slavery
7.1 Effect on the economy of West Africa
7.2 Effects on the British economy
7.4 Legacy of racism
8 End of the Atlantic slave trade
9.1 African diaspora
9.2 "Back to Africa"
9.3 Rastafari movement
9.4.8 United Kingdom
9.4.9 United States
10 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
See also: History of slavery
Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade developed after trade contacts were
established between the "Old World" (Afro-Eurasia) and the "New World"
(the Americas). For centuries, tidal currents had made ocean travel
particularly difficult and risky for the ships that were then
available, and as such there had been very little, if any, maritime
contact between the peoples living in these continents. In the 15th
century, however, new European developments in seafaring technologies
resulted in ships being better equipped to deal with the tidal
currents, and could begin traversing the Atlantic Ocean. Between 1600
and 1800, approximately 300,000 sailors engaged in the slave trade
visited West Africa. In doing so, they came into contact with
societies living along the west African coast and in the Americas
which they had never previously encountered. Historian Pierre
Chaunu termed the consequences of European navigation
"disenclavement", with it marking an end of isolation for some
societies and an increase in inter-societal contact for most
Historian John Thornton noted, "A number of technical and geographical
factors combined to make Europeans the most likely people to explore
the Atlantic and develop its commerce". He identified these as
being the drive to find new and profitable commercial opportunities
Europe as well as the desire to create an alternative trade
network to that controlled by the Muslim Empire of the Middle East,
which was viewed as a commercial, political and religious threat to
European Christendom. In particular, European traders wanted to trade
for gold, which could be found in western Africa, and also to find a
maritime route to "the Indies" (India), where they could trade for
luxury goods such as spices without having to obtain these items from
Middle Eastern Islamic traders.
Although many of the initial Atlantic naval explorations were led by
Iberians, members of many European nationalities were involved,
including sailors from Portugal, Spain, the Italian kingdoms, England,
France and the Netherlands. This diversity led Thornton to describe
the initial "exploration of the Atlantic" as "a truly international
exercise, even if many of the dramatic discoveries were made under the
sponsorship of the Iberian monarchs". That leadership later gave rise
to the myth that "the Iberians were the sole leaders of the
Slavery in Africa
Group of men, children, and women being taken to a slave market
Slavery was practiced in some parts of Africa, Europe,
Asia and the
Americas for many centuries before the beginning of
the Atlantic slave trade. There is evidence that enslaved people from
some parts of
Africa were exported to states in Africa, Europe, and
Asia prior to the European colonization of the Americas. The
African slave trade provided a large number of slaves to Europeans and
many more to Muslim countries.
Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade was not the only slave trade from Africa,
although it was the largest in volume and intensity. As Elikia
M’bokolo wrote in Le Monde diplomatique:
The African continent was bled of its human resources via all possible
routes. Across the Sahara, through the Red Sea, from the Indian Ocean
ports and across the Atlantic. At least ten centuries of slavery for
the benefit of the Muslim countries (from the ninth to the
nineteenth).... Four million enslaved people exported via the Red Sea,
another four million through the Swahili ports of the Indian
Ocean, perhaps as many as nine million along the trans-Saharan caravan
route, and eleven to twenty million (depending on the author) across
the Atlantic Ocean.
According to John K. Thornton, Europeans usually bought enslaved
people who were captured in endemic warfare between African
states. Some Africans had made a business out of capturing
Africans from neighboring ethnic groups or war captives and selling
them. A reminder of this practice is documented in the Slave Trade
Debates of England in the early 19th century: "All the old writers...
concur in stating not only that wars are entered into for the sole
purpose of making slaves, but that they are fomented by Europeans,
with a view to that object." People living around the Niger River
were transported from these markets to the coast and sold at European
trading ports in exchange for muskets and manufactured goods such as
cloth or alcohol. However, the European demand for slaves provided
a large new market for the already existing trade. While those
held in slavery in their own region of
Africa might hope to escape,
those shipped away had little chance of returning to Africa.
European colonization and slavery in West Africa
This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. Relevant
discussion may be found on the talk page. Please help improve this
article by introducing citations to additional sources. (April 2011)
The Portuguese presenting themselves before the Manikongo. The
Portuguese initially fostered a good relationship with the Kingdom of
War within Kongo would lead to many of its subjects
ending up as enslaved people in Portuguese and other European vessels.
Upon discovering new lands through their naval explorations, European
colonisers soon began to migrate to and settle in lands outside their
native continent. Off the coast of Africa, European migrants, under
the directions of the Kingdom of Castile, invaded and colonised the
Canary Islands during the 15th century, where they converted much of
the land to the production of wine and sugar. Along with this, they
also captured native Canary Islanders, the Guanches, to use as slaves
both on the Islands and across the Christian Mediterranean.
As historian John Thornton remarked, "the actual motivation for
European expansion and for navigational breakthroughs was little more
than to exploit the opportunity for immediate profits made by raiding
and the seizure or purchase of trade commodities". Using the
Canary Islands as a naval base, Europeans, at the time primarily
Portuguese traders, began to move their activities down the western
coast of Africa, performing raids in which slaves would be captured to
be later sold in the Mediterranean. Although initially successful
in this venture, "it was not long before African naval forces were
alerted to the new dangers, and the Portuguese [raiding] ships began
to meet strong and effective resistance", with the crews of several of
them being killed by African sailors, whose boats were better equipped
at traversing the west African coasts and river systems.
By 1494, the Portuguese king had entered agreements with the rulers of
several West African states that would allow trade between their
respective peoples, enabling the Portuguese to "tap into" the
"well-developed commercial economy in Africa... without engaging in
hostilities". "Peaceful trade became the rule all along the
African coast", although there were some rare exceptions when acts of
aggression led to violence. For instance, Portuguese traders attempted
to conquer the
Bissagos Islands in 1535. In 1571 Portugal,
supported by the Kingdom of Kongo, took control of the south-western
Angola in order to secure its threatened economic interest
in the area. Although Kongo later joined a coalition in 1591 to force
the Portuguese out,
Portugal had secured a foothold on the continent
that it continued to occupy until the 20th century. Despite these
incidences of occasional violence between African and European forces,
many African states ensured that any trade went on in their own terms,
for instance, imposing custom duties on foreign ships. In 1525, the
Kongolese king, Afonso I, seized a French vessel and its crew for
illegally trading on his coast.
Historians have widely debated the nature of the relationship between
these African kingdoms and the European traders. The Guyanese
Walter Rodney (1972) has argued that it was an unequal
relationship, with Africans being forced into a "colonial" trade with
the more economically developed Europeans, exchanging raw materials
and human resources (i.e. slaves) for manufactured goods. He argued
that it was this economic trade agreement dating back to the 16th
century that led to
Africa being underdeveloped in his own time.
These ideas were supported by other historians, including Ralph Austen
(1987). This idea of an unequal relationship was contested by John
Thornton (1998), who argued that "the
Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade was not
nearly as critical to the African economy as these scholars believed"
and that "African manufacturing [at this period] was more than capable
of handling competition from preindustrial Europe". However, Anne
Bailey, commenting on Thornton's suggestion that Africans and
Europeans were equal partners in the Atlantic slave trade, wrote:
[T]o see Africans as partners implies equal terms and equal influence
on the global and intercontinental processes of the trade. Africans
had great influence on the continent itself, but they had no direct
influence on the engines behind the trade in the capital firms, the
shipping and insurance companies of
Europe and America, or the
plantation systems in Americas. They did not wield any influence on
the building manufacturing centers of the West.
16th, 17th and 18th centuries
Portrait of an African Slave Woman, probably painted by Annibale
Carracci in the 1580s
Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade is customarily divided into two eras, known
as the First and Second Atlantic Systems.
The First Atlantic system was the trade of enslaved Africans to,
primarily, South American colonies of the Portuguese and Spanish
empires; it accounted for slightly more than 3% of all Atlantic slave
trade. It started (on a significant scale) in about 1502 and
lasted until 1580 when
Portugal was temporarily united with Spain.
While the Portuguese were directly involved in trading enslaved
peoples, the Spanish empire relied on the asiento system, awarding
merchants (mostly from other countries) the license to trade enslaved
people to their colonies. During the first Atlantic system, most of
these traders were Portuguese, giving them a near-monopoly during the
era. Some Dutch, English, and French traders also participated in the
slave trade. After the union,
Portugal came under Spanish
legislation that prohibited it from directly engaging in the slave
trade as a carrier. It became a target for the traditional enemies of
Spain, losing a large share of the trade to the Dutch, English, and
The Second Atlantic system was the trade of enslaved Africans by
mostly English, Portuguese, French and Dutch traders. The main
destinations of this phase were the
Caribbean colonies and Brazil, as
European nations built up economically slave-dependent colonies in the
New World. Slightly more than 3% of the enslaved people exported
Africa were traded between 1450 and 1600, and 16% in the 17th
It is estimated that more than half of the entire slave trade took
place during the 18th century, with the British, Portuguese and French
being the main carriers of nine out of ten slaves abducted in
Africa. By the 1690s, the English were shipping the most slaves
from West Africa. They maintained this position during the 18th
century, becoming the biggest shippers of slaves across the
Atlantic. However, it was the Portuguese colony of
nearby Kingdoms in the Congo region which overwhelmingly dominated as
the slave trade's main sources of slaves, with the
Angola city of
Luanda early serving as the main port for the Portuguese slave
traders. By the 18th century,
Angola had become the principal
source of the Atlantic slave trade.
Following the British and United States' bans on the African slave
trade in 1808, it declined, but the period after still accounted for
28.5% of the total volume of the Atlantic slave trade.
"The Slave Trade" by Auguste François Biard, 1840
A burial ground in Campeche, Mexico, suggests slaves had been brought
there not long after
Hernán Cortés completed the subjugation of
Aztec and Mayan
Mexico in the 16th century. The graveyard had been in
use from approximately 1550 to the late 17th century.
Main article: Triangular trade
The first side of the triangle was the export of goods from
Africa. A number of African kings and merchants took part in the
trading of enslaved people from 1440 to about 1833. For each captive,
the African rulers would receive a variety of goods from Europe. These
included guns, ammunition, and other factory-made goods. The second
leg of the triangle exported enslaved Africans across the Atlantic
Ocean to the
Americas and the
Caribbean Islands. The third and final
part of the triangle was the return of goods to
Europe from the
Americas. The goods were the products of slave-labour plantations and
included cotton, sugar, tobacco, molasses and rum. Sir John
Hawkins, considered the pioneer of the British slave trade, was the
first to run the Triangular trade, making a profit at every stop.
Labour and slavery
"Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" 1787 medallion designed by Josiah
Wedgwood for the British anti-slavery campaign
The Atlantic Slave Trade was the result of, among other things, labour
shortage, itself in turn created by the desire of European colonists
New World land and resources for capital profits. Native
peoples were at first utilized as slave labour by Europeans until a
large number died from overwork and
Old World diseases.
Alternative sources of labour, such as indentured servitude, failed to
provide a sufficient workforce. Many crops could not be sold for
profit, or even grown, in Europe. Exporting crops and goods from the
New World to
Europe often proved to be more profitable than producing
them on the European mainland. A vast amount of labour was needed to
create and sustain plantations that required intensive labour to grow,
harvest, and process prized tropical crops. Western
Africa (part of
which became known as "the Slave Coast") and later Central Africa,
became the source for enslaved people to meet the demand for labour.
Despite not being a part of the recognized Slave Coast, it has been
Angola and nearby Kingdoms dominated as the main
source for the slave trade.
The basic reason for the constant shortage of labour was that, with
large amounts of cheap land available and lots of landowners searching
for workers, free European immigrants were able to become landowners
themselves after a relatively short time, thus increasing the need for
Thomas Jefferson attributed the use of slave labour in part to the
climate, and the consequent idle leisure afforded by slave labour:
"For in a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make
another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of
slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labour."
African participation in the slave trade
Slave traders in Gorée, Senegal, 18th century
Africans played a direct role in the slave trade, selling their
captives or prisoners of war to European buyers. The prisoners and
captives who were sold were usually from neighbouring or enemy ethnic
groups. These captive slaves were considered "other",
not part of the people of the ethnic group or "tribe"; African kings
held no particular loyalty to them. Sometimes criminals would be sold
so that they could no longer commit crimes in that area. Most other
slaves were obtained from kidnappings, or through raids that occurred
at gunpoint through joint ventures with the Europeans. But some
African kings refused to sell any of their captives or criminals. King
Jaja of Opobo, a former slave, refused to do business with the slavers
Africans also participated in the slave trade through intermarriage,
or cassare, meaning "to set up house". It is derived from the
Portuguese word "casar", meaning "to marry". Cassare created political
and economic bonds between European and African slave traders. Cassare
was a pre-European practice used to integrate the "other" from a
differing African tribe. Powerful West African groups used these
marriages as an alliance used to strengthen their trade networks with
European men by marrying off African women from families with ties to
the slave trade. Early on in the Atlantic Slave trade, these marriages
were common. The marriages were even performed using African customs,
which Europeans did not object to, seeing how important the
European participation in the slave trade
Although Europeans were the market for slaves, Europeans rarely
entered the interior of Africa, due to fear of disease and fierce
African resistance. In Africa, convicted criminals could be
punished by enslavement, a punishment which became more prevalent as
slavery became more lucrative. Since most of these nations did not
have a prison system, convicts were often sold or used in the
scattered local domestic slave market.
A slave being inspected
As of 1778,
Thomas Kitchin estimated that Europeans were bringing an
estimated 52,000 slaves to the
Caribbean yearly, with the French
bringing the most Africans to the
French West Indies
French West Indies (13,000 out of
the yearly estimate). The
Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade peaked in the last
two decades of the 18th century, during and following the Kongo
Civil War. Wars among tiny states along the Niger River's
Igbo-inhabited region and the accompanying banditry also spiked in
this period. Another reason for surplus supply of enslaved people
was major warfare conducted by expanding states, such as the kingdom
of Dahomey, the Oyo Empire, and the Asante Empire.
Africa and the
New World contrasted
Slavery in Africa
Forms of slavery varied both in
Africa and in the New World. In
general, slavery in
Africa was not heritable – that is, the
children of slaves were free – while in the Americas, children
of slave mothers were considered born into slavery. This was connected
to another distinction: slavery in West
Africa was not reserved for
racial or religious minorities, as it was in European colonies,
although the case was otherwise in places such as Somalia, where
Bantus were taken as slaves for the ethnic Somalis.
The treatment of slaves in
Africa was more variable than in the
Americas. At one extreme, the kings of
Dahomey routinely slaughtered
slaves in hundreds or thousands in sacrificial rituals, and slaves as
human sacrifices were also known in Cameroon. On the other hand,
slaves in other places were often treated as part of the family,
"adopted children", with significant rights including the right to
marry without their masters' permission. Scottish explorer Mungo
The slaves in Africa, I suppose, are nearly in the proportion of three
to one to the freemen. They claim no reward for their services except
food and clothing, and are treated with kindness or severity,
according to the good or bad disposition of their masters.... The
slaves which are thus brought from the interior may be divided into
two distinct classes – first, such as were slaves from their
birth, having been born of enslaved mothers; secondly, such as were
born free, but who afterwards, by whatever means, became slaves. Those
of the first description are by far the most numerous...."
In the Americas, slaves were denied the right to marry freely and
masters did not generally accept them as equal members of the family.
New World slaves were considered the property of their owners, and
slaves convicted of revolt or murder were executed.
Slave market regions and participation
Major slave trading regions of Africa, 15th–19th centuries
There were eight principal areas used by Europeans to buy and ship
slaves to the Western Hemisphere. The number of enslaved people sold
New World varied throughout the slave trade. As for the
distribution of slaves from regions of activity, certain areas
produced far more enslaved people than others. Between 1650 and 1900,
10.24 million enslaved Africans arrived in the
Americas from the
following regions in the following proportions:
Senegal and the Gambia): 4.8%
Upper Guinea (Guinea-Bissau,
Guinea and Sierra Leone): 4.1%
Windward Coast (
Liberia and Ivory Coast): 1.8%
Gold Coast (
Ghana and east of Ivory Coast): 10.4%
Bight of Benin
Bight of Benin (Togo,
Nigeria west of the Niger Delta):
Bight of Biafra
Bight of Biafra (
Nigeria east of the Niger Delta, Cameroon, Equatorial
Guinea and Gabon): 14.6%
Africa (Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo
and Angola): 39.4%
Mozambique and Madagascar): 4.7%
African kingdoms of the era
Ghezo, King of Dahomey, was under pressure from the British to end the
There were over 173 city-states and kingdoms in the African regions
affected by the slave trade between 1502 and 1853 when
the last Atlantic import nation to outlaw the slave trade. Of those
173, no fewer than 68 could be deemed nation states with political and
military infrastructures that enabled them to dominate their
neighbours. Nearly every present-day nation had a pre-colonial
predecessor, sometimes an African Empire with which European traders
had to barter.
The different ethnic groups brought to the
corresponds to the regions of heaviest activity in the slave trade.
Over 45 distinct ethnic groups were taken to the
Americas during the
trade. Of the 45, the ten most prominent, according to slave
documentation of the era are listed below.
The BaKongo of the Democratic
Republic of Congo
Republic of Congo and Angola
The Mandé of Upper Guinea
The Gbe speakers of Togo, Ghana, and
Benin (Adja, Mina, Ewe, Fon)
The Akan of
Ghana and Ivory Coast
The Wolof of
Senegal and the Gambia
The Igbo of southeastern Nigeria
The Mbundu of
Angola (includes both Ambundu and Ovimbundu)
The Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria
The Chamba of Cameroon
The Makua of Mozambique
The transatlantic slave trade resulted in a vast and as yet still
unknown loss of life for African captives both in and outside America.
Approximately 1.2 – 2.4 million Africans died during their
transport to the New World. More died soon upon their arrival. The
number of lives lost in the procurement of slaves remains a mystery
but may equal or exceed the number who survived to be enslaved.
The savage nature of the trade led to the destruction of individuals
and cultures. The following figures do not include deaths of enslaved
Africans as a result of their labour, slave revolts, or diseases
suffered while living among
New World populations.
Ana Lucia Araujo
Ana Lucia Araujo has noted that the process of enslavement
did not end with arrival on the American shores; the different paths
taken by the individuals and groups who were victims of the Atlantic
slave trade were influenced by different factors—including the
disembarking region, the kind of work performed, gender, age,
religion, and language.
Estimates by Patrick Manning are that about 12 million slaves entered
the Atlantic trade between the 16th and 19th century, but about 1.5
million died on board ship. About 10.5 million slaves arrived in the
Americas. Besides the slaves who died on the Middle Passage, more
Africans likely died during the slave raids in
Africa and forced
marches to ports. Manning estimates that 4 million died inside Africa
after capture, and many more died young. Manning's estimate covers the
12 million who were originally destined for the Atlantic, as well as
the 6 million destined for Asian slave markets and the 8 million
destined for African markets. Of the slaves shipped to The
Americas, the largest share went to
Brazil and the Caribbean.
Diagram of a slave ship from the Atlantic slave trade. From an
Abstract of Evidence delivered before a select committee of the House
of Commons in 1790 and 1791.
Diagram of a large slave ship. Thomas Clarkson: The cries of
the inhabitants of Europe, 1822?
According to Kimani Nehusi, the presence of European slavers affected
the way in which the legal code in African societies responded to
offenders. Crimes traditionally punishable by some other form of
punishment became punishable by enslavement and sale to slave
traders. According to David Stannard's American
Holocaust, 50% of African deaths occurred in
Africa as a result of
wars between native kingdoms, which produced the majority of
slaves. This includes not only those who died in battles but also
those who died as a result of forced marches from inland areas to
slave ports on the various coasts. The practice of enslaving enemy
combatants and their villages was widespread throughout Western and
West Central Africa, although wars were rarely started to procure
slaves. The slave trade was largely a by-product of tribal and state
warfare as a way of removing potential dissidents after victory or
financing future wars. However, some African groups proved
particularly adept and brutal at the practice of enslaving, such as
Oyo, Benin, Igala, Kaabu, Asanteman, Dahomey, the
Aro Confederacy and
Imbangala war bands.
In letters written by the Manikongo, Nzinga Mbemba Afonso, to the King
João III of Portugal, he writes that Portuguese merchandise flowing
in is what is fueling the trade in Africans. He requests the King of
Portugal to stop sending merchandise but should only send
missionaries. In one of his letters he writes:
Each day the traders are kidnapping our people—children of this
country, sons of our nobles and vassals, even people of our own
family. This corruption and depravity are so widespread that our land
is entirely depopulated. We need in this kingdom only priests and
schoolteachers, and no merchandise, unless it is wine and flour for
Mass. It is our wish that this Kingdom not be a place for the trade or
transport of slaves…
Many of our subjects eagerly lust after Portuguese merchandise that
your subjects have brought into our domains. To satisfy this
inordinate appetite, they seize many of our black free subjects....
They sell them. After having taken these prisoners [to the coast]
secretly or at night.... As soon as the captives are in the hands of
white men they are branded with a red-hot iron.
Before the arrival of the Portuguese, slavery had already existed in
Kongo. Afonso believed that the slave trade should be subject to Kongo
law. When he suspected the Portuguese of receiving illegally enslaved
persons to sell, he wrote to King João III in 1526 imploring him to
put a stop to the practice.
The kings of
Dahomey sold war captives into transatlantic slavery;
they would otherwise have been killed in a ceremony known as the
Annual Customs. As one of West Africa's principal slave states,
Dahomey became extremely unpopular with neighbouring
peoples. Like the
Bambara Empire to the east, the Khasso
kingdoms depended heavily on the slave trade for their economy. A
family's status was indicated by the number of slaves it owned,
leading to wars for the sole purpose of taking more captives. This
trade led the
Khasso into increasing contact with the European
settlements of Africa's west coast, particularly the French. Benin
grew increasingly rich during the 16th and 17th centuries on the slave
trade with Europe; slaves from enemy states of the interior were sold
and carried to the
Americas in Dutch and Portuguese ships. The Bight
of Benin's shore soon came to be known as the "Slave Coast".
King Gezo of
Dahomey said in the 1840s:
The slave trade is the ruling principle of my people. It is the source
and the glory of their wealth...the mother lulls the child to sleep
with notes of triumph over an enemy reduced to slavery...
In 1807, the UK Parliament passed the Bill that abolished the trading
of slaves. The King of Bonny (now in Nigeria) was horrified at the
conclusion of the practice:
We think this trade must go on. That is the verdict of our oracle and
the priests. They say that your country, however great, can never stop
a trade ordained by God himself.
After being marched to the coast for sale, enslaved people were held
in large forts called factories. The amount of time in factories
Milton Meltzer states in Slavery: A World History that
around 4.5% of deaths attributed to the transatlantic slave trade
occurred during this phase. In other words, over 820,000 people
are believed to have died in African ports such as Benguela, Elmina,
and Bonny, reducing the number of those shipped to 17.5 million.
Liverpool Slave Ship by William Jackson. Merseyside Maritime Museum
After being captured and held in the factories, slaves entered the
infamous Middle Passage. Meltzer's research puts this phase of the
slave trade's overall mortality at 12.5%. Their deaths were the
result of brutal treatment and poor care from the time of their
capture and throughout their voyage. Around 2.2 million Africans
died during these voyages where they were packed into tight,
unsanitary spaces on ships for months at a time. Measures were taken
to stem the onboard mortality rate, such as enforced "dancing" (as
exercise) above deck and the practice of force-feeding enslaved
persons who tried to starve themselves. The conditions on board
also resulted in the spread of fatal diseases. Other fatalities were
suicides, slaves who escaped by jumping overboard. The slave
traders would try to fit anywhere from 350 to 600 slaves on one ship.
Before the African slave trade was completely banned by participating
nations in 1853, 15.3 million enslaved people had arrived in the
Raymond L. Cohn, an economics professor whose research has focused on
economic history and international migration, has researched the
mortality rates among Africans during the voyages of the Atlantic
slave trade. He found that mortality rates decreased over the history
of the slave trade, primarily because the length of time necessary for
the voyage was declining. "In the eighteenth century many slave
voyages took at least 2½ months. In the nineteenth century, 2 months
appears to have been the maximum length of the voyage, and many
voyages were far shorter. Fewer slaves died in the
Middle Passage over
time mainly because the passage was shorter."
Despite the vast profits of slavery, the ordinary sailors on slave
ships were badly paid and subject to harsh discipline. Mortality of
around 20% was expected in a ship's crew during the course of a
voyage; this was due to disease, flogging, overwork or slave
uprisings. Disease (malaria or yellow fever) was the most common
cause of death among sailors. A high crew mortality rate on the return
voyage was in the captain's interests as it reduced the number of
sailors who had to be paid on reaching the home port.
The slave trade was hated by many sailors and those who joined the
crews of slave ships often did so through coercion or because they
could find no other employment.
Meltzer also states that 33% of Africans would have died in the first
year at the seasoning camps found throughout the Caribbean.
Jamaica held one of the most notorious of these camps.
the leading cause of death. Around 5 million Africans died in
these camps, reducing the number of survivors to about 10 million.
The trade of enslaved Africans in the Atlantic has its origins in the
explorations of Portuguese mariners down the coast of West
the 15th century. Before that, contact with African slave markets was
made to ransom Portuguese who had been captured by the intense North
Barbary pirate attacks on Portuguese ships and coastal
villages, frequently leaving them depopulated. The first Europeans
to use enslaved Africans in the
New World were the Spaniards, who
sought auxiliaries for their conquest expeditions and labourers on
islands such as
Cuba and Hispaniola. The alarming decline in the
native population had spurred the first royal laws protecting them
(Laws of Burgos, 1512–13). The first enslaved Africans arrived in
Hispaniola in 1501. After
Portugal had succeeded in establishing
sugar plantations (engenhos) in northern
Brazil ca. 1545, Portuguese
merchants on the West African coast began to supply enslaved Africans
to the sugar planters. While at first these planters had relied almost
exclusively on the native Tupani for slave labour, after 1570 they
began importing Africans, as a series of epidemics had decimated the
already destabilized Tupani communities. By 1630, Africans had
replaced the Tupani as the largest contingent of labour on Brazilian
sugar plantations. This ended the European medieval household
tradition of slavery, resulted in Brazil's receiving the most enslaved
Africans, and revealed sugar cultivation and processing as the reason
that roughly 84% of these Africans were shipped to the New World.
Punishing slaves at Calabouco, in Rio de Janeiro, c. 1822
As Britain rose in naval power and settled continental North America
and some islands of the West Indies, they became the leading slave
traders. At one stage the trade was the monopoly of the Royal
Africa Company, operating out of London. But, following the loss of
the company's monopoly in 1689,
became increasingly involved in the trade. By the late 17th
century, one out of every four ships that left
Liverpool harbour was a
slave trading ship. Much of the wealth on which the city of
Manchester, and surrounding towns, was built in the late 18th century,
and for much of the 19th century, was based on the processing of
slave-picked cotton and manufacture of cloth. Other British cities
also profited from the slave trade. Birmingham, the largest
gun-producing town in Britain at the time, supplied guns to be traded
for slaves. 75% of all sugar produced in the plantations was sent
to London, and much of it was consumed in the highly lucrative coffee
New World destinations
Recently bought slaves in
Brazil on their way to the farms of the
landowners who bought them c. 1830.
A 19th-century lithograph showing a sugarcane plantation in Suriname.
The first slaves to arrive as part of a labour force in the New World
reached the island of
Haiti and the Dominican
Republic) in 1502.
Cuba received its first four slaves in 1513.
Jamaica received its first shipment of 4000 slaves in 1518. Slave
Guatemala started in 1526.
The first enslaved Africans to reach what would become the United
States arrived in July 1526 as part of a Spanish
attempt to colonize San Miguel de Gualdape. By November the 300
Spanish colonists were reduced to 100, and their slaves from 100 to
70[why?]. The enslaved people revolted in 1526 and joined a nearby
Native American tribe, while the Spanish abandoned the colony
altogether (1527). The area of the future
Colombia received its first
enslaved people in 1533. El Salvador,
Costa Rica and
their stints in the slave trade in 1541, 1563 and 1581, respectively.
The 17th century saw an increase in shipments. Africans arrived in the
English colony of
Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. The first kidnapped
Africans in English North America were classed as indentured servants
and freed after seven years.
Virginia law codified chattel slavery in
1656, and in 1662 the colony adopted the principle of partus sequitur
ventrem, which classified children of slave mothers as slaves,
regardless of paternity. Irish immigrants took slaves to
1651, and in 1655 slaves were shipped[by whom?] to Belize.
By 1802, Russian colonists noted that "Boston" (U.S.-based) skippers
were trading African slaves for otter pelts with the
Tlingit people in
Distribution of slaves (1519–1867)
British America (minus North America)
British North America
Dutch West Indies
Danish West Indies
The number of the Africans who arrived in each region is calculated
from the total number of slaves imported, about 10,000,000.
Economics of slavery
Slaves processing tobacco in 17th-century Virginia
France in the 18th century, returns for investors in plantations
averaged around 6%; as compared to 5% for most domestic alternatives,
this represented a 20% profit advantage. Risks—maritime and
commercial—were important for individual voyages. Investors
mitigated it by buying small shares of many ships at the same time. In
that way, they were able to diversify a large part of the risk away.
Between voyages, ship shares could be freely sold and bought.
By far the most financially profitable West Indian colonies in 1800
belonged to the United Kingdom. After entering the sugar colony
business late, British naval supremacy and control over key islands
such as Jamaica, Trinidad, the
Leeward Islands and
Barbados and the
British Guiana gave it an important edge over all
competitors; while many British did not make gains, a handful of
individuals made small fortunes. This advantage was reinforced when
France lost its most important colony,
St. Domingue (western
Hispaniola, now Haiti), to a slave revolt in 1791 and supported
revolts against its rival Britain, after the 1793 French revolution in
the name of liberty. Before 1791, British sugar had to be protected to
compete against cheaper French sugar.
After 1791, the British islands produced the most sugar, and the
British people quickly became the largest consumers. West Indian sugar
became ubiquitous as an additive to Indian tea. It has been estimated
that the profits of the slave trade and of West Indian plantations
created up to one-in-twenty of every pound circulating in the British
economy at the time of the
Industrial Revolution in the latter half of
the 18th century.
World population (in millions)
Latin America and the Caribbean
World population (by percentage distribution)
Latin America and the Caribbean
Walter Rodney has argued that at the start of the slave
trade in the 16th century, although there was a technological gap
Europe and Africa, it was not very substantial. Both
continents were using Iron Age technology. The major advantage that
Europe had was in ship building. During the period of slavery, the
Europe and the
Americas grew exponentially, while the
Africa remained stagnant. Rodney contended that the
profits from slavery were used to fund economic growth and
technological advancement in
Europe and the Americas. Based on earlier
theories by Eric Williams, he asserted that the industrial revolution
was at least in part funded by agricultural profits from the Americas.
He cited examples such as the invention of the steam engine by James
Watt, which was funded by plantation owners from the Caribbean.
Other historians have attacked both Rodney's methodology and accuracy.
Joseph C. Miller has argued that the social change and demographic
stagnation (which he researched on the example of West Central Africa)
was caused primarily by domestic factors. Joseph Inikori provided a
new line of argument, estimating counterfactual demographic
developments in case the
Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade had not existed. Patrick
Manning has shown that the slave trade did have a profound impact on
African demographics and social institutions, but criticized Inikori's
approach for not taking other factors (such as famine and drought)
into account, and thus being highly speculative.
Effect on the economy of West Africa
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Cowrie shells were used as money in the slave trade
No scholars dispute the harm done to the enslaved people but the
effect of the trade on African societies is much debated, due to the
apparent influx of goods to Africans. Proponents of the slave trade,
such as Archibald Dalzel, argued that African societies were robust
and not much affected by the trade. In the 19th century, European
abolitionists, most prominently Dr. David Livingstone, took the
opposite view, arguing that the fragile local economy and societies
were being severely harmed by the trade.
Because the negative effects of slavery on the economies of Africa
have been well documented, namely the significant decline in
population, some African rulers likely saw an economic benefit from
trading their subjects with European slave traders. With the exception
of Portuguese controlled Angola, coastal African leaders "generally
controlled access to their coasts, and were able to prevent direct
enslavement of their subjects and citizens". Thus, as African
scholar John Thornton argues, African leaders who allowed the
continuation of the slave trade likely derived an economic benefit
from selling their subjects to Europeans. The Kingdom of Benin, for
instance, participated in the African slave trade, at will, from 1715
to 1735, surprising Dutch traders, who had not expected to buy slaves
in Benin. The benefit derived from trading slaves for European
goods was enough to make the Kingdom of
Benin rejoin the
Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade after centuries of non-participation. Such
benefits included military technology (specifically guns and
gunpowder), gold, or simply maintaining amicable trade relationships
with European nations. The slave trade was, therefore, a means for
some African elites to gain economic advantages. Historian Walter
Rodney estimates that by c.1770, the King of
Dahomey was earning an
estimated £250,000 per year by selling captive African soldiers and
enslaved people to the European slave-traders. Many West African
countries also already had a tradition of holding slaves, which was
expanded into trade with Europeans.
The Atlantic trade brought new crops to
Africa and also more efficient
currencies which were adopted by the West African merchants. This can
be interpreted as an institutional reform which reduced the cost of
doing business. But the developmental benefits were limited as long as
the business including slaving.
Both Thornton and Fage contend that while African political elite may
have ultimately benefited from the slave trade, their decision to
participate may have been influenced more by what they could lose by
not participating. In Fage's article "
Slavery and the Slave Trade in
the Context of West African History", he notes that for West Africans
"... there were really few effective means of mobilizing labour for
the economic and political needs of the state" without the slave
Effects on the British economy
Further information: Historiography of the British Empire
This map argues that import prohibitions and high duties on sugar were
artificially inflating prices and inhibiting manufacturing in England.
Eric Williams in 1944 argued that the profits that Britain
received from its sugar colonies, or from the slave trade between
Africa and the Caribbean, was a major factor in financing Britain's
industrial revolution. However, he says that by the time of its
abolition in 1833 it had lost its profitability and it was in
Britain's economic interest to ban it.
Other researchers and historians have strongly contested what has come
to be referred to as the “Williams thesis” in academia. David
Richardson has concluded that the profits from the slave trade
amounted to less than 1% of domestic investment in Britain.
Stanley Engerman finds that even without
subtracting the associated costs of the slave trade (e.g., shipping
costs, slave mortality, mortality of British people in Africa, defense
costs) or reinvestment of profits back into the slave trade, the total
profits from the slave trade and of West Indian plantations amounted
to less than 5% of the British economy during any year of the
Industrial Revolution. Engerman's 5% figure gives as much as
possible in terms of benefit of the doubt to the Williams argument,
not solely because it does not take into account the associated costs
of the slave trade to Britain, but also because it carries the
full-employment assumption from economics and holds the gross value of
slave trade profits as a direct contribution to Britain's national
income. Historian Richard Pares, in an article written before
Williams' book, dismisses the influence of wealth generated from the
West Indian plantations upon the financing of the Industrial
Revolution, stating that whatever substantial flow of investment from
West Indian profits into industry there occurred after emancipation,
Seymour Drescher and Robert Anstey argue the slave trade remained
profitable until the end, and that moralistic reform, not economic
incentive, was primarily responsible for abolition. They say slavery
remained profitable in the 1830s because of innovations in
Karl Marx in his influential economic history of capitalism Das
Kapital wrote that "...the turning of
Africa into a warren for the
commercial hunting of black-skins, signaled the rosy dawn of the era
of capitalist production". He argued that the slave trade was part of
what he termed the "primitive accumulation" of capital, the
'non-capitalist' accumulation of wealth that preceded and created the
financial conditions for Britain's industrialisation.
A Linen Market with enslaved Africans. West Indies, circa 1780
The demographic effects of the slave trade is a controversial and
highly debated issue.
Walter Rodney argued that the export of so many people had been a
demographic disaster which left
Africa permanently disadvantaged when
compared to other parts of the world, and it largely explains the
continent's continued poverty. He presented numbers showing that
Africa's population stagnated during this period, while those of
Asia grew dramatically. According to Rodney, all other
areas of the economy were disrupted by the slave trade as the top
merchants abandoned traditional industries in order to pursue slaving,
and the lower levels of the population were disrupted by the slaving
Others have challenged this view.
J. D. Fage compared the demographic
effect on the continent as a whole. David Eltis has compared the
numbers to the rate of emigration from
Europe during this period. In
the 19th century alone over 50 million people left
Europe for the
Americas, a far higher rate than were ever taken from Africa.
Other scholars accused
Walter Rodney of mischaracterizing the trade
between Africans and Europeans. They argue that Africans, or more
accurately African elites, deliberately let European traders join in
an already large trade in enslaved people and that they were not
As Joseph E. Inikori argues, the history of the region shows that the
effects were still quite deleterious. He argues that the African
economic model of the period was very different from the European
model, and could not sustain such population losses. Population
reductions in certain areas also led to widespread problems. Inikori
also notes that after the suppression of the slave trade Africa's
population almost immediately began to rapidly increase, even prior to
the introduction of modern medicines.
Legacy of racism
West Indian Creole woman, with her black servant, circa 1780
Walter Rodney states, "The role of slavery in promoting racist
prejudice and ideology has been carefully studied in certain
situations, especially in the USA. The simple fact is that no people
can enslave another for four centuries without coming out with a
notion of superiority, and when the colour and other physical traits
of those peoples were quite different it was inevitable that the
prejudice should take a racist form."
Eric Williams argued that "A racial twist [was] given to what is
basically an economic phenomenon.
Slavery was not born of racism:
rather, racism was the consequence of slavery."
End of the Atlantic slave trade
Main article: Abolitionism
See also: Blockade of Africa
William Wilberforce (1759–1833), politician and philanthropist who
was a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade.
In Britain, America,
Portugal and in parts of Europe, opposition
developed against the slave trade. Davis says that abolitionists
assumed "that an end to slave imports would lead automatically to the
amelioration and gradual abolition of slavery". In Britain and
America, opposition to the trade was led by the Religious Society of
Friends (Quakers) and establishment Evangelicals such as William
Wilberforce. Many people joined the movement and they began to protest
against the trade, but they were opposed by the owners of the colonial
holdings. Following Lord Mansfield's decision in 1772, slaves
became free upon entering the British isles. Under the leadership
of Thomas Jefferson, the new state of
Virginia in 1778 became the
first state and one of the first jurisdictions anywhere to stop the
importation of slaves for sale; it made it a crime for traders to
bring in slaves from out of state or from overseas for sale; migrants
from other states were allowed to bring their own slaves. The new law
freed all slaves brought in illegally after its passage and imposed
heavy fines on violators. Denmark, which had been active in
the slave trade, was the first country to ban the trade through
legislation in 1792, which took effect in 1803. Britain banned the
slave trade in 1807, imposing stiff fines for any slave found aboard a
British ship (see
Slave Trade Act
Slave Trade Act 1807). The
Royal Navy moved to stop
other nations from continuing the slave trade and declared that
slaving was equal to piracy and was punishable by death. The United
States Congress passed the
Slave Trade Act
Slave Trade Act of 1794, which prohibited
the building or outfitting of ships in the U.S. for use in the slave
trade. In 1807 Congress outlawed the importation of slaves beginning
on 1 January 1808, the earliest date permitted by the United States
Constitution for such a ban.
William Wilberforce was a driving force in the British Parliament in
the fight against the slave trade in the British Empire. On 22
February 1807, the House of Commons passed a motion 283 votes to 16 to
abolish the Atlantic slave trade. The
United States abolished the
slave trade the same year, but not its internal slave trade which
became the dominant character in American slavery until the
1860s. In 1805 the British Order-in-Council had restricted the
importation of slaves into colonies that had been captured from France
and the Netherlands. Britain continued to press other nations to
end its trade; in 1810 an Anglo-Portuguese treaty was signed whereby
Portugal agreed to restrict its trade into its colonies; an 1813
Anglo-Swedish treaty whereby Sweden outlawed its slave trade; the
Treaty of Paris 1814 where
France agreed with Britain that the trade
is "repugnant to the principles of natural justice" and agreed to
abolish the slave trade in five years; the 1814 Anglo-Netherlands
treaty where the Dutch outlawed its slave trade.
"Am I not a woman and a sister?"
An antislavery medallion from the late 18th century
The Royal Navy's West
Africa Squadron, established in 1808, grew by
1850 to a force of some 25 vessels, which were tasked with combating
slavery along the African coast. Between 1807 and 1860, the Royal
Navy's Squadron seized approximately 1,600 ships involved in the slave
trade and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard these vessels.
Several hundred slaves a year were transported by the navy to the
British colony of Sierra Leone, where they were made to serve as
"apprentices" in the colonial economy until the
Slavery Abolition Act
Capture of slave ship El Almirante by the British
Royal Navy in the
1800s. HMS Black Joke freed 466 slaves.
The last recorded slave ship to land on U.S. soil was the Clotilde,
which in 1859 illegally smuggled a number of Africans into the town of
Mobile, Alabama. The Africans on board were sold as slaves;
however, slavery in the U.S. was abolished five years later following
the end of the American Civil
War in 1865. The last survivor of the
voyage was Cudjoe Lewis, who died in 1935. The last country to
Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade was
Brazil in 1831. However, a vibrant
illegal trade continued to ship large numbers of enslaved people to
Brazil and also to
Cuba until the 1860s, when British enforcement and
further diplomacy finally ended the Atlantic slave trade. In 1870
Portugal ended the last trade route with the
Americas where the last
country to import slaves was Brazil. In Brazil, however, slavery
itself was not ended until 1888, making it the last country in the
Americas to end involuntary servitude.
Walter Rodney contends that it was a decline in the
profitability of the triangular trades that made it possible for
certain basic human sentiments to be asserted at the decision-making
level in a number of European countries- Britain being the most
crucial because it was the greatest carrier of African captives across
the Atlantic. Rodney states that changes in productivity, technology,
and patterns of exchange in
Europe and the
Americas informed the
decision by the British to end their participation in the trade in
1807. In 1809 President
James Madison outlawed the slave trade with
the United States.
Nevertheless, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue that it was
neither a strictly economic nor moral matter. First, because slavery
was (in practice) still beneficial to capitalism, providing not only
an influx of capital but also disciplining hardship into workers (a
form of "apprenticeship" to the capitalist industrial plant). The more
"recent" argument of a "moral shift" (the basis of the previous lines
of this article) is described by Hardt and Negri as an "ideological"
apparatus in order to eliminate the sentiment of guilt in western
society. Although moral arguments did play a secondary role, they
usually had major resonance when used as a strategy to undercut
competitors' profits. This argument holds that Eurocentric history has
been blind to the most important element in this fight for
emancipation, precisely, the constant revolt and the antagonism of
slaves' revolts. The most important of those being the Haitian
Revolution. The shock of this revolution in 1804, certainly introduces
an essential political argument into the end of the slave trade, which
happened only three years later.
House slaves in
Brazil c. 1820, by Jean-Baptiste Debret
African diaspora which was created via slavery has been a complex
interwoven part of American history and culture. In the United
States, the success of Alex Haley's book Roots: The Saga of an
American Family, published in 1976, and the subsequent television
miniseries based upon it Roots, broadcast on the ABC network in
January 1977, led to an increased interest and appreciation of African
heritage amongst the
African-American community. The influence of
these led many
African Americans to begin researching their family
histories and making visits to West Africa. In turn, a tourist
industry grew up to supply them. One notable example of this is
Roots Homecoming Festival held annually in the Gambia, in
which rituals are held through which
African Americans can
symbolically "come home" to Africa. Issues of dispute have
however developed between
African Americans and African authorities
over how to display historic sites that were involved in the Atlantic
slave trade, with prominent voices in the former criticising the
latter for not displaying such sites sensitively, but instead treating
them as a commercial enterprise.
"Back to Africa"
In 1816, a group of wealthy European-Americans, some of whom were
abolitionists and others who were racial segregationists, founded the
American Colonization Society
American Colonization Society with the express desire of returning
African Americans who were in the
United States to West Africa. In
1820, they sent their first ship to Liberia, and within a decade
around two thousand
African Americans had been settled in the west
African country. Such re-settlement continued throughout the 19th
century, increasing following the deterioration of race relations in
the southern states of the US following Reconstruction in 1877.
The Rastafari movement, which originated in Jamaica, where 98% of the
population are descended from victims of the Atlantic slave trade, has
made great efforts to publicize the slavery and to ensure it is not
forgotten, especially through reggae music.
UNESCO designated 23 August as International Day for the
Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. Since then there
have been a number of events recognizing the effects of slavery.
At the 2001
World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa,
African nations demanded a clear apology for slavery from the former
slave-trading countries. Some nations were ready to express an
apology, but the opposition, mainly from the United Kingdom, Portugal,
Spain, the Netherlands, and the
United States blocked attempts to do
so. A fear of monetary compensation might have been one of the reasons
for the opposition. As of 2009, efforts are underway to create a UN
Slavery Memorial as a permanent remembrance of the victims of the
Atlantic slave trade.
In 1999, President
Mathieu Kerekou of
Benin (formerly the Kingdom of
Dahomey) issued a national apology for the role Africans played in the
Atlantic slave trade. Luc Gnacadja, minister of environment and
housing for Benin, later said: "The slave trade is a shame, and we do
repent for it." Researchers estimate that 3 million slaves were
exported out of the Slave Coast bordering the Bight of Benin.
On 30 January 2006,
Jacques Chirac (the then French President) said
that 10 May would henceforth be a national day of remembrance for the
victims of slavery in France, marking the day in 2001 when France
passed a law recognising slavery as a crime against humanity.
Jerry Rawlings of
Ghana also apologized for his country's
involvement in the slave trade.
At a UN conference on the
Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade in 2001, the Dutch
Minister for Urban Policy and Integration of Ethnic Minorities Roger
van Boxtel said that the
Netherlands "recognizes the grave injustices
of the past." On 1 July 2013, at the 150th anniversary of the
abolition of slavery in the Dutch West Indies, the Dutch government
expressed "deep regret and remorse" for the involvement of the
Netherlands in the Atlantic slave trade. The Dutch government has
remained short of a formal apology for its involvement in the Atlantic
slave trade, as an apology implies that it considers its own actions
of the past as unlawful, and could lead to litigation for monetary
compensation by descendants of the enslaved.
In 2009, the Civil Rights Congress of
Nigeria has written an open
letter to all African chieftains who participated in trade calling for
an apology for their role in the Atlantic slave trade: "We cannot
continue to blame the white men, as Africans, particularly the
traditional rulers, are not blameless. In view of the fact that the
Europe have accepted the cruelty of their roles and have
forcefully apologized, it would be logical, reasonable and humbling if
African traditional rulers ... [can] accept blame and formally
apologize to the descendants of the victims of their collaborative and
exploitative slave trade."
In 1998, President
Yoweri Museveni of
Uganda called tribal chieftains
to apologize for their involvement in the slave trade: "African chiefs
were the ones waging war on each other and capturing their own people
and selling them. If anyone should apologise it should be the African
chiefs. We still have those traitors here even today."
On 9 December 1999,
Liverpool City Council passed a formal motion
apologizing for the City's part in the slave trade. It was unanimously
Liverpool acknowledges its responsibility for its
involvement in three centuries of the slave trade. The City Council
has made an unreserved apology for Liverpool's involvement and the
continual effect of slavery on Liverpool's black communities.
On 27 November 2006, British Prime Minister
Tony Blair made a partial
apology for Britain's role in the African slavery trade. However
African rights activists denounced it as "empty rhetoric" that failed
to address the issue properly. They feel his apology stopped shy to
prevent any legal retort. Blair again apologized on March 14,
On 24 August 2007,
Ken Livingstone (Mayor of London) apologized
publicly for London's role in the slave trade. "You can look across
there to see the institutions that still have the benefit of the
wealth they created from slavery", he said pointing towards the
financial district, before breaking down in tears. He claimed that
London was still tainted by the horrors of slavery. Jesse Jackson
praised Mayor Livingstone and added that reparations should be
On 24 February 2007, the
Virginia General Assembly
Virginia General Assembly passed House Joint
Resolution Number 728 acknowledging "with profound regret the
involuntary servitude of Africans and the exploitation of Native
Americans, and call for reconciliation among all Virginians". With the
passing of that resolution,
Virginia became the first of the 50 United
States to acknowledge through the state's governing body their state's
involvement in slavery. The passing of this resolution came on the
heels of the 400th-anniversary celebration of the city of Jamestown,
Virginia, which was the first permanent English colony to survive in
what would become the United States. Jamestown is also recognized as
one of the first slave ports of the American colonies. On 31 May 2007,
the Governor of Alabama, Bob Riley, signed a resolution expressing
"profound regret" for Alabama's role in slavery and apologizing for
slavery's wrongs and lingering effects. Alabama is the fourth state to
pass a slavery apology, following votes by the legislatures in
Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.
On 30 July 2008, the
United States House of Representatives passed a
resolution apologizing for American slavery and subsequent
discriminatory laws. The language included a reference to the
"fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery
and Jim Crow" segregation. On 18 June 2009, the United States
Senate issued an apologetic statement decrying the "fundamental
injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery". The news
was welcomed by President Barack Obama.
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
On the Horrors of the Slave Trade
Arab slave trade
Barbary slave trade
History of slavery
Slave Trade Acts
Slavery in Africa
Slavery in Canada
Slavery in the colonial United States
Slavery in the United States
Indian indenture system
Slavery in contemporary Africa
United States labor law
^ "The capture and sale of slaves". Liverpool: International Slavery
Museum. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
^ a b Mannix, Daniel (1962). Black Cargoes. The Viking Press.
^ Weber, Greta (June 5, 2015). "Shipwreck Shines Light on Historic
Shift in Slave Trade". National Geographic Society. Retrieved June 8,
^ Klein, Herbert S., and Jacob Klein. The Atlantic Slave Trade.
Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 103–139.
^ Ronald Segal, The Black Diaspora: Five Centuries of the Black
Africa (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995),
ISBN 0-374-11396-3, p. 4. "It is now estimated that 11,863,000
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Francis Bok (b. 1979)
James Leander Cathcart (1767 – 1843)
Ólafur Egilsson (1564 – 1639)
Hark Olufs (1708 – 1754)
Mende Nazer (b. 1982)
Thomas Pellow (1705 – ?)
Joseph Pitts (1663–1735?)
Guðríður Símonardóttir (1598 – 1682)
Lovisa von Burghausen
Lovisa von Burghausen (1698–1733)
Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745
Nigeria – 31 March 1797 Eng)
Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (c. 1705 Bornu – 1775 Eng)
Roustam Raza (1783–1845)
Brigitta Scherzenfeldt (1684–1736)
Marie-Joseph Angélique (c. 1710
Portugal – 1734 Montreal)
Juan Francisco Manzano (1797–1854, Cuba)
Esteban Montejo (1860–1965, Cuba)
Pierre Toussaint (1766 Saint-Dominque – June 30, 1853 NY)
Marcos Xiorro (c. 1819 – ???, Puerto Rico)
William J. Anderson
Jared Maurice Arter
Henry "Box" Brown
William Wells Brown
Peter Bruner (1845 KY – 1938 OH)
Ellen and William Craft
Ayuba Suleiman Diallo
Jordan Winston Early
Jordan Winston Early (1814 – after 1894)
Sarah Jane Woodson Early
William Green (19th century MD)
Fountain Hughes (1848/1854 VA – 1957)
John Andrew Jackson
Harriet Ann Jacobs
Thomas James (minister)
Paul Jennings (1799–1874)
J. Vance Lewis
Jermain Wesley Loguen
John Parker (1827 VA – 1900)
Omar ibn Said
William Henry Singleton
Austin Steward (1793 VA – 1860)
Pierre Toussaint (1766 Saint-Dominque – 1853 NY)
Booker T. Washington
Wallace Willis (19th century Indian Territory)
Harriet E. Wilson
Zamba Zembola (b. c. 1780 Congo)
See also Treatment of slaves in the US, Exodus narrative in Antebellum
Slavery among the indigenous peoples of the Americas
Osifekunde (c. 1795
Nigeria – ? Brazil)
Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua
Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua (1845–1847, Brazil)
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of
Olaudah Equiano (1789)
The Narrative of Robert Adams
The Narrative of Robert Adams (1816)
Slavery as It Is (1839)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845)
The Life of
Josiah Henson (1849)
Twelve Years a Slave
Twelve Years a Slave (1853)
My Bondage and My Freedom
My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)
Underground Railroad Records (1872)
Life and Times of
Frederick Douglass (1881)
The Peculiar Institution
The Peculiar Institution (1956)
The Slave Community
The Slave Community (1972)
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)
The Heroic Slave
The Heroic Slave (1852)
Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856)
The Bondwoman's Narrative
The Bondwoman's Narrative (1853?–1861?)
Our Nig (1859)
Confessions of Nat Turner
Confessions of Nat Turner (1967)
Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976)
Underground to Canada
Underground to Canada (1977)
Dessa Rose (1986)
Middle Passage (1990)
Queen: The Story of an American Family (1993)
Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons (1996)
Ama: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade (2001)
Walk Through Darkness (2002)
The Known World
The Known World (2003)
Copper Sun (2006)
Book of Negroes (2007)
Underground Railroad (2016)
Young adult books
Amos Fortune, Free Man (1951)
I, Juan de Pareja (1965)
The Slave-girl from Jerusalem
The Slave-girl from Jerusalem (2007)
To a Southern Slaveholder (1848)
A Key to
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853)
The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom (1858)
The Octoroon (1859)
Films featuring slavery
Songs of the Underground Railroad
Book of Negroes (1783)
Cotton Plantation Record and Account
Slave Songs of the United States
Slave Songs of the United States (1867)
Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about
The Hemingses of Monticello (2008)
Unchained Memories (2003)
Frederick Douglass and the