The Transatlantic Slave Trade


Over the course of more than three and a half centuries, the forcible transportation in bondage of at least twelve million men, women, and children from their African homelands to the Americas changed forever the face and character of the modern world. The slave trade was brutal and horrific, and the enslavement of Africans was cruel, exploitative, and dehumanizing. Together, they represent one of the longest and most sustained assaults on the very life, integrity, and dignity of human beings in history.

In the Americas, besides the considerable riches their free labor created for others, the importation and subsequent enslavement of the Africans would be the major factor in the resettlement of the continents following the disastrous decline in their indigenous population. Between 1492 and 1776, an estimated 6.5 million people migrated to and settled in the Western Hemisphere. More than five out of six were Africans. Although victimized and exploited, they created a new, largely African, Creole society and their forced migration resulted in the emergence of the so-called Black Atlantic.

The transatlantic slave trade laid the foundation for modern capitalism, generating immense wealth for business enterprises in America and Europe. The trade contributed to the industrialization of northwestern Europe and created a single Atlantic world that included western Europe, western Africa, the Caribbean islands, and the mainlands of North and South America.

On the other hand, the overwhelming impact on Africa of its involvement in the creation of this modern world was negative. The continent experienced the loss of a significant part of its able-bodied population, which played a part in the social and political weakening of its societies that left them open, in the nineteenth century, to colonial domination and exploitation.

The Development of the Trade

In the mid-fifteenth century, Portuguese ships sailed down the West African coast in a maneuver designed to bypass the Muslim North Africans, who had a virtual monopoly on the trade of sub-Saharan gold, spices, and other commodities that Europe wanted. These voyages resulted in maritime discoveries and advances in shipbuilding that later would make it easier for European vessels to navigate the Atlantic. Over time, the Portuguese vessels added another commodity to their cargo: African men, women, and children.

For the first one hundred years, captives in small numbers were transported to Europe. By the close of the fifteenth century, 10 percent of the population of Lisbon, Portugal, then one of the largest cities in Europe, was of African origin. Other captives were taken to islands off the African shore, including Madeira, Cape Verde, and especially São Tomé, where the Portuguese established sugar plantations using enslaved labor on a scale that foreshadowed the development of plantation slavery in the Americas. Enslaved Africans could also be found in North Africa, the Middle East, Persia, India, the Indian Ocean islands, and in Europe as far as Russia.

English and Dutch ships soon joined Portugal's vessels trading along the African coast. They preyed on the Portuguese ships, while raiding and pillaging the African mainland as well. During this initial period, European interest was particularly concentrated on Senegambia. Culturally and linguistically unified through Islam and in some areas, Manding culture and language, the region and Mali to its east had a long and glorious history, centered on the ancient Kingdom of Ghana and the medieval empires of Mali and Songhay. Its interior regions of Bure and Bambuk were rich in gold. It reached the Mediterranean and hence Europe from Songhay. The slave trade was closely linked to the Europeans' insatiable hunger for gold, and the arrival of the Portuguese on the " Gold Coast" (Ghana) in the 1470s tapped these inland sources.

Later, they developed commercial and political relations with the kingdoms of Benin (in present-day Nigeria) and Kongo. The Kongo state became Christianized and, in the process, was undermined by the spread of the slave trade. Benin, however, restricted Portuguese influence and somewhat limited the trade in human beings.

Starting in 1492, Africans were part of every expedition into the regions that became the American Spanish colonies. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, they were brought as slaves to grow sugar and mine gold on Hispaniola, and were forced to drain the shallow lakes of the Mexican plateau, thereby finalizing the subjugation of the Aztec nation. In a bitter twist, the Africans were often forced to perform tasks that would help advance the genocide that would resolve the vexing "Indian question."

By the middle of the seventeenth century, the slave trade entered its second and most intense phase. The creation of ever-larger sugar plantations and the introduction of other crops such as indigo, rice, tobacco, coffee, cocoa, and cotton would lead to the displacement of an estimated seven million Africans between 1650 and 1807. The demand for labor resulted in numerous innovations, encouraged opportunists and entrepreneurs, and accrued deceptions and barbarities, upon which the slave trade rested. Some slave traders - often well-respected men in their communities - made fortunes for themselves and their descendants. The corresponding impact on Africa was intensified as larger parts of west and central Africa came into the slavers' orbit.

The third and final period of the transatlantic slave trade began with the ban on the importation of captives imposed by Britain and the United States in 1807 and lasted until the 1860s. Brazil, Cuba, and Puerto Rico were the principal destinations for Africans, since they could no longer legally be brought into North America, the British or French colonies in the Caribbean, or the independent countries of Spanish America. Despite this restricted market, the numbers of deported Africans did not decline until the late 1840s. Many were smuggled into the United States. At the same time, tens of thousands of Africans rescued from the slave ships were forcibly settled in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and several islands of the Caribbean.

Capture and Enslavement

War, slave raiding, kidnapping, and politico-religious struggle accounted for the vast majority of Africans deported to the Americas. Several important wars resulted in massive enslavement, including the export of prisoners across the Atlantic, the ransoming of others, and the use of enslavement within Africa itself.

The Akan wars of the late seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth century were a struggle for power among states in the Gold Coast hinterland. Akwamu, Akyem, Denkyira, Fante, and Asante groups battled for more than half a century for control of the region. By the mid-eighteenth century, Asante emerged as the dominant force.

By 1650, Oyo had become a consolidated imperial power in the interior of the Bight of Benin by defeating the Bariba and Nupe in the north and other Yoruba states to the south. The wars between various Gbe groups resulted in the rise of Dahomey and its victory over Allada in 1724. The winners occupied the port of Whydah three years later but were then forced to pay tribute to the more powerful Oyo. These wars accounted for the deportation of over a million Africans along the Bight of Benin coast.

The sixty-year period of the Kongo civil wars, ending in 1740, was responsible for the capture and enslavement of many. Among them were the followers of the Catholic martyr Beatrice of Kongo, who tried to end the wars through pacifist protest.

The spread of militant Islam across West Africa began in Senegambia during the late seventeenth century. The jihad led to two major political transformations: the emergence in the late eighteenth century of the Muslim states of Futa Jallon in the Guinea highlands and Futa Toro on the Senegal River.

The jihad movement continued into the nineteenth century, especially with the outbreak of war in 1804 in the Hausa states (northern Nigeria) under the leadership of Sheikh Usman dan Fodio. These wars in turn exacerbated political tensions in Oyo, which resulted in a Muslim uprising and the collapse of the Oyo state between 1817 and 1833. New strongholds were created at Ibadan, Abeokuta, and Ijebu, and the conflict intensified over attempts to replace or resurrect the Oyo state.

After 1700, the importation of firearms heightened the intensity of many of the wars and resulted in a great increase in the numbers of enslaved peoples. European forces intervened in some of the localized fighting and in warfare all along the Atlantic coast. They sought to obtain captives directly in battle or as political rewards for having backed the winning side. Working from their permanent colonies at Luanda, Benguela, and other coastal points, the Portuguese conducted joint military ventures into the hinterlands with their African allies.

Africans also became enslaved through non-military means. Judicial and religious sanctions and punishments removed alleged criminals, people accused of witchcraft, and social misfits through enslavement and banishment. Rebellious family members might be expelled from their homes through enslavement. Human pawns, especially children, held as collateral for debt were almost always protected from enslavement by relatives and customary practices. However, debts and the collateral for those debts were sometimes subjected to illegal demands, and pawned individuals, especially children, were sometimes "sold" or otherwise removed from the watchful eyes of the relatives and communities that had tried to safeguard their rights.

Africans were also kidnapped, though kidnapping was a crime in most communities, and sold into slavery. Captives were sometimes ransomed, but this practice often encouraged the taking of prisoners for monetary rewards.

As the slave trade destroyed families and communities, people tried to protect their loved ones. Various governments and communal institutions developed means and policies that limited the trade's impact. Muslims were particularly concerned with protecting the freedom of their co-religionists. Qur'anic law stated that those of the Faith born free must remain free. But this precept was often violated.

Throughout Africa, people of all beliefs tried to safeguard their own. Some offered themselves in exchange for the release of their loved ones. Others tried to have their kin redeemed even after they had been shipped away. Resistance took the form of attacks on slave depots and ships, as well as revolts in the forts, in barracoons, and on slave ships.

But at a higher level, the political fragmentation - many small centralized states and federations governed through secret societies - made it virtually impossible to develop methods of government that could effectively resist the impact of the slave trade. Even the largest states, such as Asante and Oyo, were small by modern standards. Personal gain and the interests of the small commercial elites who dominated trade routes, ports, and secret societies also worked against the freeing of captives, offenders, and displaced children, who could easily end up in the slave trade.

Traders and Trade

Western European countries established distinct national trades. The European port cities most involved in this growth industry were Bristol, Liverpool, and London in England; Amsterdam in Holland; Lisbon, the Portuguese capital; and Nantes, located on the western French coast.

On the African side most captives were traded from only a few ports: Luanda (Angola), Whydah (Bight of Benin), Bonny ( Bight of Biafra); and the adjacent "castles" at Koromantin and Winneba on the Gold Coast accounted for at least a third of the Africans transported to the Americas. Other major ports included Old Calabar (Bight of Biafra), Benguela (Southern Angola), Cabinda (north of the Congo River), and Lagos in the Bight of Benin. These nine ports accounted for at least half of all the Africans deported to the Americas.

The European countries attempted, though not successfully, to regulate the trade by chartering various national companies established under royal decree or parliamentary order. But these efforts to create monopolies, such as England's Royal African Company (RAC), were soon undermined by private merchant companies and pirates who opened up new markets in the Bight of Biafra and the northern Angola coast, and challenged the RAC on the Gold Coast and in the Gambia.

Each of the nations and their slave ports experimented with innovative marketing and trading techniques. Sometimes this competition required the maintenance of trading depots and forts - the slave "castles" or factories - as was the case in the Gold Coast and the Bight of Benin, as well as in lesser ports along the Upper Guinea Coast, Senegambia, and Angola.

The trade was propelled by credit flowing outward from Europe and used by merchants to purchase men, women, and children in West Africa. They advanced goods on credit in lieu of payment in captives. The wares sent to Africa in exchange for captives included those that could be used as money: cowry shells, strips of cloth (often imported from India), iron bars, copper bracelets ( manillas), silver coins, and gold. These goods also had value as commodities: cloth could be turned into clothing, iron into hoes and other tools. Consumer goods included textiles, alcohol, and jewelry. Their importation supplemented but did not replace the local production of these items. Alcohol was regarded as a luxury, except in Muslim communities, where it was prohibited.

Military goods, principally firearms, were also exchanged for captives. They were instrumental in the eighteenth-century Gold Coast wars that enslaved multitudes and led to the Asante people's political ascendancy in the region. With the exception of the Gold Coast wars, guns played little role at first in local conflicts, due in part to the difficulty of keeping powder dry in tropical regions. For example, the rise of Oyo, which became the dominant slaving power in the interior of the Bight of Benin, was mostly effected by the use of cavalry.

Merchants experimented with various trading methods. In some places, such as Old Calabar and the minor ports of the Upper Guinea Coast, individuals who were often the relatives of local merchants and officials were accepted by ship captains as collateral for credit. These individuals were human pawns who could be enslaved if debts were not paid.

In Angola and Senegambia, European merchants married or otherwise cohabited with local women, and these women sometimes amassed considerable fortunes as agents and merchants in their own right. Their mixed offspring became an intermediate class of merchants along the coast, but especially concentrated along the Upper Guinea Coast as far as Senegambia, and in Luanda, Benguela, and their commercial outposts in the interior of Angola.

The trade was a high-risk enterprise. The commodity was people; they could escape, be murdered, commit suicide, or fall victim to epidemics or natural disasters. Local traders could disappear with their payment and never produce the captives stipulated in the contract. Since the slave trade went across political and cultural frontiers, there was little recourse to courts and governments in the event of commercial dishonesty. No international court or judicial system existed to handle the extraordinary violations of human rights that defined every aspect of the slave trade.

The slave trade was driven by both demand and greed. The customers in the Americas who could afford it desperately needed labor and did not care how it was obtained. Traders could benefit immensely from theft, plunder, kidnapping, ransoming, and the sale of human beings as commodities. These slavers took advantage of African political troubles, religious differences, legal technicalities, economic crises, and outright callousness to exploit helpless individuals.

The Middle Passage

On the first leg of their three-part journey, often called the Triangular Trade, European ships brought manufactured goods to Africa; on the second, they transported African men, women, and children to the Americas; and on the third leg, they exported to Europe the sugar, rum, cotton, and tobacco produced by the enslaved labor force. There was also a direct trade between Brazil and Angola that did not include the European leg. Traders referred to the Africa-Americas part of the voyage as the " Middle Passage" and the term has survived to denote the Africans' ordeal.

Well over 30,000 voyages from Africa to the Americas have been documented. But numbers and statistics alone cannot convey the horror of the experience. However, the records provide detailed information on some aspects of this tragedy.

The dreadful Middle Passage could last from one to three months and epitomized the role of violence in the trade. Based on regulations, ships could transport only about 350 people, but some carried more than 800 men, women, and children. Branded, stripped naked for the duration of the voyage, lying down amidst filth, enduring almost unbearable heat, compelled by the lash to dance on deck to straighten their limbs, all captives went through a frightening, incredibly brutal and dehumanizing experience.

Men were shackled under deck, and all Africans were subjected to abuse and punishment.

Some people tried to starve themselves to death, but the crew forced them to take food by whipping them, torturing them with hot coal, or forcing their mouths open by using special instruments or by breaking their teeth.

The personal identity of the captives was denied. Women and boys were often used for the pleasure of the crew. Ottobah Cugoano, who endured the Middle Passage in the eighteenth century, recalled: "it was common for the dirty filthy sailors to take the African women and lie upon their bodies."

Mortality brought about by malnutrition, dysentery, smallpox, and other diseases was very high. Depending on the times, upwards of 20 percent died from various epidemics or committed suicide. Venture Smith, describing his ordeal, wrote: "After an ordinary passage, except great mortality by the small pox, which broke out on board, we arrived at the island of Barbadoes: but when we reached it, there were found out of the two hundred and sixty that sailed from Africa, not more than two hundred alive." It was not unusual for captains and crew to toss the sick overboard; and some even disposed of an entire cargo for insurance purposes.

On board slave ships, in the midst of their oppression, the Africans, who were often as much strangers to each other as to their European captors, forged the first links with their new American identities. Relationships established during the Middle Passage frequently resulted in revolts and other forms of resistance that bound them in new social and political alliances. Ottobah Cugoano described the attempted revolt organized on the ship that took him from the Gold Coast to Grenada: "when we found ourselves at last taken away, death was more preferable than life; and a plan was concerted amongst us, that we might burn and blow up the ship, and to perish all together in the flames . . . . It was the women and boys which were to burn the ship, with the approbation and groans of the rest; though that was prevented, the discovery was likewise a cruel bloody scene."

The special relations created on the ship lasted a lifetime and were regarded by the deported Africans, torn from their loved ones, as strongly as kinship. They had special names for those who had shared their ordeal. They were called bâtiments in Creole (from the French for ship), sippi in Surinam (from ship), and shipmate in Jamaica.

Far from wiping out all traces of their cultural, social, and personal past, the Middle Passage experience provided Africans with opportunities to draw on their collective heritage to make themselves a new people.

Africans in America

Of the estimated ten million men, women, and children who survived the Middle Passage, approximately 450,000 Africans disembarked on North America's shores. They thus represented only a fraction - 5 percent-- of those transported during the 350-year history of the international slave trade. Brazil and the Caribbean each received about nine times as many Africans.

The labor of enslaved Africans proved crucial in the development of South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and Maryland and contributed indirectly through commerce to the fortunes of New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Though the enforced destination of Africans was primarily to plantations and farms for work in cash crop agriculture, they were also used in mining and servicing the commercial economy. They were placed in towns and port cities as domestic servants; and many urban residents performed essential commercial duties working as porters, teamsters, and craftsmen.

In eighteenth-century America, Africans were concentrated in the agricultural lowlands of South Carolina and Georgia, especially in the Sea Islands, where they grew rice, cotton, indigo, and other crops. In Louisiana, they labored on sugarcane plantations. They were employed on tobacco farms in the tidewater region of Virginia and Maryland. The tidewater, together with the Georgia and South Carolina lowlands, accounted for at least two-thirds of the Africans brought into North America prior to the end of legal importation in 1807.

Ethnicities in the United States

The largest number of Africans in the lowlands (34 percent) came from Bantu-speaking regions of west-central Africa. Twenty percent were transported from Senegambia, while the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone each accounted for about 15 percent of the total number. Others came from the Bight of Biafra and the Windward Coast.

The enslaved population of Virginia/Maryland was composed mostly of Africans from the Bight of Biafra, some 39 percent. Senegambia accounted for 21 percent of the Africans in this region. Another 17 percent were of Bantu origin, and 10 percent were originally from the Gold Coast.

Therefore, nearly 90 percent of the Africans in these two major regions came from only four zones in Africa. Most came from the west-central area of Angola and Congo where languages - Kikongo, Kimbundu and culture (often referred to as Bantu) were closely related. Many more ended up in the tidewater than in the lowlands, but they comprised nearly a third of all migrants in both sectors.

The Senegambians were much more prominent in North America than in South America and the Caribbean. Senegambia was strongly influenced by Islam, to a greater degree than any other coastal region where enslaved Africans originated. More Muslims were enslaved in North America - except for Brazil - than anywhere else in the New World. Their presence was especially pronounced in Louisiana, to which many Manding people - almost all males - had been transported. This state also had a large presence of non-Muslim Bambara from Mali.

The Upper South had a considerable population of people from the Bight of Biafra, as did lowland South Carolina and Georgia. In all probability, a large number of the many Africans whose origins are not known actually came from this area. These Igbo and Ibibio people would develop a distinct subculture. Women made up a relatively high number among those groups. They gave birth to a new generation, ensuring some transmission of their cultural values and beliefs.

Men and women from Sierra Leone and the adjacent Windward Coast were heavily concentrated in the low country, and most were involved in cultivating rice.

Noticeably absent from North America's African population were substantial numbers of people from the Slave Coast ( Togo, Benin, and western Nigeria). Contrary to Brazil and Cuba, the United States received very few Yoruba.

The Suppression of the Slave Trade

Article I, Section 9, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution (1787) stipulated that "The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person."

In consequence, the United States abolished its slave trade from Africa, effective January 1, 1808. But slave trading, now illegal, continued unabated until 1860.

The U.S. Slave Trade Act, enacted by a vote of 63 in favor and 49 against in February 1807, was a half victory for the slavers because it specified that the Africans illegally brought to slaveholding states would still be sold and enslaved. Penalties merely consisted of fines. With the authorities turning a blind eye and refusing to enforce their own law, the illegal slave trade flourished for several decades, particularly in Texas (Spanish until 1821), Florida (Spanish until 1818), Louisiana, and South Carolina.

Africans were sold with little secrecy. As recounted by a slave smuggler, it was an easy task: "I soon learned how readily, and at what profits, the Florida negroes were sold into the neighboring American States. The kaffle [ coffle] . . . [was to] cross the boundary into Georgia, where some of our wild Africans were mixed with various squads of native blacks, and driven inland, till sold off, singly or by couples, on the road."

The introduction of African captives took such proportions that President Madison wrote to Congress: "it appears that American citizens are instrumental in carrying on a traffic in enslaved Africans, equally in violation of the laws of humanity, and in defiance of those of their own country."

Congress passed a tougher law in 1820 making international slave trading an act of piracy punishable by death. Even though the traffic went on, only one American was ever executed for this crime. In addition, American slavers, particularly from New York and Rhode Island, shipped Africans to Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, where the slave trade was still legal.

More than 3.3 million Africans were transported between 1801 and 1867, the vast majority to Brazil and Cuba. Half came from west-central Africa, and more than 40 percent were originally from the Bights of Benin and Biafra, and Southeast Africa - Mozambique and Madagascar.

In the 1850s, a movement developed in the South to re-open the international slave trade. It was defeated, but the illegal importation of Africans increased between 1850 and 1860, even though the African Squadron, established by the U.S. government in 1843 patrolled the harbors of the African coast.

Although their respective countries had officially outlawed the transatlantic slave trade, American and British slavers and traders continued to be openly involved in it, and their activities brought money and work to shipbuilders, crews, insurance companies, and manufacturers of various trade goods, guns, and shackles. Slave ships brought Africans until the Civil War. The Clotilda landed more than a hundred men, women, and children from Benin and Nigeria in the summer of 1860 at Mobile, Alabama. The Wanderer had discharged several hundred people from the Congo on Jekyll Island, Georgia, in November 1858. In both cases, the Africans were sold and enslaved. As a testimony to the persistence of the illegal slave trade, the 1870 Census reveals the presence, in the United States, of numerous men and women born in Africa well after 1808.

Impact of the Slave Trade on Africa

The negative impact of the international slave trade on Africa was immense. It can be seen on the personal, family, communal, and continental levels. In addition to the millions of able-bodied individuals captured and transported, the death toll and the economic and environmental destruction resulting from wars and slave raids were startlingly high. In the famines that followed military actions, the old and very young were often killed or left to starve.

Forced marches of the captives over long distances claimed many lives. A large number of the enslaved were destined to remain in Africa - many were transported across the Sahara to the north - which heightened the impact of the slave trade on the continent. It is estimated that the population of Africa remained stagnant until the end of the nineteenth century.

Besides its demographic toll, the slave trade, and the Africans' resistance to it, led to profound social and political changes. Social relations were restructured and traditional values were subverted. The slave trade resulted in the development of predatory regimes, as well as stagnation or regression. Many communities relocated as far from the slavers' route as possible. In the process, their technological and economic development was hindered as they devoted their energy to hiding and defending themselves.

The disruption was immense: the relationships between kingdoms, ethnic groups, religious communities, castes, rulers and subjects, peasants and soldiers, the enslaved and the free, were transformed. In some decentralized societies, people evolved new styles of leadership that led to more rigid, hierarchical structures, thought to better ensure protection.

In addition, European powers intervened in the political process to prevent the rise of the African centralized states that would have hampered their operations.

In the end, the slave trade left the continent underdeveloped, disorganized, and vulnerable to the next phase of European hegemony: colonialism.

Legacies in America

The slave trade and slavery left a legacy of violence. Brutality, often of near-bestial proportions, was the principal condition shaping the character of the enforced migration, whether along a trade route, on board ship, or laboring on an American plantation. The degree of power concentrated in the hands of North American slave owners, interested only in maximizing their profits, allowed excessive levels of physical punishment and the perpetuation of sexual abuse and exploitation that have marked in many ways the development of the African-American community.

There was a marked sexual component to the assaults: rape was common. Kinship was disregarded, particularly the paternity of children. Their status reflected the enslaved status of their mothers, no matter who their father might have been. Slave owners treated their unpaid, overworked labor forces as mere chattel.

Avoiding and resisting violence were determining characteristics of the responses of the Africans to their forced migration experience. Individuals attempted to evade physical abuse through strategies of accommodation, escape, and on several occasions, violent rebellion. The preservation and adaptation of African cultural forms to respond to the new needs of the enslaved population was also an act of resistance to the imposition of European norms.

Unlike earlier slave systems, in the Americas racial distinctions were used to keep the enslaved population in bondage. Contrary to what happened in Latin America, where racial stratification was more complex, in North America, any person of identifiable African descent, no matter the degree of "white" ancestry, was classified as colored, Negro, or black. A racial caste system was established, and as a result racialized attitudes and racism became an inherent and lasting part of North American culture.

Though enslaved individuals came from widely different backgrounds and the number of ethnic groups and markers of identity were extensive, certain ethnicities, cultural forms, and languages - usually in pidgin and creolized forms - as well as religions proved sustainable and were maintained, sometimes exaggerated and manipulated during the process of adjusting to enslavement in the Americas.

The overarching result of African migration during the slavery era was an "American" culture, neither "European" nor "African," created in a political and economic context of inequality and oppression. The African contribution to this new culture was a towering legacy, hugely impacting on language, religion, music, dance, art, and cuisine. Most importantly, an enduring sense of African-American community developed in the face of white racism.


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Hogendorn, Jan and Johnson, Marion, The Shell Money of the Slave Trade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1986)

Inikori, Joseph E., Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England: A Study in International Trade and Economic Development (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 2002)

Inikori, Joseph E. and Engerman, Stanley L. (eds.), The Atlantic Slave Trade: Effects on Economies, Societies, and Peoples in Africa, the Americas, and Europe (Durham: University of North Carolina Press , 1992)

Jones, Adam, "Recaptive  Nations: Evidence Concerning the Demographic Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade in the Early Nineteenth Century," Slavery and Abolition, 11:1 (1990), 43-57

Karasch, Mary C., "Central Africans in Central Brazil, 1780-1835," in Linda Heywood, ed., Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora (New York: Cambridge University Press , 2001), 117-151.

Kea, Raymond, 1982. Settlements, Trade, and Politics in the Seventeenth-Century Gold Coast. Baltimore

Klein, Herbert S., The Middle Passage: Comparative Studies in the Atlantic Slave Trade (Princeton: Princeton University Press , 1978)

Klein, Martin  A. "Slavery, the International  Labour  Market and the Emancipation of Slaves in the Nineteenth Century."  Slavery and  Abolition,1994,Vol.15, No. 2, pp.197-220.

Klein, Martin. Slavery and Colonial Rule in French West Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1998)

Kulikoff, Allan. "The Origins of Afro-American Society in Tidewater Maryland and Virginia, 1700 to 1790." The William and Mary Quarterly,1978,Vol. 35, pp. 226-59.

Law, Robin. "Ethnicity and the Slave Trade: "Lucumi"  and  "Nago"  as Ethnonyms in  West  Africa". History  in Africa, 1997, Vol. 24, pp.205-219.

Law, Robin. The Slave Coast of West Africa 1550-1750. (Oxford: Clarendon Press , 1991)

Law, Robin. "Slaves, Trade, and Taxes: The Material Basis of Political Power in Precolonial West Africa," Research in Economic Anthropology 1 (1978): 37-52

Law, Robin. The Oyo Empire, c.1600-c.1836: A West African Imperialism in the Era of the Altantic Slave Trade (Oxford: Clarendon Press , 1977)

Law, Robin (ed.), The Ports of the Slave Trade (Bights of Benin and Biafra). Stirling

Law, Robin. "The Chronology of the Yoruba Wars of the Early Nineteenth Century: A Reconstruction," Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 5 (1970)

Law, Robin, The Oyo Empire, c. 1600 - c. 1836: A West African Imperialism in the Era of the Atlantic Slave Trade (Oxford: Clarendon , 1977)

Law, Robin, "Royal monopoly and private enterprise in the Atlantic trade: the case of Dahomey,"  Journal of African History, 18, 4 (1977), 555-77

Law, Robin, "Slaves, trade and taxes: the material basis of political power in pre-colonial West Africa," Research in Economic Anthropology, 1 (1978), 37-52

Law, Robin, The Horse in West African History (Oxford: Clarendon , 1980)

Law, Robin, The Kingdom of Allada (Leiden, 1997)

Law, Robin (ed.), From Slave Trade to 'Legitimate' Commerce: The Commercial Transition in Nineteenth-Century West Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1995)

Law, Robin and Lovejoy, Paul E., ed., The Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua: His Passage from Slavery to Freedom in Africa and America (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publisher, 2001)

Lovejoy, Paul E., ed. Identity in the Shadow of Slavery (London: Cassell Academic , 2000)

Lovejoy, Paul E. "The Clapperton-Bello Exchange: The Sokoto Jihad and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, 1804-1837," in A.E. Willey and C. Wise, eds. The Desert Shore: Literatures of the African Sahel ( Boulder: Lynne Rienner , 2000)

Lovejoy, Paul E. Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 2nd ed., 2000)

Lovejoy, Paul E. "Cerner les identities au sein de la diaspora africaine, l’islam et l’esclavage aux Ameriques ," Cahiers des Anneaux de la Memoire 1 (1999): 249-78.

Lovejoy, Paul E. "Biography as Source Material: Towards a Biographical Archive of Enslaved Africans," in R. Law, ed. Source Material for Studying the Slave Trade and the African Diaspora. (Stirling: Centre for Commonwealth Studies , 1997)

Lovejoy, Paul E. "Background to Rebellion: The Origins of Muslim Slaves in Bahia," Slavery and Abolition 15 (1994): 151-80

Lovejoy, Paul E. "The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa: A Review of the Literature," Journal of African History, 30 (1989): 365-94

Lovejoy, Paul E., ed. Africans in Bondage (Madison: African Studies Program , 1986)

Lovejoy, Paul E., ed. The Ideology of Slavery in Africa (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications , 1981)

Lovejoy, Paul E., ed., Slavery on the Frontiers of Islam (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publisher , 2004)

Lovejoy, P.E. and Hogendorn, J.S. 1979, "Slave Marketing in West Africa," in H.A  Gemery and J.S. Hogendorn (eds.), The Uncommon Market: Essays in the Economic History of the Atlantic Slave Trade (New York: Academic Press , 1979), 213-35

Lovejoy, Paul E. and Richardson, David. "The Initial ‘Crisis of Adaptation’: The Impact of British Abolition on the Atlantic Slave Trade in West Africa, 1808-1820," in R. Law, ed.  From Slave Trade to "Legitimate" Commerce: The Commercial Transition in Nineteenth-Century West Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1995)

Lovejoy, Paul E. and Richardson, David. "Competing Markets for Male and Female Slaves: Slave Prices in the Interior of West Africa, 1780-1850," International Journal of African Historical Studies 28:2 (1995)

Lovejoy, P.E. and Trotman, David V., eds. Trans-Atlantic Dimensions of Ethnicity in the African Diaspora (London: Continuum , 2003)

Lovejoy, Paul E. and Trotman, David V. "Enslaved Africans and their Expectations of Slave Life in the Americas: Towards a Reconsideration of Models of ‘Creolisaton’," in Verene A. Shepherd and Glen L. Richards (eds.), Questioning Creole: Creolisaton Discourses in Caribbean Culture (Kingston: Ian Randal, Publishers , 2002), 67-91

Manning, Patrick, Slavery and African Life. Occidental, Oriental and African Slave Trades (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1990)

Miers, Suzanne, Britain and the Ending of the Slave Trade (New York, 1975)

Miers, S. and Kopytoff, I. (eds.), Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspective (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press , 1977)

Miers, Suzanne and Roberts, Richard (eds.). 1988. The End of Slavery in Africa. Madison

Miller, Joseph C. "Central Africa During the Era of the Slave Trade, c. 1490s-1850s," in Linda Heywood, ed., Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora (New York: Cambridge University Press , 2001), 21-69.

Miller, Joseph C. "History and Africa/Africa and History," American Historical Review 104, 1 (1999): 1-32.

Miller, Joseph C., Way of Death. Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730-1830 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Perss , 1988)

Miller, Joseph C. 1999. Slavery and Slaving in World History. A Bibliography, 1900-1996 (Armon, NY. 2nd edition., 1999), 2 vols.

Mintz, Sidney W. and Price, Richard. An Anthropological Perspective to the Afro-American Past: A Caribbean Perspective (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues , 1976)

Morgan, Philip. "The Cultural Implications of the Atlantic Slave Trade: African Regional Origins, American Destinations and New World Developments," Slavery and Abolition, 18:1 (1997)

Morgan, Philip, Slave Counterpoint - full details needed

Northrup, David, Trade Without Rulers: pre-Colonial Economic Development in South-Eastern Nigeria (Oxford: Clarendon , 1978)

Palmer, Colin A. "From Africa to the Americas: Ethnicity in the Early Black Communities of the Americas" Journal of World History, 6:2 (1995), 223-237.

Pavy, David. "The  Provenience of Columbian  Negroes." Journal of Negro History, 52 (1967), 35-58.

Price, Richard. "Resistance to Slavery in the Americas: Maroons and Their Communities" Indian Historical Review, 15:1/2, (1988-89), 71-95

Rodney, Walter. "Upper Guinea  and the Significance of the Origins of  Africans  Enslaved  in the New World." The Journal of Negro History, 1969,Vol. 54, No. 4.

Rodney, Walter, "Slavery and other forms of social oppression on the Upper Guinea Coast in the context of the Atlantic slave trade," Journal of African History, 7, 4 (1966), 431-43

Sweet, James H. Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441-1770. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press , 2003.

Thornton, John, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University , 2nd ed., 1998)

Thornton, John K. "African Dimensions of the Stono Rebellion" American Historical Review, 1991, 1101-1113.

Thornton, John  K.,  "I Am  the King  of  Congo’: African Political  Ideology and the Haitia Revolution," Journal  of World History, 4:2 (1993),181-214

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. " Culture on the Edges: Creolization in the Plantation Context." Plantation  Society in the Americas, 5:1 (1998),. 8-28

Warner-Lewis, Maureen, "Posited Kikoongo origins of some Portuguese and Spanish words from the slave era,"  América Negra, 7:13 (1997), 83-97

Warner-Lewis, Maureen, The History of the Congo Peoples in the Caribbean [correct title]

Wilks, Ivor. Forests of Gold:  Essays on the Akan and the Kingdom of Asante (Athens: Ohio University Press , 1993)

Web Links


This website is produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is part of their "Timeline of Art History" project. It features in-depth information and analysis on history and art.

Slave Forts and Castles

Site of UNESCO World Heritage List. Click on Benin, Ghana, and Senegal to see sites related to the transatlantic slave trade.

Pictorial Images of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

African societies and cultures, and the transatlantic slave trade. Information, pictures, illustrations, portraits of African victims of the slave trade.

Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860

This Library of Congress sites contains over a hundred pamphlets and books. Search by keywords or browse the subject index.

The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1822-1909

This Library of Congress site offers complete page images of the 396 titles in the African American Pamphlet Collection, as well as searchable electronic texts and bibliographic records. Use keywords such as slave trade or Africa; or browse the subject index.

Breaking the Silence: Learning About the Transatlantic Slave Trade

This is one of the most complete sites for teachers on the subject of the transatlantic slave trade available. The site aims to help teachers and educators to "Break the Silence" that continues to surround the story of the enslavement of Africa that began over 500 years ago. Links to maps of the trade routes and to class plans for teaching this emotional yet pertinent subject are also available.

African Migration

This University of Calgary informative site contains a lengthy history of the transatlantic slave trade, illustrations, and maps.

Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery

Interviews of historians, illustrations, excerpts of Africans' autobiographies.

African History Sourcebook

Autobiographies of African victims of the slave trade, and Europeans' descriptions of the slave trade.


Listing of links to pages about the Amistad.


Timeline, narrative, biographies and portraits of the people involved in the Amistad story.

Slave Trade and Slavery

The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale maintains a site on various topics including the Amistad, and numerous documents relating to slavery. Calendar of conferences.

Bristol and Slavery

Documentation on the role of Bristol in the transatlantic slave trade, and on the slave trade in general.

Captive Passage

This Mariners' Museum site examines the maritime aspects of the transatlantic slave trade, along with the origins and legacies of race-based slavery.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade

Web story about the transatlantic slave trade and the enslaved Africans who came from hundreds of ethnic groups whose languages and cultures were 'creolised' into one identity. Information about genetic studies reclaiming the lost roots of the descendents of those enslaved is featured.

The Slave Route Newsletter

An in-depth newsletter chronicling the development of UNESCO's Slave Route project. Images, maps of transatlantic slave trade routes, statistical data, critical analysis, and educational resources are available

The Middle Passage

Images and accounts of the Middle Passage and several links to similar pages.

Ebos Landing

The story better known as "Myth of the Flying Africans", based on the arrival of Igbo from Nigeria on St. Simons Island in 1803.