Voices & Voyages

of the Transatlantic Slave Trade


Voices & Voyages

of the Transatlantic Slave Trade


A textbook chapter written by the 9th-grade world history class


“Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”  

–Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Our perceptions of people and places can be vastly distorted when we only have one perspective on them. The Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie explores this idea in her TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.” Adichie explains that viewing others from a narrow perspective prevents us from authentically connecting and robs people of dignity. People with power can spread a single story and attach harmful stereotypes to a marginalized group. When we reject the single story and seek out many perspectives, we can mitigate some of this damage and approach a better understanding.

The single story is dangerous when applied to history because it reinforces a simplified view of people, places, or events. History (or hi-story) is really many stories, many interpretations. As storytellers, historians have great power and responsibility. We can apply Adichie’s lesson to history in two ways. First, we can seek to understand multiple stories about any group or event, and second, we can interpret historical conflicts through the lens of what stories each group believed about the other.

In our world history class, we kept in mind the danger of a single story as we navigated multiple perspectives on the transatlantic slave trade. Between 1525 and 1866, European slave traders forced 12.5 million Africans onto ships destined for the Americas. 10.7 million of these Africans survived the horrific transatlantic journey and started new lives as slaves in the New World. In this textbook chapter on the slave trade, we try to mitigate the danger of a single story by incorporating multiple perspectives and challenging common assumptions. We bring together a diverse range of sources, including many firsthand accounts. However, we have come to accept that it is impossible to completely eliminate bias. Historians who challenge others’ assumptions and biases cannot entirely transcend their own.

Volume and direction of the transatlantic slave trade, 1525-1866. Source:

One might ask, why should we study the transatlantic slave trade? Why is it significant? Well, one important reason is that its legacies are still with us today. The slave trade, slavery, and slave-related industries formed the foundation of the United States economy. The slave trade also had major effects on economies in Africa and Europe. We see the legacies of the slave trade and of resistance to slavery in some of the cultural traditions of the African diaspora. The slave trade and its aftermath underlie our modern notions of what it means to be black or white. Another reason for learning about the transatlantic slave trade is that it can provide perspective on modern-day slavery, as the global traffic in human beings continues in different forms.

In order to provide a comprehensive view of the transatlantic slave trade, we have divided the topic into four sections: Slave Perspectives and Experiences, European Perspectives and Experiences, African Perspectives and Experiences, and Human Rights. The first three sections bring together multiple stories of the slave trade, as opposed to one simple narrative. Our Human Rights section links the abolitionist movement to the rise of international human rights law and discusses human trafficking today. We hope that our readers gain a better understanding of the diverse human stories of the transatlantic slave trade.


Slave Perspectives & Experiences

Slave Perspectives & Experiences


The testimonies of formerly enslaved Africans serve as powerful lenses into the past.

This section will analyze various slave narratives in order to discover different aspects of their lives. We will begin by describing the hardships of the traverse itself, known as the Middle Passage and then explore the slave trade in more detail where they were traded. We will examine places such as North America, the Caribbean, and South America, zooming in on the perspectives and experiences of the poor slaves which were cruelly traded across the Atlantic. We hope this will give you a fuller picture of the Atlantic Slave Trade, which was such an important event in history, affecting our lives even today.


Enslavement in Africa


Depiction of a coffle of enslaved men, women, and children in central Africa, published in The Last Journals of David Livingstone (1874). Source:

Africans who lived through the slave trade all had individual perspectives and opinions on the events that occurred. It is important to understand how they felt, to better understand all that happened. During that time, a total of 12.5 million enslaved Africans were put on ships to be sent to the Americas. These people all felt the loss of hope as they approached their ship, knowing that they would never be free people again. The people who saw a possibility of escape as they were marched to the coast of Africa bound in cordage, felt sorrow when they saw the iron shackles that awaited them. Looking at their loss of liberty, the enslaved felt despair, and some had tears in their eyes.

Everyone of them has a unique story of how they got to that point. One man, Venture Smith, was enslaved at age seven. When his father's kingdom was threatened by another African nation, they were forced to pay a large sum of money, to ensure their people’s safety. When the enemy promised not to harm them, they let their guard down, and ultimately ended up being attacked by them. Venture's family attempted to retreat one night, but a lit fire gave away their location to the enemy. When his family was brought back to their camp, the women and children were treated decently, but his father was tortured for information on his money’s location. In the end, he died without giving away any information. Venture and the rest of his family were separated and marched to the coast of Africa to be sold as slaves. Some of the enslaved would describe the people who would sell them to the foreigners as African traitors.

As a child, Olaudah Equiano was also captured by other Africans. He and his sister were stolen from their home, and carried of to the coast to be sold. He was first in awe at the big ship that waited at sea. He then became terrified as he was forced to board it. The frightening experience of seeing foreigners for the first time combined with the horrific sight of other Africans being chained up led him to faint. Equiano first assumed that these people were going to eat him. Filled with sorrow, he was offered liqueur to get him back to health. But as the ship took off, he felt lonely and abandoned.

Some Africans were tricked on board slave tricks. Martha King recounted her grandmother story of enslavement in an interview. She said, “A big boat was down at the edge of the bay and the people were all excited about it and some of bravest went up pretty close to look at it. The men on the boat told them to come on board and they could have pretty red handkerchiefs, red and blue beads, and big rings. A lot of them went on board, and the ship sailed away with them. My grandmother never saw her folks again.” There is also a story of sibling who went aboard a slave ship while being invited to a dance. They fell asleep on board, and when morning came, they were already far away from the shore. There is another instance when a couple was asked if they needed a job. They boarded a ship not knowing and were later enslaved. In all of these circumstances, they were not expecting to end up the way they did. These people were forcefully separated from everything they had ever known, and had no preparation for what was to come next. The common theme in all of these stories is the sorrow and despair described when they realize that they will most likely never return to their community, family, and homeland. After slaves were captured from Africa, they still had a long and hard path ahead of them. In fact, their troubles had hardly begun. 


The Middle Passage


Once the Africans were aboard the slave ships, they became a part of a large and extensive trade route called the Middle Passage. The Middle Passage was a triangular transatlantic trade route of slave traders connecting Africa to the Americas and to Europe. Millions of Africans underwent the journey to the New World as slaves to work on plantations and in households. Ships from Europe and the Americas departed for African markets with manufactured goods to trade for slaves to sell in the Americas. Such goods were often textiles, brass pans, and even firearms. The Middle Passage spanned around four hundred years, from the 1500’s to around 1900, with the height of the trade during the 18th century.

The conditions onboard were terrible. Many Africans remarked that the stench below deck was nauseating. Slaves were presented with little food or water and spent most of their days crammed together below deck. Sickness spread like wildfire across ships despite the traders’ attempts to keep the slaves healthy. The crew would often make slaves dance to keep in good shape, and they took the healthy slaves above deck sometimes for fresh air.

Vastly outnumbered and in fear of rebellions, slave traders were very harsh and strict with the slaves. If a slave didn’t live up to the trader’s standards, the slave trader would resort to a punishment of flogging, or whipping. Slaves were frequently flogged if they were slow or refused to obey.

As the slave trade progressed, more and more slaves were being shipped across the Atlantic ocean. To maximize their ship’s carrying capacity, slaveholders would often store slaves lying down on shelves stacked around two feet apart on top of each other, giving the slaves less space. They were now able to fit hundreds of slaves on a decently sized vessel. Laws were eventually passed giving the slaves more space onboard and slave numbers were regulated based on the size of each ship.

"Stowage of the British Slave Ship 'Brookes' Under the Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788," published by the Plymouth Chapter of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1789). Source: Wikimedia Commons

Death & Disease

Diseases left many of the slaves lying in corners, on the bridge of death. Many slaves remembered that it “smelled of death” as nearly everyone fell ill due to new diseases on the ships, their close quarters, or to the poor food and sea sickness. Nearly two million slaves died on the journey. This number was largely due to sickness and also to suicide. Some slaves rebelled and tried to jump overboard rather than submit to the slave traders.

Death rates on the trips reached around 15-20 percent due to a combination of disease, starvation, mistreatment, and suicide. Around 10.7 million slaves survived the journey and arrived in the New World. A few of the ones that lived learned to read and write and then later wrote accounts of their journey in the Middle Passage.

Many slaves did not know what lay in store for them when they boarded the slave ships. Some were filled with astonishment and some with terror. The Africans had never seen such behavior or been treated such. They had no knowledge of where they were going or what awaited them there. They especially didn’t realize that their horrors had only just begun. There are very few accounts of the Middle Passage written by slaves who had actually experienced conditions on a slave ship at first hand. For Africans who did survive and later recorded their story, the Middle Passage was often the central event, so they described it as best as they could.


North American Slave Experiences


Slavery in North America, as always with chattel slavery, was a heinous system. However, in America more than other places, it left a lasting scar upon the social and economic structures of the country. It also cost over a million lives to eradicate, at the cost of civil war. The slaves were kept from reading and writing, and were brutally treated, with incredibly high mortality rates. In fact, the average slave’s life expectancy at birth could’ve been as low as 20 years in some places! There are, therefore, very few written records from slaves. Most are from slaves that were released, or were able to buy their own freedom.

Newspaper advertisement, Charleston, South Carolina (c. 1780s). Source: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Control Over Their Lives

A common theme in these writings is control. When a human is captured and put into slavery, they lose a large amount of control over their lives, being “owned” thereafter by another person. They might have their spouses and children sold to different slaveowners and be forced to work 18 hours a day, even while pregnant. By buying back their freedoms, they could regain control over their lives, but this was a momentous task for the vast majority of slaves. In fact, it was hard for slaves to earn money at all, save the lucky few who reached an agreement with their masters for manumission. Venture Smith, a former slave, said on how he acquired his freedom, “I hired myself out at Fisher's Island, and earned twenty pounds; thirteen pounds six shillings of which my master drew for the privilege, and the remainder I paid him for my freedom.” In this way he regained control over his life, and spent most of the rest of it making money to free his fellow slaves.

Others who weren’t able to get deals with their masters or were mistreated sometimes tried to free themselves by other means. A slave named William Grimes said, “This hard treatment continuing for some time. I at length resolved to run away. This approach was punished brutally, however, as he recounts “So they brought me out and...whipped me until I could hardly stand, and then told me if I did not run away, he would whip me three times a day, and make me carry three rails to one, all day.”2 Many slaves tried to run away, and noble souls on the underground railroad tried to help others run away too, with varying degrees of success.

Some rejected the control of their owners not with escape, but rebellions, large and small. Some slaves made the sacrifice of jumping overboard the slave ships to die rather than to be enslaved. Others created rebellions on the slave ships. On land, too, one source (The Abolition Project) says, “On the plantations, many enslaved Africans tried to slow down the pace of work by pretending to be ill, causing fires or ‘accidentally' breaking tools. Whenever possible, enslaved Africans ran away. Some escaped to South America [or England]. All of these acts made slavery less profitable.” 

In the end, it seems clear that slavery was not a good thing, and took all control of a slave’s life away from them. They may have tried to fight back, but until emancipation was achieved, many more simply had most of their lives stolen from them to satisfy the greed of their owners.


South American Slave Experiences


The slave trade in South America is often overlooked from a North American perspective, despite the fact that approximately 5.4 million enslaved Africans (or about half of all those who survived the Middle Passage) landed South America. 4.9 million slaves disembarked in Brazil alone. The importation of African slaves to South America began around 1526 and came to an end in the 1860s. Slavery lasted longer in Brazil than in any other country, ending only with abolition in 1888. 

From around 1600 to 1650, sugar was Brazil’s leading export at over 95 percent, but when gold and diamonds were discovered in the 1690s, many mines bought slaves instead to extract the diamonds and gold. However, by 1760, most of the gold had been mined out, and sugar was exported more. By 1825, over half of the population was enslaved. Even more slaves were imported once coffee production exploded after it was introduced in the 1830s. It is impossible to get a full picture of the transatlantic slave trade without looking at the lives of the black slaves who were shipped to South America to work on large plantations and in mines all over Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, and other South American countries.

Slave Conditions in the Mines and Plantations

Conditions for the slaves were very bad. Nearly all of the slaves were woken up at five o’clock, either on their own or by an overseer. Throughout the day, they were exposed to the elements, enduring everything from unbearably hot sun to the pouring rain. Midday was worst out in the fields, and the sun’s heat meant many suffered from sun-based fevers and heatstroke every day. The slaves were sometimes forced to work at night too, at the command of the master. Many were victims of malaria, plague, smallpox, and other diseases due to the cramped, dirty, unsanitary conditions. Especially on the plantation, slaves were considered expendable, and many were worked to death, only living on average for about a year or two. The owners dismissed the deaths of slaves because it was economically better for the slaves to work really hard until they dropped dead instead of letting them take it easy sometimes, because production increased a lot and the owners made more money.

Work on the plantations

Every year after the harvest, the first thing the slaves would be assigned to to prepare for the new plants was the cutting down of small trees and saplings. Slaves were given scythes, which they used to cut down the trees. They hacked at the trees for twelve hours a day, from dawn until dusk, until the entire field was cleared of small trees. This process usually took about two months to entirely strip the forest of the small trees, after which they proceeded to the second step.

Next, the slaves would burn away sections of the forest to destroy bigger trees in controlled fires, which did not take very much time. The ashes were then cleared away so they could start weeding. The slaves weeded small plants, shoots, and other plants that would interfere with the crops. They were given weeding hooks to do the job, their backs bent over the ground all day, while they weeded. 

The process of clearing the fields for the next harvest usually ended in January, and the slaves were then assigned to plant rice, cotton, and millet. Slaves bent over the ground for hours at a time, planting the crops. Slaves planting cotton were given a hoe to sow seeds with, but the slaves planting the rice and millet were given only a stick with an iron point on the end. After planting, slaves were delegated to the task of picking cotton, and harvesting rice. They would sit in the sun, picking bales of cotton or cutting the rice plants at the stalk and beating it so that the rice fell into a basket. This whole process repeated every year.

A scene of slaves processing manioc (cassava) from The History of Slavery and the Slave Trade by William Blake (1862). Source:

Work in the Mines

Every day, the slaves went down at five o’clock in the morning to the mines. Some went to the rivers where they panned for diamonds and gold. They were forced to stand in the water all day, sifting through, sludge, pebbles, and precious metals and stones. Others were sent to caves and underground passages to mine. There were dangers underground, and many slaves died from landslides and falling rocks, accidentally dislodged. Others still died from carbon monoxide poisoning and other harmful gases inside the mines. The slaves were often malnourished, and many had to eat spoiled and rotting food, as it was the only food available.


Caribbean Slave Experiences


The slave trade in the Caribbean was different from anything found in North or South America. The Caribbean is a small collection of islands in between North and South America, and hence is often overlooked, but in fact there is much to be learned from the perspectives of slaves in the Caribbean. In this chapter we will study various aspects of a slave’s experience in the Caribbean.

Aspects Unique to the Caribbean

Despite its relatively small size, the Caribbean was an ideal destination for slaves from the slave traders' perspective. The optimal climate for sugar cultivation contributed to a high demand for slave labor. The Caribbean accumulated almost 4.8 million slaves between the years 1526 and 1867, making it a top destination for African slaves, second only to Brazil. This caused the ratio of slaves to masters to skyrocket. In the early eighteenth century, at the peak of sugar production, about eighty percent of the Caribbean population consisted of enslaved Africans. No other locations had such a high percentage. Being outnumbered inspired fear in many slaveholders, and as a result they treated their enslaved workforce more harshly. This dynamic of white fear of black bodies continued after abolition with devastating consequences.


From the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries, most of the slaves arriving in the southernmost islands of the Caribbean, known as the French Caribbean due to the colonial presence there, came primarily from areas known as West Central Africa and St. Helena. Many others were sourced from places such as the Bight of Benin, some after being marched through Africa to reach the coast. However, slaves destined for the Northernmost islands, known as British Caribbean for similar reasons, came largely from the Bight of Biafra and the Gold Coast, as well as many other regions, once again often after being marched through Africa.

Arrival In the Caribbean

The slaves arriving in the Caribbean were thrown into a large new world which they did not understand, as many of the inventions and conventions that could be found in major ports in the Caribbean were not seen in most parts of Africa. This only added to their fear, as many held onto the belief they would be eaten by the strange and violent creatures that were white men. While still in a daze from their arrival, they were shipped off to large markets where they are sold to the highest bidder, but could be bought for as low as 7 pounds. Here too, they were treated as animals, with only a practical value and given no regard as human beings.  Some children were bought even in the womb of the mother, but there was no action they could take to prevent these actions. Though the arrival was brutal, the troubles of these poor souls were only beginning.

Cutting the Sugar Cane, Antigua, aquatint by William Clark (1823). Source: British Library


Once purchased by their masters, slaves were typically sent to work on large plantations similar to those in North and South America where they were worked brutally hard, and were often flogged. Many slaves recall the corporal punishments which were so terrible that the recipients fainted from the pain alone. In addition to this, slaves received very little in the ways of food and clothing or other daily necessities, which only worsened their condition. Slaves were forced to work in the fields to grow a variety of different crops such as sugar, and hence spent most of their day hunched over in a far from ergonomic position, adding onto their already lengthy list of ailments. As the Caribbean was located on the Equator, the weather could vary from being freezing to burning, yet slaves almost never had a break due to weather. Slaves were traded from one plantation to another, going from one owner to another, their conditions fluctuating as they went. Life expectancy for slaves in the Caribbean was as low as 7-9 years.


Even when Britain and France abolished slavery in all their colonies, slaves did not live an easy life. In some places, slaves were temporarily put in a position of “apprenticeship” which was described by slaves such as Ashton Warner as being worse than slavery; instead of simply wanting a large profit, now the masters also wanted revenge on their slaves for being freed. It was not until the late 1800s that slavery was truly finished in the Caribbean and no more slaves were brought in.



European Perspectives & Experiences

European Perspectives & Experiences


Europeans played roles in the slave trade ranging from brutal ship captains to ardent abolitionists.

The institution of slavery in Europe existed long before the transatlantic slave trade. One instance of this was in Ancient Rome where slaves were commonplace. After the fall of Rome, slavery mostly disappeared from Europe, having been replaced with feudal serfdom, which obligated peasants to work for a lord but granted them some rights which were not available to slaves. But even after the fall of Rome, there were other instances of slavery that happened prior to the transatlantic slave trade.  A notable example is that from the 1400s, all the way to the 1800s, pirates would enslave Christians to sell at Islamic slave markets. Although it is evident that slavery has a long and notable history in Europe, before the transatlantic slave trade happened, in this chapter we will direct our focus to Europe’s connections to slavery during the time of the transatlantic slave trade. The first subject we will cover is the differing views on slavery. Following that will be a section on the experiences of slave owners and slavers, and finally, we will look at the effects of the transatlantic slave trade on the European economy, politics, and social structure. These topics are included so that we can look at slavery from multiple perspectives and have an unbiased view on the slave trade.


The Debate on Slavery


Europe was one of the major players in the transatlantic slave trade, which lasted from the 17th century to the 19th century. However, not all Europeans were pro-slavery. European opinions on slavery tended to fall into two categories: pro-slavery views and abolitionist views. The pro-slavery views tended to be based on justifying slavery both morally and economically, while abolitionist views tended to be moral arguments. By looking at these views and comparing them, we can start to see slavery as less of an issue of right and wrong and more of a perspective based issue, even though slavery is now considered completely immoral.

Justifications of slavery by Europeans tended to either be philosophical, religious, or economic. Philosophical justifications for slavery have been around since ancient Greece, where Aristotle claimed that some people were predisposed for slavery, while others were predisposed to rule. This theory became popular during the Medieval era, where a theologian by the name of Thomas Aquinas elaborated on Aristotle's theory. Aquinas believed that since this world is sinful, slavery is inevitable. He was also of the opinion that the slave is the physical instrument of the master, allowing the master to claim ownership to anything created or owned by the slave, including the slave’s own children. In the 16th and 17th centuries, these theories were brought up again to use as justifications of the slave trade. This time, philosophers brought in a religious component, claiming that Africans were descendants of the biblical figure Ham, who had been cursed into slavery by Noah.

Later on, theorists from the Southern United States created their own pro-slavery theories. John C. Calhoun, a prominent theorist (as well as Vice President in the early 19th century), thought that slavery created a stable society. Without slavery, he claimed, everyone would be able to participate in the democratic process, leading to chaos. Another popular theory, created by a man named Henry James Hammond, was the Mudsill Theory. The Mudsill Theory was that without a lower class to support the upper class, the upper class would cease to exist. The Mudsill Theory got its name from mudsills, which are a parts of a building that support the upper levels. A third theory, held by many different Southern theorists, was that a lowest class posed a direct threat to society. However, they were easily manipulatable and by enslaving this lower class, the threat was mitigated. Now that slavery has been abolished for over a hundred years, the argument that slavery stabilizes society seems completely illogical and quite racist. But to the people who had only ever lived with slavery, it would be scary for them to see such a radical societal change. Does this justify support of slavery? No, it doesn’t. However, these pro-slavery theories actually do a good job of humanizing the slave owners, and showing that they really just feared change.

John C. Calhoun, photographed by Mathew Brady (1849). Source: Wikimedia Commons

Another type of justification of slavery was the claim that slavery was integral to the success of the economy. This opinion was often voiced by American plantation owners, who believed that their plantations wouldn’t function without slave labor. However, this opinion was also held by British slave owners, who feared that the British economy would collapse without slavery. They also argued that if Britain didn’t have slavery, the profit would instead go to their rivals. Like the Southern pro-slavery theorists, these British slave owners also feared change. Like the Southerners, they were also quite wrong, as Britain continues to have a functional economy over a hundred years after the abolishment of slavery.

Abolitionist arguments were mostly based on the moral concept that slavery is fundamentally wrong. Like those who were for slavery, they also used religion to back themselves up. An example of this would be the quote from Luke 16:13, “No man can serve two masters.” This quote claims that a person can’t serve both God and a human master. Another abolitionist argument was that slavery was damaging the economy, population, and culture of Africa. This was true. The African population remained stagnant during the period in which there was slavery, and the African economy was damaged as well. One final abolitionist argument was that Africans were not some sort of inferior race, and were people just like the Europeans. They backed this up with the living evidence that was Olaudah Equiano. Equiano was a former slave, as well as the author of an autobiography entitled The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. Abolitionists argued that if Equiano was capable of writing a famous book in English, he couldn’t be from an inferior race.

In the end, the abolitionists won. However, simply saying that doesn’t tell the whole story. By looking back on the arguments for and against slavery, we can learn that those who were for slavery were humans too, albeit those with amoral beliefs. We can also gain important information into how the abolitionists succeeded and why. In the next sections, we will look at the actual day-to-day experiences of slavers and slave masters, then look at the effects that slavery had on Europe.


Perspectives of Slave Traders and Owners


Illustration of Africans forced to dance on the deck of a slave ship, published in 1837. Source:

Most history books nowadays focus on the slaves as the main point in the transatlantic slave trade. This is not a wrong way to interpret the slave trade, but the problem in this, is “The Danger of a Single Story”. The danger, in simple words, is the lack of perspectives and the bias(often unintentional) that comes with one story.

Most of the slave collectors were not working voluntarily. They were dragged into it while being drunk, and became indebted to the captain of the slave ship. Of course, they were given more food than the average slave would, but that didn’t make them much happier. On some of the slave-collecting trips, as much as half of the crew could die of sickness or starvation.

The sailors were also not enthusiastic about the implications of their job. Most of them were against the slavery, and only agreed with it due to the propaganda that told of the original slave residence as a place of suffering. Once they learned of the rich and happy conditions the non-slave Africans lived in, they finally had no reason to ever support the slave trade.

The ship captains were nothing short of madmen. The treatment of the crew was, in one word, horrifying. They starved, injured and killed the crew whenever they had any reason or meaning to. The crew members, it may be considered, have been worse off than the slaves, who at least had a final destination, and thus, were not killed.

The ship captains were indifferent towards the deaths of the slaves. As can be noted by the tone of their voices, they seemed to fake a hint of mourning in them, for it to feel more humane in the eyes(or ears) of the listener. However, they tried to justify the deaths by saying that “they were not well in the first place”. In addition, they did not bother to learn the names of the slaves, and simply referred to them with numbers when they passed away.

Overall, the amount of sins committed by the slave traders were much higher than the good deeds they did. To add on, their wrongdoings were given as a trait to all the crew that transported slaves, which has led to the opinion that everyone involved in the slave industry was a person with low morales. This was not true, as most of the crew were not voluntary, and would gladly retire from their slave-collecting job.

In the next section, we will discuss how, and in what ways, did the Slave Trade affect Europe.


Effects of the Slave Trade in Europe


The transatlantic slave trade had effects on Europe that were of many different variations. Not only did the slave trade have obvious economic effects, but it also caused less obvious changes in religious, philosophical, and social areas. In addition it was also a source of conflict between European countries who competed in the slave trade. Having knowledge of these effects is not only helpful but essential to understanding the workings of the transatlantic slave trade.

Economic Effects

While the exact scale and nature of the transatlantic slave trade’s economic effects on Europe is a subject of some controversy, it is not hard to see that many profited as a result. Because of this a new wealthy class was created. The profit was not exclusive to the super wealthy, the profiteers of the transatlantic slave trade also included: ship owners, slave traders, plantation owners, factory owners, ports, and bankers. Additionally it may be noted that even after slavery was abolished in parts of the British Empire, they still benefited from using the cheap cotton grown by slaves in other locations in their cotton mills. Not only did the 1838 Slavery Abolition Act not grant the slaves true freedom for another four years, it also gave a total of £20 million (£16 billion in today’s money) to slave owners as compensation for “their lost property.” That made up 40 percent of the government spending that year.

An 1833 satirical cartoon attacks abolition while also criticizing the proposed payments of £20 million in compensation to British slave owners. On the left, a slave owner and a Whig politician take £20 million out of the pocket of John Bull (the British equivalent of Uncle Sam), who is talking with an abolitionist. On the right, demeaning caricatures of newly freed slaves celebrate their emancipation in the British Caribbean. Source: John Carter Brown Library

The slave trade also became a source of European conflict, as it became increasingly profitable they began to fight over control of the routes, markets, and colonies. The trade also resulted in power shifts amongst nations, as nations with more maritime power and advantageous location for trade became more powerful. One instance of this is the Dutch Republic whose global trade networks allowed it to surpass other nations including Portugal and to become the most important European trading power on the African coast by the 1640s.

Social Effects

The social effects of the transatlantic slave trade included racism, which still exists today, and the creation of a new low social class. Prior to the transatlantic slave trade slavery was for the most part connected to war and punishment, and not to race, religion, or physical appearance. Overtime, as Europeans increasingly enslaved people based on their differences, and not as a form of punishment, Europeans began to associate and justify slavery with differences in religion, skin color, and culture. Eventually as the transatlantic slave trade grew, slaves became heavily associated with non-white skin.

Effects on Philosophy

The slave trade had an evident effect on philosophy, because philosophy looks at the fundamental nature of the world and reality, and therefore philosophers must consider why slaves should be slaves and what slavery means. Philosophers and theologians had to make sense of slavery in the construct of their beliefs. Early Christians such as Thomas Aquinas drew on the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle for justifications of slavery. Aristotle had stated that the master/slave relationship was of natural order in a hierarchical world. After 1517 Europeans began to shift their justifications to religion. Sixteenth and seventeenth century theologians combined both religion and philosophy, tying together Aristotle's argument with the Old Testament Biblical story of the Curse of Ham. Although the story says nothing about Ham’s skin color, the theologians assumed Ham was dark-skinned and that Africans were his descendants and were therefore also cursed into slavery3. On the other hand some like French philosopher Rousseau disapproved of the transatlantic slave system because he thought it was inhumane and cruel.

Effects on Religion

The transatlantic slave trade connected with religion in multiple ways. Some people referenced their religion to justify slavery, and others would likely use the same religion to argue the opposite. Some people became abolitionists as a result of how they interpreted their religion. Around the 15th century the Catholic Church was teaching against “unjust” slavery, beginning when enslavement of the recently baptised was prohibited in 1435, although under political pressure as the slave trade grew the response of the church became more divided. Popes began to justify enslavement of non-Christians as an “instrument for Christian conversion” In fact the first major shipment of African slaves to the Americas was initiated by Bishop De Las Casas in 1517.


African Perspectives & Experiences

African Perspectives & Experiences


Incorporating African voices is essential to understanding the transatlantic slave trade as a whole. 

To fully understand how Africans felt about the slave trade and how the slave trade affected Africa, we will consider three main topics. To begin, we’ll study the economic changes. After that, we’ll talk about the participation of African communities and governments in the slave trade. Then, we’ll move onto the impact of the slave trade on modern day society. Studying the changes in the economy of Africa is important because it shows us how the slave trade affected the growth of society as a whole as well as the life of the average person. Studying African complicity in the slave trade can help us understand both sides of the story, as well as how anyone can be affected by greed. Finally, the effects of the slave trade on society today are immense, and by studying them, we can understand our own society a lot better.


Economic Effects of the Slave Trade in Africa


At the core of any society lies its economy. An economy is defined by Merriam Webster as “the process or system by which goods and services are produced, sold, and bought in a country or region.” In other words, an economy is the flow of natural resources and human productivity within a society. Because everyone needs resources, such as food and water, to survive, everyone within a society is bound to their society’s economy. By studying its economy, we can understand any society on a fundamental level. In this section, we will be analyzing the European impact on African, specifically West African, society through the lens of economy.

To understand the European impacts on African society, we first must understand African society before the Europeans arrived. Before the late 15th century, there were three major West African empires as well as many more smaller kingdoms. The three major empires were the Empire of Ghana, the Empire of Mali, and the Empire of Songhai. These empires each started out as individual cities centered around a river. These cities would control their rivers and tax the trade along these rivers. Using the money earned from taxes, they could amass armies and conquer more and more land. This in turn enabled them to amass a bigger army and the cycle would continue. Eventually, Songhai, the biggest of the three empires, would span from modern-day Senegal to parts of Niger and Nigeria. Here is a map showing the African Empires at their prime.

Life in these empires consisted of lots of trading of various goods. Farmers grew crops such as rice, millet, sorghum, a type of grain similar to rice, bananas, yams, and various spices. To improve crop yield, they had iron tools and sometimes built terraces. Additionally, they harvested rubber from rubber trees and vegetable oil from oil palm trees. Cloth, another tradable commodity, was made out of fig tree bark, raffia palm, sheep and camel wool, and flax. Minerals and metals such as salt, iron, and gold were also traded. Finally, it is true that in precolonial Africa, slaves were traded.

When the Portuguese first travelled to West Africa, they brought many changes to African society. Africa had a new trading partner: Europe. European merchants imported natural resources, such as iron, copper, and cowry shells to Africa, but they also imported manufactured goods, such as jewelry, mechanical toys, cloth, and alcohol. In reality, European goods were over priced luxuries that normal people couldn’t afford, so with the exception of guns, most goods didn’t have a major impact on African society. It should be noted that officially, the church didn’t allow for any weapons to be traded to the Africans, but many merchants ignored this rule, trading guns and swords anyway. In return for the manufactured goods, Europeans would acquire textiles, carvings, spices, ivory, gum, and most importantly, slaves. Depicted below is a map of the intercontinental trade routes of the time.

Map of triangular trade routes with the goods that passed along each route. Source: Digital Bard

The transatlantic slave trade was very beneficial to the Europeans. The labor that the slaves provided were used in sustaining the colonies and operating the gold mines. The slave trade was also very beneficial to the African kings. The luxuries of the manufactured goods and alcohol was nice, but the most important item to trade for was the Europeans’ guns. From the African perspectives, guns greatly improved an army’s military strength by allowing enemies to be killed instantaneously from a distance. This allowed for conquest of other African kingdoms as well as the attainment of more slaves which could be traded with the Europeans. From the European perspective, by allowing African governments to fight wars for them, the Europeans could safely acquire vast amounts of slaves to fuel their colonies.

For lower and middle class people, however, the introduction of guns and the transatlantic slave trade had an extremely negative impact impact on their lives. To start with, the wars waged to capture slaves hindered many trading efforts across West Africa. Additionally, the high selling price of slaves and the lack of stable government encouraged bandits to roam and attack trading caravans. This also hindered trade. Finally, because of the enslavement of many farmers and artisans, it was hard to build up the surpluses necessary to spark trade.

In conclusion, the Europeans didn’t directly affect African trade that much. They usually stayed on the shore and had limited contact with villages and towns. However, the wars that they sponsored and instability that they caused diminished African trade to a fraction of what it was. By tracking the economy of West Africa before and after the introduction of a European presence, we have learned about the extent of the impact of Europe on Africa.


Complicity of Africans in the Slave Trade


Now, we will shift our focus from the economy of Africa to African slavery itself. In modern society, a lot of people talk about the slave trade in history classes. There are many histories of slavery, each with their own tale about it all started, the atrocities that were committed against slaves, how slave traders affected African societies, and how it was being resisted by slaves and free people. However, one major part that is commonly ignored is how some Africans helped contribute to the slave trade. Only a few historians have talked about this issue, and it gets almost no attention in schools.

Kidnapping Africans to put them into slavery was extremely widespread in Africa, however, it was not only done by Europeans. Many Africans did it simply because they wanted to make a lot of money. They went so far as to even set up a network to move and sell their victims, showing that this was quite a lucrative business that many people wanted in on. Though slavery had existed much earlier all around the world, there had never been such a large and widespread network of people “acquiring” and selling slaves.

It was not only done on an individual level, but also on a government level. A good example of this was the Bailor-Caulker clan of Sierra Leone. This clan was created by the African princess Seniora Doll, and Thomas Corker, an English agent of the Royal African Company. They married to solidify and increase their profits with international traders. They also hired other clans to capture people to sell. This shows the extremes that people went to to make money off of the slave trade, and shows how profitable it was.

The other main way Africans attained slaves was by capturing them as prisoners of war. Whenever two African countries fought battles, the prisoners would become slaves, either to the winning country, or later, to the European traders. One example is with the Gola and Ibau kingdoms. Warriors of each kingdom got into an argument over who killed a certain animal. This escalated into a fight, which escalated into a war, which the Gola tribe lost. Seven hundred of his warriors were captured, and one hundred were sold into slavery. This shows how the normal disputes African kingdoms countries got into contributed to the slave trade.

Another thing to note is that slavery was common before European traders arrived. Between the years 1076 and- 1600, one-third of the population of Ghana consisted of slaves. Mali also required huge amounts of slaves to support their empire, and slaves were also their number one export. The reason the activity really burgeoned was because Europeans were actively encouraging it and offering rewards. Selling Africans to the Europeans wouldn’t have seemed too unusual for them; it was just another opportunity for them to make more money.

African participation in the slave trade also took a toll on communities. An African named Obi Anthony Modebe related his father’s story of that time, saying “If you happen to capture someone, he becomes your slave. They didn’t really go out marketing for slaves. In those days, you couldn’t walk three or four miles from Illah without fearing for your life, because there would be people lurking in the bushesguerilla business. You could be in the farm working, and people would pounce on you and carry you away, to their town, and you would automatically become their slave.” This showed how slavery was an ingrained part of the culture of Africa, and how it caused a lot of stress on the African people.

In conclusion, slavery in Africa started well before Europeans came. It was already an ingrained part of society at that time. They also contributed a lot when Europeans came to take slaves.

Africans captured near the coast, aquatint by Catherine Prestell (late 18th century). Source:

Legacies of the Slave Trade in the African Diaspora


Before the transatlantic slave trade, kingdoms on the African continent were powerful and technologically advanced. Today, however, much of the African continent greatly lags behind and is mostly in a state of unrest. A very common question is “Why?”, and a common answer is “the transatlantic slave trade”. While this was a big factor, this was not the only reason. This section will be keying in on the effects of the slave trade on African society today.

The importance of studying this cannot be underestimated, as learning about the effects can open our minds up to both the positive and negative effects the transatlantic slave trade has had on African society today. We, as humans, can also learn from our mistakes and find ways to prevent similar outcomes from occurring. Until we fully understand the negative effects of the transatlantic slave trade, we cannot effectively take action to help communities which are still affected to this date. All these reasons culminate in the need to analyze the effects of the slave trade that still persist today.

To start, the slave trade left many legacies on the African continent. An interesting thing to ponder is why many African nations’ economies so greatly lag behind other economies. A possible explanation is that it was an indirect cause of the slave trade. After the slave trade ended, the European countries split the African territories among themselves, controlling everything, including their trade which affected their economy, which is one of the reasons why the African economy so greatly lags behind most other countries in the world today. One metric that shows this is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. The average GDP in African nations per capita was only $1676 in 2010, while the average for the world was about $10000, and for developed economies, about $39000.

The slave trade has also left many legacies on cultures throughout the African diaspora, including African American and Afro-Caribbean cultures. For example, as people had to communicate among the slaves and masters, they had to create simplified languages to communicate efficiently. These “pidgins” were passed on through the generations, with different colonies often having different forms. Another example is today, many African Americans have European names and not traditional African names. This is a direct consequence of the slave trade as upon arrival in the New World, many slaves were not allowed to keep their African names. Instead, a majority of them were forced to change their names to their slave masters’ names.    

One of the larger impacts of the slave trade on people of African descent is modern day racism, which still exists today. It took the Civil War to officially end slavery in the United States, and even so after the war, African Americans were still looked down upon, thought of as only worthy of being slaves and not on the same level as whites. The racism African Americans experience today is a lasting legacy of a centuries of whites looking down upon them.

In summary, the transatlantic slave trade had enormous impacts in the short term, and still has lasting, negative, long term effects to this date. These lasting effects, however, are not permanent and humanity can do its part to mitigate and even reverse these effects of the transatlantic slave trade. In addition, learning about the slave trade also helps us get a sense of how to prevent similar atrocities and their after effects from happening again. More specifically, respecting human rights is a step towards accomplishing said goals and preventing similar atrocities from happening again.


Slave Trade & Human Rights

Slave Trade & Human Rights


The movement to abolish the slave trade can be interpreted as the first international human rights campaign.

Why was the slave trade abolished? Back in the 1800s, slaves were quite common and very convenient. The only reason slavery was actually abolished was because people realized that the slaves’ human rights were being violated. The abolishment of the slave trade was the first case tried in an international court. After slavery was officially illegal, people began to develop actual laws for how people should treat each other. The abolition of slavery was the first successful international human rights campaign and was a big part in the progression of human rights. The central feature of human rights was to prevent another situation similar to slavery. But, this didn’t quite succeed. Although it might not seem as prominent as it used to be, slavery still happens in present times, and is surprisingly common. Current slavery has two major advantages for traffickers, slaves are much cheaper than they used to be and they are disposable. People are still trying to raise awareness for modern slavery, though. Many organizations today are working to end slavery once and for all.


Abolition of the Slave Trade


In the mid-to-late 18th century, the transatlantic slave trade was at its peak, with an estimated 80,000 Africans annually crossing the Atlantic Ocean. In total, over 12.5 million slaves were taken from Africa and moved to other countries, with the loss of approximately 2 million slaves during the ocean trip and many more upon arrival.

In the book, The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law, Jenny Martinez writes, “Within a relatively short time span, however, things began to change. In 1807, Britain became the first major seafaring country, followed shortly by the United States, to ban its subjects from participation in the slave trade. By the early 1840s, more than twenty nations—including all the Atlantic maritime powers—had signed international treaties committing to the abolition of the trade. By the late 1860s, only a few hundred slaves per year were illegally transported across the Atlantic. And by 1900, slavery itself had been outlawed in every country in the Western Hemisphere.” But why did slavery disappear? Historical evidence suggests that slavery didn’t die down on its own. Slavery was eradicated a combination of people who thought it was morally wrong and people who were motivated by economic self-interest.

Great Britain, the main advocate for the abolishment of slavery, was strongly against slavery because people started to realize that it was morally wrong. Britain persuaded other countries to abandon slavery using its international law. If a country failed to comply, Britain would coerce the country using its naval force. Britain would seize ships carrying slaves and punish the crew. Britain realized later that both military power and the international law had to be used at the same time in order to achieve the abolition of the slave trade.

Enslaved people who resisted and ex-slaves who spoke out about the horrors of slavery were key agents in the abolition of slavery. Slave revolts led by enraged slaves shocked the British government and made them see that the costs and dangers of keeping slavery in the West Indies were too high. Slaves liked Olaudah Equiano managed to buy their own freedom, talked about their horrible experiences, and helped raise awareness of the horrors of the slave trade. Equiano published his own autobiography which allowed people to see slavery through the eyes of a former enslaved African.

With Britain now supporting the abolition of slavery, abolitionists pushed to get other countries to ban the slave trade as well. It took a lot of effort in order to get the governments of all the countries involved. Large subsidies were paid to induce countries to agree to anti-slavery treaties with Britain. African chiefs were even paid to cease their involvement. All of this shows how much Great Britain opposed slavery because they were willing to pay so much money just to get rid of something that could have been very profitable.

The abolishment of slavery is special because it was the first successful episode ever in the history of international human rights law. This event even involved international courts, courts formed between nations and used for settling global disputes associated with the international laws. The international court's first cases were related to slave trade, which is not what people usually think. Most people relate international courts to more specific events like prosecution of Nazis after World War II, but don’t realize that slavery was the original “crime against humanity.”

Sparked by the end of slavery, the development of human rights was a big event because it set rules and regulations that became the standard of how people were suppose to be treated. Future global events such as the Holocaust were related to the idea of mistreatment of people and reminded everyone of how important human rights were.


The Development of Human Rights Theory


"Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" engraving (1787). Source: Digital Public Library of America

When it was trying to abolish slavery, Britain not only used its military power and made treaties with other countries, it also created one of the first instances of international law. International courts made of judges from different countries applied this to hundreds of slave trade-related cases, all around the Atlantic. But the most interesting part is that this was the first time human rights had successfully been brought into international concern.

In the movement to abolish the slave trade, we see the origins of modern human rights: the beliefs that every single person has basic rights that cannot be violated for any reason. For example, the United States Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The next instance of international courts was in the aftermath of World War II. This is widely regarded as the first use, leading to the common objection (at least in the US) that it puts everyone’s rights in the hands of other countries, which goes against the ideas of the people who wrote the US Declaration of Independence. This is one reason why it’s important to realize that international courts and law are not a product of the twentieth century; international law was accepted by the US only thirty years after it was written.

But the horrors of the mid twentieth century accentuated the need for an agreed-upon document outlining the basic human rights. Creating such a document proved difficult, however. It took three years of arguments and negotiations to create it. Representatives from all over the world worked to bring all of their countries’ political, as well as cultural, beliefs about human rights. Then on December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

To be useful, however, people have to know that they have these rights, and can do something if they’re not being honored. Eleanor Roosevelt, who lead the development of the UDHR, said that “without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” To avoid human rights disasters like the transatlantic slave trade and the Holocaust, people have to know that they have basic rights that cannot be violated, by anyone.

Unfortunately, this is not yet the case. Slavery, despite being illegal in every single country, is surprisingly common.


Slavery Today


The slave trade is widely known as something that happened in the past. But, even though slavery is illegal everywhere, 21 million people are still trapped in servitude today in almost every part of the world. Many of the everyday objects we come across such as cars and chocolate are made from the labors of forced workers today.

There are many conveniences of slavery to the modern human traffickers. Slaves today are quite cheap compared to the times of the transatlantic slave trade; the current price of a slave is less than 1 percent of what it used to be, on average 90 dollars, so they are much easier to obtain than they used to be. Furthermore, they are disposable. Back during the 1800s, the slaves had to be captured and transported on a ship all the way across the atlantic ocean, so they, once successfully brought to the United States, were valuable. But now, they are easy to transport and buy, so they are just killed off when they get sick.

Many people immigrating to wealthier countries in search of work become more vulnerable to human trafficking. They often can’t speak the language of the new country and are alone without their family back in their homeland, and so they are especially unsuspicious of traffickers. The traffickers pose as employers, but then exploit the immigrants into forced labor, and since they are unfamiliar in the new country it is difficult for them to call for help.

It is reasonable to think that over the years, slavery became more humane and less cruel, because of past slavery events, but that is truly not the case. Slaves work day and night in unbearable conditions and are shown no mercy. Human traffickers are just as harsh as they used to be, if not more so. In fact, these cheap prices and disposability of modern slaves have just encouraged the cruelty of human trafficking today.

Children sold into slavery in the fisheries of the Lake Volta region in Ghana. Source:

Children make up a fairly large portion of labor trafficking. Many impoverished families, because they can’t support their children, have given them up to work. These helpless children are taken advantage of, and in many cases are forced to work day and night with inhumane treatment and less than the bare minimum of food and sleep needed to survive. One of the most common forms of child labor in Ghana is working on fishing boats. Parents of poor families in Ghana are persuaded to send their children to work on fishing boats on Lake Volta. The employers lie to the parents, saying the children will only have to work a few hours a day in exchange for an education. But really, they are forced to work over half the day with hardly any food and are beaten and abused when they don’t work. Additionally, the boats they work on are dangerous and not strong against storms. Some of the children end up drowning in the water, entangled in fishing nets, and are never seen again by their families, and the parents are none the wiser.

Much of the treatment of slaves today is similar to how the slaves back during the transatlantic slave trade were treated, but it’s not all the same. Although most slavery worldwide is forced labor, in the United States a surprisingly small percentage of human trafficking is labor; most of it is sex trafficking. Some victims, quite often children, are brought into the United States by people with promises of a better life, education, and success, and then are forced into sexual exploitation. This type of slavery did exist back during the slave trade, but it was less common and was usually combined with labor.

Even though slavery has been banned everywhere, that hasn’t stopped human traffickers from enslaving people. But, these deeds do not go unnoticed. Today, many organizations are working to prevent human trafficking today and fully eradicate slavery.


Modern Anti-Slavery Activism


Many people assume that slavery is a thing of the past, ending with the abolishment of the transatlantic slave trade. But it is still a major problem, even in the seemingly perfect 21st century. Chances are that human trafficking is happening right at your doorstep without you even knowing it.

As shown in the diagram human trafficking is happening everywhere in the world, even in well developed regions of the world such as America. Here are some numbers: The average cost of a slave today is 90$, there are approximately 20-30 million slaves today also, approximately 600-800 thousand people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which approximately four-fifths are women and half are children, out of the 600-800 thousand humans trafficked approximately 14.5-17.5 thousand are trafficked to the United States. These statistics show that as outdated and a thing of the past we think human slavery is, it is still happening.

But on the bright side there are many organizations fighting human trafficking such as the Polaris Project, which operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a toll free hotline for exploited humans. Other resources include the Good Weave organization which helps child workers in the rug weaving industry, through their efforts they have brought child labor in the rug industry down by 75 percent. Another one of the many facets of human trafficking is the forced prostitution, organizations that deal with this problem, such as Prajwala, often raids brothels and rescues exploited women and children from brothels where they are sold over and over again. Another organization that takes a different approach is COSA or Child’s Organization of South Asia, which seeks to reach out to communities in Thailand about the dangers of human trafficking. It seeks to take the problem down at it’s roots.

All of these human trafficking are specialized in their respective fields but they all share some common traits. There seem to be two main approaches to human trafficking, the upstream and downstream method. One starts and tries to asks the question, what makes someone more prone to exploitation and human trafficking? Some characteristics they all share is they tend to be minorities that are discriminated against, be it government or people. They also tend to be ignorant of the threat that is human trafficking. Organizations that take this preemptive approach tend to try to educate a population about human trafficking. The second approach is one that targets individuals who have already been taken advantage of. Organizations like these are focused on the people who weren’t educated by organizations like COSA and educate them, with the hope that they will tell others about the horrors they’ve gone through and how to  prevent it.

A demonstration against human trafficking. Source:





In this textbook chapter, we examined the slave trade from multiple perspectives in an effort to mitigate the danger of a single story.

We tried to understand others’ motivations and move beyond initial assumptions. This helped us counteract our culture’s tendency to simplify and stereotype groups of people. We hope that in the future, our readers follow our lead and analyze history from different points of view. This method can be used not only in analyzing the past, but also in interpreting the present to approach a more truthful narrative.

Works Cited


slave perspectives and experiences

Aljoe, Nicole N. “Caribbean Slave Narratives: Creole in Form and Genre.” Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal 2.1 (2004). (link)

“Africa Enslaved: A Curriculum Unit on Comparative Slave Systems for Grades 9-12.” University of Texas at Austin. Last modified March 2006. (link)

Equiano, Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written by Himself.” Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina. (link)

“Estimates.” The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Emory University, 2013. (link)

Grimes, William. “William Grimes, 1784-1865. Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave. Written by Himself.” Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina. Accessed October 4, 2016. (link)

Khan, Andrew and Jamelle Bouie. “The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes.” Slate, June 2015. (link)

Mintz, S. and S. McNeil. “The Middle Passage.” Digital History. Accessed October 2016. (link)

“Resistance on the Plantations.” The Abolition Project. East of England Broadband Network and MLA East of England, 2009. Accessed October 4, 2016. (link

Rediker, Marcus. The Slave Ship: A Human History. New York: Penguin Group, 2007.

Smith, Venture. “Venture Smith, 1729?-1805. A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa: But Resident above Sixty Years in the United States of America. Related by Himself.” Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina. Accessed October 4, 2016. (link)

Warner, Ashton. “Negro Slavery Described by a Negro: Being the Narrative of Ashton Warner, a Native of St. Vincent's.” Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina. (link)



Alweis, Frank. New Dimensions of World History. New York: American Book Company, 1968.

“Arguments and Justifications.” The Abolition Project. East of England Broadband Network and MLA East of England, 2009. Accessed October 1, 2016. (link)

“British Involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.” The Abolition Project. East of England Broadband Network and MLA East of England, 2009. (link)

Equiano, Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written by Himself.” Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina. (link)

“European Christianity and Slavery.” African Passages, Lowcountry Adaptations. Lowcountry Digital History Initiative, 2013. Accessed October 1, 2016. (link)

“Europe Before Transatlantic Slavery.” Understanding Slavery Initiative, 2011. (link)

“Extracts from John Newton's Journal.” International Slavery Museum. National Museums Liverpool. (link)

Olusoga, David. “The history of British slave ownership has been buried: now its scale can be revealed.” The Guardian, July 11, 2015. (link)

Rediker, Marcus. The Slave Ship: A Human History. New York: Penguin Group, 2007.

“Slavery before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.” African Passages, Lowcountry Adaptations. Lowcountry Digital History Initiative, 2013. (link)

“The Proslavery Argument.” Boundless U.S. History. Boundless, September 20, 2016. Accessed October 1, 2016. (link)



Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic, June 2014. (link)

“GDP per capita: overview per country.” World Bank. Accessed October 2016. (link)

“Gross Domestic Product” in “Global Imbalances, Crisis, and the Lack of Global Governance.” Development and Globalization Facts and Figures. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2012. (link)

Khaminwa, Muhonjia. “Clothing in Africa.” Accessed October 2, 2016. (link)

Nunn, Nathan. “The Historical Origins of Africa’s Underdevelopment.” VoxEU. The Centre for Economic Policy Research, December 8, 2007. (link)

Perry, Felton E. “Kidnapping: An Underreported Aspect of African Agency During the Slave Trade Era (1440-1886).” Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies 35.2 (2009). (link)

“Precolonial African Economies.” Living While Black: Themes in African American Thought and Experience. Pennsylvania State University. Accessed October 2, 2016. (link)

Rediker, Marcus. The Slave Ship: A Human History. New York: Penguin Group, 2007.

Ross, Will. “Slavery’s long effects on Africa.” BBC News: Ghana, March 29, 2007. (link)

“Songhai, African Empire, 15th-16th Century.” South African History Online. Last modified November 14, 2011. (link)

“The Portuguese in Africa, 1415-1600.” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed October 2, 2016. (link)



“Abolitionism.” The Abolition of The Slave Trade. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 2012. Accessed October 1, 2016. (link)

“About Slavery: Slavery Today.” Free the Slaves. Accessed October 2016. (link)

“Arguments and Justifications.” The Abolition Project. East of England Broadband Network and MLA East of England, 2009. Accessed October 6, 2016. (link)

“Case Study 4: Jamaica (1831)–The Rebellion.” The Abolition Project. East of England Broadband Network and MLA East of England, 2009. Accessed October 8, 2016. (link)

“Antislavery Directory.” End Slavery Now. Accessed October 11, 2016. (link)

“Estimates.” The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Emory University, 2013. (link)

“Introduction to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Facing History and Ourselves. Accessed October 8, 2016. (link)

Jesionka, Natalie. “The Fight for Freedom: 7 Organizations Combatting Human Trafficking.The Muse, 2012. Accessed October 11, 2016. (link)

Martinez, Jenny S. The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

“More than Drinks for Sale: Exposing Sex Trafficking in Cantinas and Bars in the U.S.” Polaris Project, September 2016. (link)

“Slave Trade: the African Connection, ca 1788.” EyeWitness to History. Ibis Communications, Inc., 2007. Accessed October 8, 2016. (link)

“Suppressing the Trade.” The Abolition Project. East of England Broadband Network and MLA East of England, 2009. Accessed October 8, 2016. (link

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations, December 10, 2948. Accessed October 8, 2016. (link)

“Where We Work: Ghana” Free the Slaves. Accessed October 2016. (link)

“11 Facts About Human Trafficking.” Accessed October 1, 2016. (link)