The Atlantic slave trade also known as the transatlantic slave trade stands out as a very crucial aspect of the African American History before 1877. Just like the name, the Atlantic slave trade occurred along the Atlantic Ocean, in the years between the 19th century and the 16th century (Darlene, 2011). Majorly, the trade comprised of Africans slaves who had been captured from parts of the West Africa and Central Africa. Ironically, the slaves had been sold by their fellow Africans to the slave traders then transported to the South American and North America European colonies. In my opinion, the Atlantic slave trade marked a crucial part of the historical roots of the African Americans; there were so many Africans Americans slaves who were transported through the Atlantic that they eventually became immigrants in the North and South America prior to the 15 century. One of the major factors facilitating the large number of African slaves is that the economic system of the south Atlantic concentrated in producing clothes and other goods that were transported to the new world. Further, the European nations were in a competition with each other and outside colonies to colonize and create a great real empire in the 17th and 18th century. The slaves provided labor that was a crucial part of the success of the European colonies. In the beginning of the slave trade, the first slaves to be transported to North and South American colonies were known as ‘the apprentices for life’, also referred to as the indentured servants. In the mid-15th century, the indentured servants and their siblings had become their owners/masters legal property. Being legal properties of their masters meant that the slaves and their offspring’s were units of labor or merchandise and they were to be treated in similar ways with other goods and services in the market. During transportation, the slaves were treated like the other cargo in the ships. Their masters and owners strived to transport them as fast and as cheap as possible to the American destination. On arrival to America, the slaves were then transported to their final destinations as laborers of sugar plantations, tobacco, coffee , silver mines, cocoa plantations, cutting timber, house servants or even as workers in constructions.
America as a Colony of the Europeans and the Atlantic Slave Traders
America was a colony of the Europeans and the Atlantic slave traders comprised of the Spanish, Portuguese, the French, the British, Americans and the Dutch. The slave traders had marked places on the coast line of Africa, where they bought the slaves from their fellow Africans. Though, it is hard to give a precise figure of the large volumes of Africans transported during the Atlantic slave trade, estimates indicate that the number was above 12 million. The fundamental origin of the Atlantic slave trade arose from the initial contacts of trade between the different continents, which majorly comprised of exchanges between the old world of Asia, Europe and Africa and the novel continents comprising of the North America and South America. Prior to the trade, any contact between these continents had been made impossible by the ocean tides. The ocean tides made the travel by boats difficult and risky. However, in the 15th century, new developments in the European continent that introduced ships and other seafaring technology provided a solution to the tides. Consequently, people began to travel across the Atlantic Ocean. In the centuries from 1600 to 1800, over 300,000 traders had sailed through the Atlantic Ocean to West Africa for the African slaves. This consequently led to the interaction between the different societies who had been previously isolated from each other. The domination of Europeans in the Atlantic slave trade was initiated by a number of factors. It is important to mention, many Europeans had been irritated by the overwhelming domination of the Muslim empires from Middle East in their trades. Consequently, the Europeans were seeking an alternative to this domination.
The African continent offered the ideal option for the Europeans to dominate the market through the slave trade. The Muslim empire had become a competitor economically, politically and socially to the Christendom of the Europeans. They were seeking for an alternative to this domination. Further, the Europeans had great thirst to venture into gold trade in Africa and at the same time they were exploring the various naval channels to access India. Rather than obtaining luxurious products from the Middle East, India would be a suitable option of gaining luxurious products. As John Thompton states, the European traders purchased the African slaves who were the people caught in endemic warfare’s occurring in different nations. At the time of the Atlantic slave trade, some people in Africa had established businesses based on capturing their fellow Africans from other threatening communities or during war times in the different ethnic groups. They subsequently sold them to the Europeans. In the years between 1540 and 1606, the majority of slaves sold from the African coast through the Atlantic were inhabitants around river Niger who were sold from their living area to the coast and consequently, to the Europeans in exchange of musket goods such as alcohol and clothes. After 1606, the European slave demand accordingly opened up more opportunities for increased slave trade across the Atlantic. Historically, the relationship between the European traders and the African slave trade leaders remains debatable. Some historians such as Walter Rodney argued that the relationship between the two was unequal while others view it as equal. In 1972, Walter argued that the Africans were coerced into the trade that was ‘colonial’ while the European who dominated the trade obtained slaves and raw materials for their industries in exchange of their manufactured products. According to Walter, such unequal terms of trade have facilitated the underdevelopment existing in the African continent today. However, Walter arguments were highly debated later in 1998 by John Thompton who stated that the Atlantic slave trade was not as crucial as to cause detrimental effects to the African economy (Frank, 2005). In addition, Thompton argues that the manufacturing industry in Africa during the Atlantic slave trade was strong enough to compete with Europeans before the industrial revolution in Europe. According to Anne Biley, Africans had minimal influence across the continent, but had much influence at the continental level. Overall, the transportation of African slaves through the Atlantic trade can be categorized into two different parts i.e. the first era of the Atlantic slave trade involved the transportation of African slaves exclusively to the South America that had been colonized by the Spanish together with the Portuguese. This era comprised of a minimal percentage, a three percent of the overall Atlantic slave trade. This era occurred in the years between 1502 and 1580. It ended with the union of the Portuguese who had been dominating the trade with the Spanish. The second era of the Atlantic slave system occurred with the transportation of Africans mainly by the French, British, Dutch and the Portuguese. The major part of this trade occurred prior to the 18th century with only 18 percent of slaves being transported in the 17th century and 3 percent being transported 1450 and 1600. Only 28.5 percent were transported in the 19th century (Gardyn, 2002).
In conclusion, the Atlantic slave trade remains the major means through which a majority of the African American entered the American continent. It marked a period in which the Africans were transported in bulk, being treated and exposed to unfavorable conditions and discrimination. Eventually, the transported slaves became integrated into the nation and eventually became the forefathers of the current African American.