The Atlantic slave trade: What too few textbooks told you

Has the term “slavery” ever made you question humanity? If not, then you need to look deeper into yourself and ask yourself why.

Slavery dehumanized and reduced people to commodities of exchange. It was a brutal practice that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

This practice may have been abolished back in the day but its impact still lives on to this day. The Atlantic slave trade that took place between the 1400s to 1800s is one such institution that changed the course of history for the worse.


How did the Atlantic slave trade begin?

This inhuman exchange began during the late 1400s and spanned between three continents namely- North America, South America and Africa. The Portuguese colonies in West Africa and the Spanish settlement of America were majorly responsible for it.

Crops like sugar cane, tobacco and cotton growing in the colonies demanded a huge amount of care and labour. To fulfill this demand, American natives were enslaved, but most of them eventually died. Thereafter, the Europeans took to worse means by reaching out to Africa by handing out weapons, goods and rum. This offer seemed good enough to the African kings and merchants, and so they bartered away people from their own country. Higher authorities justified their move by terming it as a kind of purification of the land since the people they exchanged for all these goods were labeled as criminals by them.

Eventually, this trade ended up fuelling wars between the Europeans and the Africans, for which the Africans needed ammunition. This was again bought from the Europeans in exchange for more slaves.

What kind of lives did the slaves lead?

The people so exchanged as slaves were treated as mere property. They were branded and their scalps were shaved. The ships that carried them off to America were fully packed and became another ground for their mistreatment. Many of them would die during the journey and their ears would be chopped off as proof of purchase.

Those who couldn’t bear to live such a life would often take their own lives. While on the ships women and children were abused by their captors and the men were compelled to dance on deck.

How did this change Africa’s future?

The slave trade depleted most of the continent’s population. Moreover, since most of the people taken were men, it further lowered the sex ratio as well, which in turn affected the future generations to come.

African empires lost their glory and riches, which made them vulnerable to colonization.

Another aspect is that it has also resulted in Racism. This happened because Europeans started enjoying a self-claimed superior status by using a twisted religious ideology as a means to prove the Africans’ inferiority.

To this date, the divide created by the Europeans has made it harder for the Africans to be seen as equals and has further perpetuated racism and an unreasonable amount of violence against them.

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