The domestic slave trade within the United States did not begin, as is often assumed,
with the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807. It originated
half a century earlier in the 1760s, and overlapped with the trade from
Africa. It was extensive even between 1787 and 1807, a period in which
more Africans were forced to these shores than in any two decades in North
American history. The domestic trade continued into the 1860s and displaced
some 1.2 million men, women, and children, the vast majority of whom were
born in America.
At the cost of immense human suffering, this forced migration unlocked
a great reservoir of labor and made possible the rapid expansion
of the "Peculiar Institution." The domestic slave trade brought
misery, separating families and increasing the climate of insecurity in
It also distributed the African-American population throughout the South
in a migration that greatly surpassed in volume the transatlantic slave trade to North America.