Slave Trading   Leave a comment

ImagePortugal Portugal was the first in noting the profitability in slave trading.  They accomplished this by exploiting the more than 200 ethnic groups in West Africa, usually using religious beliefs as a means to barter for slaves.  For instance, Christian Europeans would not have another Christian enslaved, however, it was fine to enslave a pagan or Muslim African.

In early 1502, Portugal was shipping slaves from Africa to the Caribbean and Brazil to work on sugar cane plantations.  The more these plantations grew,more slaves were needed to do the hard work in the fields.   It became more profitable to import newer, fresher slaves than to maintain and care for those already working in the fields of Barbados, Jamaica and Cuba.  There was a constant influx of slaves arriving from Africa, where they were ‘broken-in’ and then re-exported to North America. 

The slave trade soon became a multi-million dollar venture, it created job employment and by now it was fast moving.  Europeans set up fortresses along the West Coast of Africa, castles, to withold up to 1500 slaves.  There were dozons of European castles, and the local rulers were easily won over monetarily.

Slaves were virtually hunted and rounded up, kidnapped, chained in groups of 150 people and then branded with an insignia of their purchaser.  Their worth was contingent on the condition of their teeth, genitals, limbs and stature, and defects reduced their worth.  The slaves were holed up in dungeons until the ships arrived to cargo them to their next destination.  Many slaves did not make it out of Africa due to the harsh conditions.

 The Transatlantic Slave Trade consisted of three journeys:

1)The outward passage from Europe to Africa carrying manufactured goods.
2)The middle passage from Africa to the Americas or the Caribbean carrying African captives and other ‘commodities’.
3)The homeward passage carrying sugar, tobacco, rum, rice, cotton and other goods back to Europe.

The middle passage being the most brutal of them all, estimated that 20% died en route rising to 40% on a bad voyage.  European sailors stood a good chance of of not returning due to the illnesses. The Africans were packed tightly into quarters and given hardly any food or water, they were chained together in twos by their hands and feet.  The more slaves, the higher the profit, so sometimes, slaves were denied the slightest priviledge such as standing. 

 With the middle passages journey’s, there was a great deal to fear.  Because of the cramped, and filthy conditions, diseases would quickly run throught the ship.  Smallpox, fevers, dysentery and rough seas were a threat to all, including both slaves and sailors.

Once the slave ship reached the Caribbean port, they replaced many of the slaves for products like rum, molasses and sometimes ‘broken’ slaves before sailing back to North America.  In ports like Charleston and Boston, slaves and the Caribbean supplies were traded for North American comodities like tobacco, furs and fish.


Posted February 22, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Slavery

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