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Atlantic slave trade

The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the transatlantic slave trade, was the enslavement and transportation, primarily of African people, to the colonies of the New World that occurred in and around the Atlantic Ocean. It lasted from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Most enslaved people were shipped from West Africa and Central Africa and taken to North and South America[1] to labor on sugar, coffee, cocoa and cotton plantations, in gold and silver mines, in rice fields, the construction industry, timber, and shipping[2] or in houses to work as servants. The shippers were, in order of scale, the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, the Dutch, and the North Americans.[1] European and American-owned fortresses and ships obtained enslaved people from African slave-traders, though some were captured by European slave traders through raids and kidnapping.[3][4] Most contemporary historians estimate that between 9.4 and 12 million[5][6] Africans arrived in the New World,[7][8] although the actual number of people taken from their homestead is considerably higher.[9][10][11]

The slave trade is sometimes called the Maafa by African and African-American scholars, meaning "holocaust" or "great disaster" in Swahili. Some scholars, such as Marimba Ani and Maulana Karenga use the terms African Holocaust or Holocaust of Enslavement. Slavery was one element of a three-part economic cycle ' the triangular trade and its Middle Passage ' which ultimately involved four continents, four centuries and millions of people.[12]


[edit] Origins

Slavery was practiced in some parts of Africa,[13] Europe,[14] Asia[15] and the Americas before the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade. There is evidence that enslaved people from some African states were exported to other states in Africa, Europe and Asia prior to the European invasion of the Americas.[16] The African slave trade provided a large number of slaves to Europeans.[17][18]

The 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 only slightly more than 3% of all Atlantic slave trade. It started (on a significant scale) in about 1502[19] and lasted until 1580, when Portugal was temporarily united with Spain. While the Portuguese traded enslaved people themselves, 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, although some Dutch, English, Spanish and French traders also participated in the slave trade.[20] After the union, Portugal was weakened, with its colonial empire being attacked by the Dutch and British.

The Second Atlantic system was the trade of enslaved Africans by mostly British, Portuguese, French and Dutch traders. The main destinations of this phase were the Caribbean colonies, Brazil, and North America, as a number of European countries built up economically slave-dependent colonies in the New World. Amongst the proponents of this system were Francis Drake and John Hawkins.

Only slightly more than 3% of the enslaved people exported were traded between 1450 and 1600, 16% in the 17th century. More than half of them were exported in the 18th century, the remaining 28.5% in the 19th century.[21]

[edit] Triangular trade

European colonists initially practiced systems of both bonded labour and "Indian" slavery, enslaving many of the natives of the New World. For a variety of reasons, Africans replaced Native Americans as the main population of enslaved people in the Americas. In some cases, such as on some of the Caribbean Islands, warfare and diseases such as smallpox eliminated the natives completely. In other cases, such as in South Carolina, Virginia, and New England, the need for alliances with native tribes coupled with the availability of enslaved Africans at affordable prices (beginning in the early 18th century for these colonies) resulted in a shift away from Native American slavery.

"The Slave Trade" by Auguste Francois Biard, 1840

A burial ground in Campeche, Mexico, suggests slaves had been brought there not long after Hern�¡n Cortés completed the subjugation of Aztec and Mayan Mexico. The graveyard had been in use from approximately 1550 to the late 17th century.[22]

The first side of the triangle was the export of goods from Europe to 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.

However, Brazil (the main importer of slaves) manufactured these goods in South America and directly traded with African ports, thus not taking part in a triangular trade.[citation needed]

[edit] Labor and slavery

An antislavery medallion of the early 19th century.

The Atlantic Slave Trade was the result of, among other things, labor shortage. Native peoples were at first utilized as slave labor by Europeans, until a large number died from overwork and Old World diseases.[23] Alternative sources of labor, 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 cost effective than producing them on the European mainland. A vast amount of labor was needed for the plantations in the intensive growing, harvesting and processing of these 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 labor.

The basic reason for the constant shortage of labor 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 workers.[24]

[edit] African slave market

The Atlantic slave trade was not the only slave trade taking a toll on 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[25] 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."[26]

According to John K. Thornton, Europeans usually bought enslaved people who were captured in endemic warfare between African states.[27] There were also Africans who had made a business out of capturing Africans from neighboring ethnic groups or war captives and selling them.[28] Thornton says that Europeans provided a large new market for an already existing trade.[29] And while an African held in slavery in his own region of Africa might escape, a person shipped away was sure never to return. 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.[30]

[edit] African participation in the slave trade

Africans themselves played a role in the slave trade. The Africans that participated in the slave trade would sell their captive or prisoners of war to European buyers.[25] Selling captives or prisoners was common practice amongst Africans and Arabs during that era. The prisoners and captives that were sold were usually from neighboring or enemy ethnic groups.[31] These captive slaves were not considered as part of the ethnic group or 'tribe' and kings held no particular loyalty to them. At times, Kings and businessmen would sell the criminals in their society to the buyers 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.[25] Some Africans Kings refused to sell any of their captives or criminals. King Jaja of Opobo refused to do business with the slavers completely.[31] For this, he was captured along with his people. Ashanti King Agyeman Prempeh (Ashanti king, b. 1872) also sacrificed his own freedom so that his people would not face collective slavery.[31]

[edit] 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.[32] The enslaved people would be brought to coastal outposts where they would be traded for goods. Enslavement became a major by-product of internal war in Africa as nation states expanded through military conflicts in many cases through deliberate sponsorship of benefiting Western European nations. During such periods of rapid state formation or expansion (Asante or Dahomey being good examples), slavery formed an important element of political life which the Europeans exploited: As Queen Sara's plea to the Portuguese courts revealed, the system became "sell to the Europeans or be sold to the Europeans". 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.[33]

The Atlantic slave trade peaked in the last two decades of the 18th century,[34] during and following the Kongo Civil War.[35] Wars amongst tiny states along the Niger River's Igbo-inhabited region and the accompanying banditry also spiked in this period.[28] Another reason for surplus supply of enslaved people was major warfare conducted by expanding states such as the kingdom of Dahomey,[36] the Oyo Empire and Asante Empire.[37]

The majority of European conquests, raids and enslavements occurred toward the end or after the transatlantic slave trade. One exception to this is the conquest of Ndongo in present day Angola where Ndongo's slaves, warriors, free citizens and even nobility were taken into slavery by the Portuguese conquerors after the fall of the state.[citation needed]

[edit] Slavery in Africa and the New World contrasted

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 slaves' children were legally enslaved at birth. This was connected to another distinction: slavery in West Africa was not reserved for racial or religious minorities, as it was in European colonies.[38]

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 the use of slaves as human sacrifices was also known in Cameroon.[39] On the other hand, slaves in Ghana were often treated as part of the family, "adopted children," with significant rights including the right to marry without their masters' permission.[40] In the Americas, slaves were denied the right to marry freely and even humane masters did not accept them as equal members of the family; however, while grisly executions of slaves convicted of revolt or other offenses were commonplace in the Americas, New World slaves were not subject to arbitrary ritual sacrifice.[41]

[edit] Slave market regions and participation

There were eight principal areas used by Europeans to buy and ship slaves to the Western Hemisphere. The number of enslaved people sold to the 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:[42]

[edit] African kingdoms of the era

There were over 173 city-states and kingdoms in the African regions affected by the slave trade between 1502 and 1853, when Brazil became 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 neighbors. Nearly every present-day nation had a pre-colonial predecessor, sometimes an African Empire with which European traders had to barter and eventually battle.

[edit] Ethnic groups

The different ethnic groups brought to the Americas closely 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.[43]

  1. The Gbe speakers of Togo, Ghana and Benin (Adja, Mina, Ewe, Fon)
  2. The Akan of Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire
  3. The Mbundu of Angola (includes Ovimbundu)
  4. The BaKongo of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola
  5. The Igbo of southeastern Nigeria
  6. The Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria
  7. The Mandé of Upper Guinea
  8. The Wolof of Senegal and The Gambia
  9. The Chamba of Cameroon
  10. The Makua of Mozambique

[edit] Human toll

The transatlantic slave trade resulted in a vast and as yet still unknown loss of life for African captives both in and outside of America. Approximately 1.2 ' 2.4 million Africans died during their transport to the New World[44] More died soon upon their arrival. The amount of life lost in the actual procurement of slaves remains a mystery but may equal or exceed the amount actually enslaved.[45]

The savage nature of the trade, in which most of the enslaved people were prisoners from African wars, led to the destruction of individuals and cultures. The following figures do not include deaths of enslaved Africans as a result of their actual labor, slave revolts or diseases they caught while living among New World populations.

A database compiled in the late 1990s put the figure for the transatlantic slave trade at more than 11 million people. For a long time an accepted figure was 15 million, although this has in recent years been revised down. Most historians now agree that at least 12 million slaves left the continent between the 15th and 19th century, but 10 to 20% died on board ships. Thus a figure of 11 million enslaved people transported to the Americas is the nearest demonstrable figure historians can produce.[44]

[edit] African conflicts

The Portuguese presenting themselves before the Manikongo. The Portuguese initially fostered a good relationship with the Kingdom of Kongo. Civil War within Kongo would lead to many of its subjects ending up as enslaved people in Portuguese and other European vessels.
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.

According to Dr. 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.[46] 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.[45] 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.[47] 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.[48] 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 the Imbangala war bands.[49] By the end of this process, no fewer than 18.3 million people would be herded into "factories" to await shipment to the New World.[citation needed]

In letters written by the Manikongo, Nzinga Mbemba Affonso, 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 letter 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.[3]

Before the arrival of the Portuguese, slavery had already existed in Kongo. Despite its establishment within his kingdom, 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 in to King João III in 1526 imploring him to put a stop to the practice.[50]

The kings of Dahomey sold their war captives into transatlantic slavery, who otherwise would 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.[51][52][53] 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.[54] 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".[55]

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'[56]

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.[57]

[edit] Port factories

After being marched to the coast for sale, enslaved people waited in large forts called factories. The amount of time in factories varied, but Milton Meltzer's Slavery: A World History states this process resulted in or around 4.5% of deaths during the transatlantic slave trade.[58] In other words, over 820,000 people would have died in African ports such as Benguela, Elmina and Bonny reducing the number of those shipped to 17.5 million.[58]

[edit] Atlantic shipment

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%.[58] 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 people who tried to starve themselves.[47] The conditions on board also resulted in the spread of fatal diseases. Other fatalities were the result of suicides by jumping over board by slaves who could no longer endure the conditions.[47] The slave traders would try to fit anywhere from 350 to 600 slaves on one ship. Before the shipping of enslaved people was completely outlawed in 1853, 15.3 million enslaved people had arrived in the Americas.

Raymond L. Cohn, an economics professor whose research has focused on economic history and international migration,[59] 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 2– 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."[60]

[edit] Seasoning camps

Meltzer also states that 33% of Africans would have died in the first year at seasoning camps found throughout the Caribbean.[58] Many slaves shipped directly to North America bypassed this process; however most slaves (destined for island or South American plantations) were likely to be put through this ordeal. The enslaved people were tortured for the purpose of "breaking" them (like the practice of breaking horses) and conditioning them to their new lot in life. Jamaica held one of the most notorious of these camps. All in all, 5 million Africans died in these camps reducing the final number of Africans to about 10 million.[58]

[edit] European competition

Reproduction of a handbill advertising a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1769.

The trade of enslaved Africans in the Atlantic has its origins in the explorations of Portuguese mariners down the coast of West Africa in the 15th century. Before that, contact with African slave markets was made to ransom Portuguese that had been captured by the intense North African Barbary pirate attacks on Portuguese ships and coastal villages, frequently leaving them depopulated.[61] The first Europeans to use enslaved Africans in the New World were the Spaniards who sought auxiliaries for their conquest expeditions and laborers on islands such as Cuba and Hispaniola, where the alarming decline in the native population had spurred the first royal laws protecting the native population (Laws of Burgos, 1512'1513). The first enslaved Africans arrived in Hispaniola in 1501.[62] 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 there. While at first these planters relied almost exclusively on the native Tupani for slave labor, a titanic shift toward Africans took place after 1570 following a series of epidemics which decimated the already destabilized Tupani communities. By 1630, Africans had replaced the Tupani as the largest contingent of labor on Brazilian sugar plantations, heralding equally the final collapse of the European medieval household tradition of slavery, the rise of Brazil as the largest single destination for enslaved Africans and sugar as the reason that roughly 84% of these Africans were shipped to the New World.

Merchants from various European nations were later involved in the Atlantic Slave trade: Portugal, Spain, France, England, Scotland, Brandenburg-Prussia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden.[63] 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,[64] Bristol and Liverpool merchants became increasingly involved in the trade.[65] By the late 17th century, one out of every four ships that left Liverpool harbour was a slave trading ship.[66] 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 came to London to supply the highly lucrative coffee houses there.[66]

[edit] New World destinations

The first slaves to arrive as part of a labor force appeared in 1502 on the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Cuba received its first four slaves in 1513. Slave exports to Honduras and Guatemala started in 1526. The first enslaved Africans to reach what would become the US arrived in January of 1526 as part of a Spanish attempt at colonizing South Carolina near Jamestown. By November the 300 Spanish colonists were reduced to a mere 100 accompanied by 70 of their original 100 slaves. The enslaved people revolted and joined a nearby native population while the Spanish abandoned the colony altogether. Colombia received its first enslaved people in 1533. El Salvador, Costa Rica and Florida began their stint in the slave trade in 1541, 1563 and 1581 respectively.

The 17th century saw an increase in shipments with enslaved people arriving in the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. Irish immigrants brought slaves to Montserrat in 1651, and in 1655, slaves arrived in Belize.

Distribution of slaves (1519'1867)[67]
Destination Percentage
Portuguese America 38.5%
British America (minus North America) 18.4%
Spanish Empire 17.5%
French Americas 13.6%
British North America 6.45%
English Americas 3.25%
Dutch West Indies 2.0%
Danish West Indies 0.3%

The number of the Africans arrived in each area can be easily calculated taking into consideration that the total number of slaves was close to 10,000,000.[68]

[edit] Economics of slavery

The plantation economies of the New World were built on slave labor. Seventy percent of the enslaved people brought to the new world were used to produce sugar, the most labor-intensive crop. The rest were employed harvesting coffee, cotton, and tobacco, and in some cases in mining. The West Indian colonies of the European powers were some of their most important possessions, so they went to extremes to protect and retain them. For example, at the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, France agreed to cede the vast territory of New France (now Eastern Canada) to the victors in exchange for keeping the minute Antillean island of Guadeloupe.[citation needed]

In 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.[69]

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 territory of 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. Dominigue (western Hispaniola, now Haiti), to a slave revolt in 1791[70] 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.[71]

[edit] Effects

World population (in millions)[72]
Year 1750 1800 1850 1900 1950 1999
World 791 978 1,262 1,650 2,521 5,978
Africa 106 107 111 133 221 767
Asia 502 635 809 947 1,402 3,634
Europe 163 203 276 408 547 729
Latin America and the Caribbean 16 24 38 74 167 511
Northern America 2 7 26 82 172 307
Oceania 2 2 2 6 13 30
World population (by percentage distribution)
Year 1750 1800 1850 1900 1950 1999
World 100 100 100 100 100 100
Africa 13.4 10.9 8.8 8.1 8.8 12.8
Asia 63.5 64.9 64.1 57.4 55.6 60.8
Europe 20.6 20.8 21.9 24.7 21.7 12.2
Latin America and the Caribbean 2.0 2.5 3.0 4.5 6.6 8.5
Northern America 0.3 0.7 2.1 5.0 6.8 5.1
Oceania 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.5 0.5

Historian Walter Rodney has argued that at the start of the slave trade in the 16th century, even though there was a technological gap between 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 populations of Europe and the Americas grew exponentially while the population of 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.[73]

Other historians have attacked both Rodney's methodology and factual 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 had not existed. Patrick Manning has shown that the slave trade did indeed have profound impact on African demographics and social institutions, but nevertheless criticized Inikori's approach for not taking other factors (such as famine and drought) into account and thus being highly speculative.[74]

[edit] Effect on the economy of Africa

Cowrie shells were used as money in the slave trade

No scholars dispute the harm done to the enslaved people themselves, 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 ongoing 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 ongoing trade. 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.

[edit] Effects on the economy of Europe

Eric Williams tried to show the contribution of Africans on the basis of profits from the slave trade and slavery, and the employment of those profits to finance England's industrialization process. He argues that the enslavement of Africans was an essential element to the Industrial Revolution, and that British wealth is a result of slavery. However, he argued that by the time of its abolition it had lost its profitability and it was in Britain's economic interest to ban it. On the other hand, Seymour Drescher and Robert Anstey have both presented evidence that the slave trade remained profitable until the end, and that reasons other than economics led to its cessation.[citation needed]

Karl Marx in his influential economic history of capitalism Das Kapital claimed 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 European capital, the 'non-capitalist' accumulation of wealth that preceded and created the financial conditions for Britain's industrialisation.[75]

[edit] Demographics

The demographic effects of the slave trade are some of the most controversial and debated issues. More than 12 million people were removed from Africa via the slave trade, and what effect this had on Africa is an important question.

Walter Rodney argued that the export of so many people had been a demographic disaster and had left Africa permanently disadvantaged when compared to other parts of the world, and largely explains the continent's continued poverty.[76] He presented numbers showing that Africa's population stagnated during this period, while that of Europe and 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 to pursue slaving, and the lower levels of the population were disrupted by the slaving itself.

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, 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.[77] Owen Alik Shahadah also states that the trade was not only of demographic significance in aggregate population losses but also in the profound changes to settlement patterns, exposure to epidemics, and reproductive and social development potential.[78]

[edit] Legacy of racism

Professor Maulana Karenga states that the effects of slavery were that "the morally monstrous destruction of human possibility involved redefining African humanity to the world, poisoning past, present and future relations with others who only know us through this stereotyping and thus damaging the truly human relations among peoples." He states that it constituted the destruction of culture, language, religion and human possibility.[79]

The Atlantic slave trade was without question a long-standing system which displaced many African people from their native lands, tribes, and families. The evidence of the populations of descendant Africans is most clear in the continents of North America and South America.

[edit] End of the Atlantic slave trade

In Britain, Portugal and in some other parts of Europe, opposition developed against the slave trade. Led by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and establishment Evangelicals such as William Wilberforce, the movement was joined by many and began to protest against the trade, but they were opposed by the owners of the colonial holdings.[80] 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 (but not slavery itself) in 1807, imposing stiff fines for any slave found aboard a British ship (see Slave Trade Act 1807). The Royal Navy, which then controlled the world's seas, moved to stop other nations from filling Britain's place in the slave trade and declared that slaving was equal to piracy and was punishable by death. The United States outlawed the importation of slaves on January 1, 1808, the earliest date permitted by the constitution for such a ban.

"Am I not a woman and a sister?"
An antislavery medallion from the late 18th century

On Sunday 28 October 1787, William Wilberforce wrote in his diary: "God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the Reformation of society." For the rest of his life, William Wilberforce dedicated his life as a Member of Parliament to opposing the slave trade and working for the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. On 22 February 1807, twenty years after he first began his crusade, and in the middle of Britain's war with France, Wilberforce and his team's labors were rewarded with victory. By an overwhelming 283 votes for to 16 against, the motion to abolish the slave trade was carried in the House of Commons.[81]

After the British ended their own slave trade, they felt forced by economics to press other nations to do the same, or else the British colonies would become uncompetitive[citation needed]. With peace in Europe from 1815, and British supremacy at sea secured, the Navy turned its attention back to the challenge and established the West Coast of Africa Station, known as the 'preventative squadron', which for the next 50 years operated against the slavers. By the 1850s, around 25 vessels and 2,000 officers and men were on the station, supported by nearly 1,000 'Kroomen''experienced fishermen recruited as sailors from what is now the coast of modern Liberia. Service on the West Africa Squadron was a thankless and overwhelming task, full of risk and posing a constant threat to the health of the crews involved. Contending with pestilential swamps and violent encounters, the mortality rate was 55 per 1,000 men, compared with 10 for fleets in the Mediterranean or in home waters.[82] Between 1807 and 1860, the West Africa Squadron seized approximately 1,600 ships involved in the slave trade and took custody of 150,000 Africans who were aboard these vessels.[83] However, most of these people were then transported by the navy to the British colony of Sierra Leone, where they were made to serve as 'apprentices' in the colonial economy.[84] The last recorded slave ship to land on American soil was the Clotilde, which in 1859 illegally smuggled a number of Africans into the town of Mobile, Alabama.[85] The Africans on board were sold as slaves; however, slavery was abolished 5 years later following the end of the American Civil War. The last survivor of the voyage was Cudjoe Lewis who died in 1935.[86]

Action was also taken against African leaders who refused to agree to British treaties to outlaw the trade, for example against 'the usurping King of Lagos', deposed in 1851. Anti-slavery treaties were signed with over 50 African rulers.[87] The British campaign against the slave trade by other nations was an unprecedented foreign policy effort.

Although the slave trade had become illegal, slavery remained a reality in British colonies. Wilberforce himself was privately convinced that the institution of slavery should be entirely abolished, but understood that there was little political will for emancipation. In parliament, the Emancipation Bill gathered support and received its final commons reading on 26 July 1833. Slavery would be abolished, but the planters would be heavily compensated, and slaves on plantations were required to remain as slaves on the plantations for a further six years. Thank God, said William Wilberforce, that I have lived to witness a day in which England is willing to give twenty millions sterling for the Abolition of Slavery. After several years of peaceful protests, full emancipation for all was legally granted in Trinidad ahead of schedule on 1 August 1838, making it the first British colony with slaves to completely abolish slavery.[88]

The last country to ban the 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 trade.[89][90]

[edit] Abolition argument

The Abolitionists argued that the slave trade changed the face of Africa, pushing them into constant wars as a result of the Europeans' ever-growing demands for slaves. They argued that even in Africa, the Africans' lives revolved around the slave trade's needs through the constant wars and battles to secure enough slaves for the Europeans. Although people avoided mentioning the horrid living conditions of slave trade ships out of fear of the animosity it could cause, the abolitionists incorporated the high mortality rates in their argument against slavery. Even though the abolitionists incorporated the idea of European superiority in their platform, they argued the slave trade hindered the progress of African race. They, however, had to contend with those who invested in the slave trade, who argued that the slave trade was essential for the survival of the economy. Others argued that despite the cruel conditions on the ships, the overall conditions of Africa were worse. The debate over slavery went on for decades before abolition was finalized.[91]

[edit] Apologies

In 1998, UNESCO designated August 23 as International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. Since that occurrence, a number of events surrounding the recognition of the effect of slavery on both the enslaved and enslavers have come to pass.

On 9 December 1999 Liverpool City Council passed a formal motion apologising for the City's part in the slave trade. It was unanimously agreed that 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.[92]

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. Another factor is that the descendants of the slaves, living in the United States and in the European countries mentioned, are generally much better off, economically, than the descendants of those who remained and who are living in Africa.[citation needed] Apologies on behalf of African nations, for their role in trading their countrymen into slavery, also remains an open issue, as the slave trade could not have existed or have been maintained without the cooperation of these African nations.[citation needed] As of 2009, efforts are underway to create a UN Slavery Memorial as a permanent remembrance of the victims of the atlantic slave trade.

On January 30, 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.[93]

On November 27, 2006, then 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.[94] Mr Blair again apologized on March 14, 2007.[95]

On February 24, 2007 the Virginia General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution Number 728[96] 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 May 31, 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 Southern state to pass a slavery apology, following votes by the legislatures in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.[97]

On August 24, 2007, Ken Livingstone (then 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 made.[98]

On July 30, 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.[99]

On June 18, 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, the nation's first President of African descent.[100]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Thomas, Hugh.The Slave Trade. Simon and Schuster, 1997.
  2. ^ Narrative of Frederick Douglass
  3. ^ a b King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Houghton Mifflin Books. 1998. ISBN 0618001905. http://books.google.com/books?id=rXv8ehP_F5oC&printsec=frontcover. 
  4. ^ Klein, Herbert S. and Jacob Klein. The Atlantic Slave Trade. Cambridge University Press, 1999. pp. 103'139.
  5. ^ BBC Quick guide: The slave trade
  6. ^ Welcome to Encyclopædia Britannica's Guide to Black History
  7. ^ Migration Simulation
  8. ^ Ronald Segal, The Black Diaspora: Five Centuries of the Black Experience Outside Africa (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995), ISBN 0-374-11396-3, page 4. "It is now estimated that 11,863,000 slaves were shipped across the Atlantic. [Note in original: Paul E. Lovejoy, "The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa: A Review of the Literature", in Journal of African History 30 (1989), p. 368.]"
  9. ^ Eltis, David and Richardson, David. The Numbers Game. In: Northrup, David: The Atlantic Slave Trade, 2nd edition, Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002. p. 95.
  10. ^ Basil Davidson. The African Slave Trade.
  11. ^ "African Holocaust How Many". African Holocaust Society. http://www.africanholocaust.net/html_ah/holocaustspecial.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-04. "While traditional studies often focus on official French and British records of how many Africans arrived in the 'New World' these studies neglect the death from raids, the fatalities onboard the ships, introduced European diseases, the victims from the consequences of enslavement, the trauma of refugees displaced by slaving activities. The numbers of arrivals also neglects the volume of Africans who arrived via pirate ships who for obvious reasons wouldn't have kept records." 
  12. ^ "African Holocaust Special". African Holocaust Society. http://www.africanholocaust.net/html_ah/holocaustspecial.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-04. 
  13. ^ Historical survey > Slave societies
  14. ^ Historical survey > Slave societies
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  18. ^ Kwaku Person-Lynn, African Involvement In Atlantic Slave Trade.
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  23. ^ "Smallpox Through History". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. http://www.webcitation.org/5kwKpBPdn. 
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  27. ^ Thornton, page 112
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  29. ^ Thornton, page 94
  30. ^ Thornton, page 45
  31. ^ a b c http://www.the4thworld.net/node/15
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  34. ^ Thornton, page 304
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  38. ^ Howard Winant (2001) , The World is a Ghetto: Race and Democracy Since World War II, Basic Books, p. 58.
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  100. ^ Agence France-Presse. "Obama praises 'historic' Senate slavery apology". Google News, June 18, 2009. Accessed 22 July 2009.

[edit] Further reading

  • Anstey, Roger: The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition, 1760'1810. London: Macmillan, 1975. ISBN 0333148460.
  • Clarke, Dr. John Henrik: Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust: Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism. Brooklyn, N.Y.: A & B Books, 1992. ISBN 1881316149.
  • Curtin, Philip D: Atlantic Slave Trade. University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.
  • Daudin, Guillaume: "Profitability of slave and long distance trading in context: the case of eighteenth century France", Journal of Economic History, 2004.
  • Diop, Er. Cheikh Anta: Precolonial Black Africa: A Comparative Study of the Political and Social Systems of Europe and Black Africa. Harold J. Salemson, trans. Westport, Conn.: L. Hill, 1987. ISBN 088208187X, ISBN 0882081888.
  • Doortmont, Michel R.; Jinna Smit (2007). Sources for the mutual history of Ghana and the Netherlands. An annotated guide to the Dutch archives relating to Ghana and West Africa in the Nationaal Archief, 1593'1960s. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-15850-4. 
  • Drescher, Seymour: From Slavery to Freedom: Comparative Studies in the Rise and Fall of Atlantic Slavery. London: Macmillan Press, 1999. ISBN 0333737482.
  • Emmer, Pieter C.: The Dutch in the Atlantic Economy, 1580'1880. Trade, Slavery and Emancipation. Variorum Collected Studies Series CS614. Aldershot [u.a.]: Variorum, 1998. ISBN 0860786978.
  • Franklin, John Hope: From Slavery to Freedom, 3rd ed. New York: Knopf, 1967.
  • Gomez, Michael Angelo: Exchanging Our Country Marks (The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and AnteBellum South). Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998. ISBN 0807846945.
  • Hall, Gwendolyn Midlo: Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links. Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 2006. ISBN 0807829730.
  • Horne, Gerald: The Deepest South: The United States, Brazil, and the African Slave Trade. New York, NY : New York Univ. Press, 2007. ISBN 9780814736883, ISBN 9780814736890.
  • James, E. Wyn: "Welsh Ballads and American Slavery", Welsh Journal of Religious History, 2 (2007), pp. 59'86. ISSN 0967-3938.
  • Klein, Herbert S.: The Atlantic Slave Trade. Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0521460204, ISBN 0521465885.
  • Lindsay, Lisa A. "Captives as Commodities: The Transatlantic Slave Trade". Prentice Hall, 2008. ISBN 9780131942158
  • Meltzer, Milton: Slavery: A World History. New York: Da Capo Press, 1993. ISBN 0306805367.
  • Northrup, David: The Atlantic Slave Trade, 2nd edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002. ISBN 0618116249.
  • Rodney, Walter: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press; Revised edition, 1981. ISBN 0882580965.
  • Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in the Transatlantic World. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2007. ISBN 9780765612571.
  • Solow, Barbara (ed.). Slavery and the Rise of the Atlantic System. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. ISBN 0521400902.
  • Thomas, Hugh: The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440'1870. London: Picador, 1997. ISBN 033035437X.
  • Thornton, John: Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400'1800, 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN 0521622174, ISBN 0521627249, ISBN 0521593700, ISBN 0521596491.
  • Williams, Chancellor: Destruction of Black Civilization Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D., 3rd ed. Chicago: Third World Press, 1987. ISBN 0883780305, ISBN 0883780429.
  • Williams, Eric: Capitalism & Slavery. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994 (first published 1944). ISBN 0807821756, ISBN 0807844888.

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