More than 12 million Africans were forcibly transported across the Atlantic to work as slaves between 1515 and the mid-19th Century. Some two million of the enslaved men, women and children died on their way to the Americas.
This population movement during the transatlantic slave trade is seen as the migration that led to the creation of the first African community outside of Africa — the African diaspora. An article from The ICD “Experience Africa” Program says that even though many Africans were forcibly taken out of Africa during the transatlantic slave trade, “the feeling of belonging to a community, the African community, did not disappear. In a way, this feeling became even stronger.”
Indeed, today, there are 51.5 million people of African descent living in North America, that is, the United States, Mexico and Canada). In Central America, there are 1.9 million while in South America, there are 66 million people of African descent. In the Caribbean, there are over 14 million, according to statistics cited by History.com.
The outlet reports that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was part of a three-part system known as the triangular trade. And this was how the triangle was formed.
It began with European ships loaded with manufactured items and firearms sailing to Africa to exchange those goods with slaves. The ships then transported the enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas in a journey known as the Middle Passage. Arriving at the Americas with the human cargo (the enslaved men, women and children), the ships would subsequently be reloaded with sugar, cotton, tobacco and other cash crops made with slave labor, and then go back to Europe.
While some 1.8 million Africans died during the Middle Passage, European and American nations became rich from the triangular trade. The following countries were greatly involved in the cruel trade: Portugal, Britain, Spain, the United States, France, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Germany and Sweden briefly got involved. And then there was Canada. More often than not, when Canadians discuss slavery, they like to speak at length about the role they played in the mid-1800s providing a safe haven for enslaved people fleeing plantations in the southern U.S. via the Underground Railroad. However, the buying, selling and enslavement of Black people were practiced by Europeans in New France — the first major settlement in what is now Canada — in the early 1600s until the territory was conquered by the British in 1759. The British continued the inhumane practice when it took over.
Sadly, Africans also played an active role in the transatlantic slave trade. It has been established that the demand for slaves during the transatlantic slave trade was fuelled by the availability of a supply chain which involved African rulers and tradesmen who made a fortune out of selling people. The slave trade contributed to the expansion of the most powerful West African kingdoms such as Mali and Ghana, as the business became one of the main sources of foreign exchange for many years.
The Arab Slave trade
Before the transatlantic slave trade was the Arab Slave Trade that contributed to the start of an African diaspora in the Old World. People were deported as slaves to the Indian Peninsula from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and the Swahili Coast. In Europe, slaves taken there were mostly kept by British royals as entertainment and surrogate sons.
Slavery was practiced differently in various places, and so Black people dispersed outside of Africa are not the same. Per genetic data cited by History.com, “enslaved women contributed more than enslaved men to the modern-day gene pool of people of African descent in the Americas. The findings also show that Caucasian men contributed more than Caucasian women, confirming the well-documented practice of sexual violation of enslaved women.”
Britain banned the slave trade in 1807 and the United States later abolished it in 1865. Brazil was the last to ban it in the Caribbean in 1888 marking the end of the barbarism inflicted on men, women and children of color and their descendants.
In the end, the transatlantic slave trade led to the creation of a huge community of African origins in the American continent, particularly in the U.S. and Brazil.