The African Slave Trade. Slaves taken from a dhow captured by H.M.S. "Undine."
Library of Congress
The slave deck of the bark "Wildfire," brought into Key West on April 30, 1860.
African men crowded onto a lower deck; African women crowded on an upper
deck./Library of Congress
United States Slave Trade, 1830./Library of Congress
Slaves exposed for sale./Library of Congress
Picking cotton in a Georgia plantation./Library of Congress
This website is made available for educational purposes only. Nothing on this website is intended to serve as medical, technical or expert advice. If medical, technical or expert advice is needed, the visitor is urged to seek such
advice from a qualified professional. The author and publisher shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused, or alleged to have been caused, directly or indirectly,
by the information contained in this website.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Oliver Chiapco. All Rights Reserved.
(Images from the Library of Congress, NASA, NOAA, USGS, CDC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management are NOT copyrighted and DO NOT express or imply endorsement of the book.)
- The history of slavery in the New World (the Americas) can be traced back to the
transatlantic slave trade that operated from the 16th through the 19th centuries.
- The brutal commerce primarily involved Africans from the central and western parts of
the continent who were likely captured by rival tribes and sold to European slave traders in
exchange for weapons, iron bars, clothing, and other European goods.
- The captives were likely flogged, shackled and thrown into the dark underbellies of slave
ships before being transported across the high seas --- a brutal journey across the Atlantic
that on average could take at least three months. Ninety days of hell in a dark hole with
little food, no clean water, no restrooms, and little ventilation. The prisoners likely sat,
hunkered down or lay on their sides starving, naked, dehydrated and writhing in their own
excrement. Men, women, kids, young, old, pregnant, all chained and packed under
subhuman conditions. Those who perished were likely tossed overboard and fed to the
sharks. And likely, at the first sight of land, those who had survived were rounded up and
readied for the auction block. Only then were they cleaned, oiled, and adequately fed.
- At the auction block, white buyers would flock and check out the new arrivals. They might pry open
the natives' mouths, inspect their teeth, pinch their muscles, sniff or even taste their sweat. Every-
one wanted to snag the healthiest Negro they could work to oblivion in the plantations. The highest
bidder got the best deal. It didn't matter whether an African man got separated from his wife, or a
child from his or her parents. For the sellers and buyers, the African slaves were nothing more than
commodities that could be sold and shuffled around as needed.
- Within a span of about four centuries, the transatlantic slave trade had probably uprooted at least 12
million Africans from their native lands and delivered them to lives of bondage and servitude in the
New World. Most landed in Brazil. Almost three quarters of a million were estimated to have ended
up in what is now the United States.
- Slavery in the United States had existed long before its founding in 1776. It is believed that the first
group of Africans arrived in Virginia, the first English colony, in the early 1600s.
- Slaves were mainly utilized
to power the plantations of
crops in high-demand, such
as cotton, sugar, and tobacco.
The slaves did all the tilling,
planting and harvesting of the
crops while their masters lived
aristocratic life styles, mostly
in the southern United States.
- Slaves had no rights. They
were treated as properties.
And once a slave, always a
slave, as slavery was heritable.
- Slaves worked long hours, ate cheap food and lived in rundown huts. Many were whipped, starved, and ill-treated. Slaves could be mutilated or killed by cruel
masters without repercussion.
- Many slaves resisted their plight and many were able to escape to the Northern free states so much so
that laws were enacted to force authorities to return fugitive slaves to their rightful owners.
- The increasing resistance against the institution of slavery became more evident in the mid-1800s.
- Lincoln's eventual election as President of the United States in November 1860 had led to the secession
- of several southern slave states from the Union. Forty days into his presidency, the American Civil
- On January 1, 1863, in the midst of the
- The Proclamation announced the freedom of all persons held as slaves within any state in
rebellion against the Union.
- Although it did not immediately free all the slaves, the Proclamation helped turn the tides of war
in favor of the Union.
- Many freed slaves joined the United States military and fought for their freedom.
- Slavery was officially abolished with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United
States Constitution in 1865, following the American Civil War.