African Slave Trade

Journey of Slavery to North America


This essay provides an overview of the African slave trade in terms of market demand for slaves in North America along with their point of origin in Africa and their destination in North America. A table was created showing the slave trade between Africa and the United States for the period 1628  to 1860.  The general conclusion drawn from this data was that while  more than 388,000 African slaves were transported to  the region that became the United States of America this represented only 4% of the total number of slaves brought to across the Atlantic.  The plantation economies in the Chesapeake (Virginia and Maryland), and the Carolinas and Georgia created the greatest demand for slaves where during 1701 to 1800 more than 294,000 slaves were put on the market in these two regions of the US.  The total Trans-Atlantic slave trade resulted in more than 10.7 million Africans coming to the Western Hemisphere with the greatest number going to Brazil (4.8 million), followed by the British Caribbean (2.3 million); Spanish Americas (1.3 million) and French Caribbean (1.1 million).  The US slave trade while it was significant and resulted in much human suffering, it was only a tiny portion of the overall East to West slave trade.  See a table providing this information at Table 1.

In terms of the where the Africans who were brought to North America came from, a table created from  indicates that five points of origin were key to the slave trade connected to North America: Senegambia, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast, Bight of Benin and West Central Africa and St. Helena.  The majority of African slaves entered the US during the period 1700 to 1800 and their destination was by and large to the Chesapeake and Carolinas/Georgia.  In determining where these slaves originated, a comparison was made between the embarkation and disembarkation numbers correlated for the time period.  The most numerous number of slaves coming to the US during the period 1700 to 1800 were from Senegambia (77,000).  This lends credence to Alex Hailey's tracing of his ancestry back to The Gambia in his book, "Roots."  The second most numerous point of origin was West Central and St. Helena (61,000) followed by Bight of Biafra (53,000), Gold Coast (45,000), and Sierra Leone (29,000).  See the table providing these data at Table 2.

Regarding specification destinations of Africans arriving in North America, a table was created that showed the total number of Africans transported from different points of origin to specific geographic areas in the US.  These data help illustrate where the populations of different African ethnic groups were located in the US due to the slave trade.  As already shown, the Chesapeake and Carolinas/Georgia areas received the greatest number of African slaves -- 87 percent of slaves went to these two regions (338,000 out of 388,000).  There was a distribution of slaves from various points of origin as already discussed in the previous paragraph.  For the Chesapeake region, the greatest number of slaves came from the Bight of Benin (Senegambia was second) while the Carolinas/Georgia had most of their slaves originating in West Central Africa and St. Helena (again, Senegambia was second).  See the table providing these data at Table 3.

In summary, the Trans-Atantic slave trade provided a relatively small number of slaves to the US in comparison to the total number of Africans who were transported to the Western Hemisphere.  However those slave were concentrated in states that were expanding their plantation economies.  Almost all the slaves imported to the US came during the period 1700 to 1800 and the majority were placed in the South.  The demographic growth of Africans provided labor for an ever expanding plantation economy (cotton in the Deep South and rice in the Carolinas). While it is difficult to trace origin, there is good information on where the majority of the slaves came from and a mechanism to link back to certain African regions.  This is interesting informattion that provides a basis for discussing and understanding the slave economy in the South.

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Notes on the State of Virginia
Thomas Jefferson




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