(copyleft 2007) Chad David Cover.Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 1.0 Generic. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/1.0/
African-American History ~ From Africa to America
From Africa to America
1619 – 1808: Slave Trade
1808 – mid-1800s: Africa as “Dark Continent”
1880s-1920s: Black Nationalism
A. New Negro Movement / Harlem Renaissance
B. Diasporal Studies
C. European “Discovery” of African Artwork
1920s-1990s: Rise of “African-American History”
A. Rise of professional African-American History
B. Exploration of African past & integration with African-American History
1. Discovery of Ancient African Kingdoms (Ghana, Mali & Songhay)
2. Research on the dynamics of the slave trade
3. Exploration of African/African-American contribution to American
society & culture
4. Integration of African-American History into the larger “American”
Transatlantic Slave Trade
Maafa: Kiswahili word meaning “disaster,” It was introduced by activists
in the 1990s to denote the Holocaust of the slave trade, enslavement &
colonization of Africans.
The trade began in the late 1400s with the Portuguese exploration of
the West African coast. Spanish shipped first known “cargo” of African
slaves in 1502.
From 1502 – 1867
• ~ 10 million Africans survived the transatlantic slave trade
• 27,000 slaving expeditions
• Roughly 74 ships per year
• Average of one ship every five days for 365 years
• 2.2 million people transported prior to 1700.
• ~ 8 million people transported between 1700 & 1810. About 80% of
• Peaked in the 1780s, when 80,000 slaves a year were shipped across
The “First Passage”
Capture in Africa & the march to the sea.
1. As a result of targeted raids by well-organized kingdoms upon people who
lacked well-armed rulers & armies of their own.
2. Sometimes an incidental trade. But as Europeans moved onto the coast &
built forts, the trade expanded & became an organized affair.
A, At first, the Europeans raided, but this proved too dangerous—both
disease & geographical disadvantage made it too costly.
B. Europeans traders sought out African middlemen, tribes that were
expanding in power & began to specialize in slave-hunting: like the
Mandingo, the Imbangala or the Ashanti.
1. 3. Domestic slavery existed in West Africa. Captors preferred to keep
female slaves, so 2/3 of those transported were men.
2. Slaves were captured in from four major regions:
A. Upper Guinea (Senegambia/Sierre Leone)
B. Lower Guinea (Gold Coast / Bight of Benin
C. Bight of Biafra
D. Kongo-Angola Region
The “Middle Passage”
The transit from Africa to the Americas.
Took at least a month, sometimes several. Time of passage varied by season,
conditions & distance. Even a quick passage could be horrendous.
Horrid conditions on board the slave ships:
1. 6 to 7 square feet per passenger
2. “Decks swam in urine, feces, vomit, and menstrual & fecal blood.”
3. Severe overcrowding exacerbated communicable diseases like dysentery,
typhoid, measles, small pox, yellow fever & malaria.
4. Undernourishment & dehydration.
5. Brutality by the ship’s crew.
6. Sexual assault of the women by the ship’s crew.
7. Suicide not uncommon (Depression, shock & insanity common.)
8. Some mutinies
9. Mortality rate routinely 15-20%. (50% in the earlier years, 5% in the late
18th century. Portuguese ships had a lower mortality rate; English had
Destination of African Slaves
Sale in the New World.
“Cleaned up” & Presented For Sale.
1. Sold in large slave markets, slave pens, in public places. In both large lots & small.
2. Transported to final destination
3. Often separated from loved ones or friends found on-board.
4. Most slaves—upwards of 95%—went to the Caribbean & to Brazil, to work on great sugar
plantations. Most of these workers were literally worked to death, and new “imports”
brought in to take their place.
5. Only around 5% of enslaved Africans ended up in British North America. Several reasons
A. Until the late 17th-century, there was no staple crop there.
B. New England was settled largely by family units who brought subsistence
agriculture with them, so plantation slavery was isolated to the Middle States & to the
South once staple crops were developed.
C. Sugar plantation owners could afford to pay more for the most “likely looking”
slaves. Also, they tended to buy young men of working age, and to pass up women &
children. So North American got a larger share of these groups.
Period of “Seasoning”
1. Forced to adopt to new environment & the new labor regime of plantation labor.
2. A sizable portion died of disease, overwork & poor living conditions within a couple
years—particularly on the sugar plantations of Brazil & the Caribbean.