African-American History: The Orgins of the Atlantic Slave Trade

I realized that not too many people are knowledgeable of African-American history. It is important that we know and understand history so that we can lead better futures. If more black people knew the history of their ancestors they would appreciate free education, they wouldn’t embrace each other as “nigga”, and most importantly they would value their lives.

My junior year I decided to minor in Africana Studies and as I result I feel liberated. The elementary and high school history books doesn’t present accurate information and they fail to give a true detailing of African-American history in the Americas. Therefore, I will assume that responsibility. I am the African-American history teacher and my lessons begins now!

First and foremost slavery is not an American entity. It was custom of ancient civilizations, including Africa, to possess slaves. The people who were forced into slavery were often prisoners of wars and captured women and children whose statesmen had lost a war. But most importantly race or skin color had no meaning and influence on the enslavement of people. There were European slaves in Africa.

The first Western European contact for expansion in West Africa began with the Portuguese in the early 1400s. The Portuguese arrived at the Guinea Cost where they traded for gold, ivory, and pepper, but they also wanted slaves. The Portuguese were granted permission by the kings of the countries, such as Benin, to trade for slaves. A big misconception about the slave trade is that the Europeans themselves captured Africans into slavery. However, it was the African traders who would capture individuals and sell them into slavery.

Initially, the slave trade was not in demand because many European Countries had a large enough labor force. But with Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Americas – North America, South America, and the Caribbean, European settlement and domination began. They exploited the Native Americans and committed mass genocide ( the majority of the Native Americans died out from diseases). As a result the European colonies did not have a big enough workforce and that increased the demand for slaves and fueled the Atlantic slave trade.

The major players in the Atlantic slave trade were the Portuguese, Spanish, English, and French. They had colonies in Mexico, Central and South American, North America, and the Caribbean. With the discovery of gold and silver mines in the Spanish colonies of Peru and Mexico and the sugar plantations in Portuguese controlled Brazil, the demand for slave increased dramatically. Equally, the cultivation of rice, indigo, tobacco increased the demand for slaves.

During the 16th century, Portugal and Spain were the main players in the atlantic slave trade. Most of the slaves were routed to Brazil. In the end Brazil received the most African slaves; an estimated four million. By  the 17th century the Dutch seized control of the Atlantic slave trade that was once dominated by Spain and Portugal. Eventually, after a few wars with the French, Spanish, and Dutch, England gained control of the slave trade in 1713.

By 1790 the English slave ships called slavers, were transporting 50,000 captured African slaves annually.

Stay tuned for more….


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