The Middle Passage Essay

The Middle Passage Essay

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The Middle Passage (or Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade) was a voyage that took slaves from Africa to the Americas via tightly packed ships. The trade started around the early 1500s, and by 1654 about 8,000-10,000 slaves were being imported from Africa to the Americas every year. This number continued to grow, and by 1750 that figure had climbed to about 60,000-70,000 slaves a year. Because of the lack of necessary documents, it is hard to tell the exact number of Africans taken from their homeland. But based on available clues and data, an estimated 9-15 million were taken on the Middle Passage, and of that about 3-5 million died. While the whole idea seems sick and wrong, many intelligent people and ideas went in to making the slave trade economically successful.
The concept of the slave trade came about in the 1430’s, when the Portuguese came to Africa in search of gold (not slaves). They traded copper ware, cloth, tools, wine, horses and later, guns and ammunition with African kingdoms in exchange for ivory, pepper, and gold (which were prized in Europe). There was not a very large demand for slaves in Europe, but the Portuguese realized that they could get a good profit from transporting slaves along the African coast from trading post to trading post. The slaves were bought greedily by Muslim merchants, who used them on the trans-Sahara trade routes and sold them in the Islamic Empire. The Portuguese continued to collect slaves from the whole west side of Africa, all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa), and up the east side, traveling as far as Somalia. Along the way, Portugal established trade relations with many African kingdoms, which later helped begin the Atlantic Slave Trade. Because of Portugal’s good for...


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...e of Olaudah Equiano. It was published in 1789 and was read by people around the world in several different languages. It opened everyone’s eyes to what the slave trade really was. Another reason for the end of slavery was the successful slave revolt in Haiti from 1801-1803. This showed the Americas that slavery could be defeated. And starting in the 18th century, an Industrial Revolution was sweeping over Europe and North America, and by the 19th century slaves started to become less of an economic profit. Then, in 1807, Britain became the first country in Europe to abolish slavery. Soon after France, Spain, Denmark, and Holland followed suit, and a year later America abolished the trade as well. Over the next eighty years countries began to abolish slavery altogether, and in 1865 (after the Union won the American Civil War), America became one of those countries.

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