The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

America has seen another resurgence of political activism and racial justice over the last decade. From police brutality to various disparities affecting Black communities, these issues stem from a long history of slavery and oppression centuries ago.

From the 16th to 19th centuries, millions of African men, women and children were transported to many areas across the Atlantic Ocean to be used for labor. The Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (LDHI) calls it "the largest long-distance forced movement of people in recorded history." Europeans and Euro-Americans primarily bought and sold Africans as part of the larger system of trade between European countries, the Americas and Africa.

"In African ports, European traders exchanged metals, cloth, beads, guns, and ammunition for captive Africans brought to the coast from the African interior, primarily by African traders. Many captives died just during the long overland journeys from the interior to the coast," according to LDHI.

When African slaves were carried in the Middle Passage, they suffered terrible conditions while chained and packed closely together in ship holds. Extreme temperatures, contagious diseases, filthy conditions and more plagued them as they were transported across the Atlantic Ocean.

Portugal was the first European country to enter the slave trade, but Great Britain became the largest carriers of enslaved Africans by the 18th century. LDHI wrote, "The overwhelming majority of enslaved Africans went to plantations in Brazil and the Caribbean, and a smaller percentage went to North America and other parts of South and Central America."

The slave trade would lay the foundations of America's disenfranchisement of Black people but also the reckoning and fight for fundamental rights, life and opportunities.

Photos: Getty Images

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