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The Atlantic Slave Trade (Chapter 20 Section 3)
Transcript of The Atlantic Slave Trade (Chapter 20 Section 3)
and was an institution of forced labor meant to address
the need for workers on plantations and in mines. Slavery was not a new institution; it existed in Africa
for many years before the introduction of Europeans. African rulers enslaved prisoners of war, or sold prisoners of war
and criminals into slavery, to be controlled by wealthy persons
in Southeast Asia. Slavery in Africa and Southeast Asia allowed for social mobility.
Slaves could own property, hold positions of power, and even
escape slavery. The Spanish and Portuguese who had settled in the
Americas soon needed a new labor force to combat
the loss of Native Americans (their original laborers),
who had been decimated by diseases. Africans were a logical choice for labor replacements
for three reasons:
Many Africans had been exposed and were immune to European diseases
Many Africans had prior experience in farming
All Africans were unfamiliar with the Americas, and thus had nowhere to escape Thus, the Atlantic slave trade was born. In the first century of the Atlantic slave trade (16th century),
300,000 Africans were imported to the Americas.
By the end of trading in 1870, another 9.2 million Africans
found themselves relocated to a strange, cruel land. Importantly, the figure of 9.5 million Africans imported to the Americas does NOT represent all of the Africans who were sent
from their homeland.
An estimated 20% of the Africans on each slave ship perished,
committed suicide, or were murdered before their ship reached
Consequently, countless more thousands or millions of Africans
were stolen for the purpose of slavery, although their purpose
was never realized. (20% of 9.5 million is 1.9 million*) While Spain and Portugal were responsible for the
largest numbers of enslaved Africans in the Americas,
the Dutch, English, and French also participated
in this inhumane institution. African leaders were as guilty as Europeans in facilitating
the Atlantic slave trade. Many allowed thousands of their
own people to be taken away in exchange for European
Greed truly is the root of all evil. Yet many other African rulers fought against
slavery and the Atlantic slave trade.
However, their opposition was not strong
enough. Determined Europeans found
alternative routes to find Africans, as well
as other African leaders eager to sell their
captives into enslavement. You see, for African leaders, as with Europeans, this
was business. Together these groups established a
system known as the triangular trade. On leg one, Europeans transported goods to Africa,
which were given in exchange for African captives.
On leg two, known as middle passage, the captives
claimed in Africa were transported to the Americas
where they were sold or traded for goods indigenous
to the Americas.
On leg three, the goods and riches received by
Europeans in exchange for Africans were returned
to Europe, where the goods were traded or sold, and
the European goods and monies were used to
finance the next trip back to Africa. Middle passage was brutal for the cargo...African captives.
Treatment was horrific, and death and suicide were quite
common. [see Amistad film clip] African slaves in the Americas had little choice
but to bond together, rallying around their
culture, or they would suffer more or perish. Resistance was common in varying forms:
Minor disobedience; breaking tools, working slowly
Major disobedience; murder, rebellion Ultimately, slavery proved to be wildly successful for Europeans
and colonists. Much of the Americas, including the present-day
United States, was built on the backs of Blacks (slaves). Much
profit was also gained at their expense. Africans, both slaves and those who remained in Africa, suffered immeasurably.
Besides the physical and emotional toil incurred by slaves stolen away to the Americas, African communities dwindled in size and strength due to the greed of their leaders, who traded so many thousands of their own kind away. The weapons received by African rulers
in exchange for captives also furthered
future warfare, which claimed more lives
and crippled African cultures; yet another
consequence of the avarice of some African leaders. In sum, slavery in the Americas was a pivotal
step in building up new civilizations; however,
the cost of this growth and increase in wealth
included innumerable and unimaginable
perils for an innocent and unwitting African