Transatlantic slave trade , segment of the global slave trade that transported between 10 million and 12 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th century. It was the second of three stages of the so-called triangular trade , in which arms, textiles, and wine were shipped from Europe to Africa, slaves from Africa to the Americas, and sugar and coffee from the Americas to Europe. By the s, Portuguese ships were already transporting Africans for use as slaves on the sugar plantations in the Cape Verde and Madeira islands in the eastern Atlantic. Spanish conquistadors took African slaves to the Caribbean after , but Portuguese merchants continued to dominate the transatlantic slave trade for another century and a half, operating from their bases in the Congo-Angola area along the west coast of Africa.
slave trade | Definition, History, & Facts | Britannica
Photo courtesy Library of Congress No. For the former British colonies which became the United States, colonial-era resistance and early antislavery activities are the base on which the Underground Railroad was built. Without resistance, there would have been no need for the extensive legal codes which upheld property rights in human beings or for the brutal intimidation which always existed just beneath the surface of this coercive social system. The circumstances which gave rise to the Underground Railroad were based on the transportation of Africans to North America as part of the Atlantic slave trade.
The Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage , and existed from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave trade were people from Central and West Africa , who had been sold by other West Africans to Western European slave traders with a small number being captured directly by the slave traders in coastal raids , who brought them to the Americas. This was crucial to those Western European countries which, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with each other to create overseas empires. The Portuguese, in the 16th century, were the first to engage in the Atlantic slave trade.
The transatlantic slave trade is unique within the universal history of slavery for three main reasons:. The transatlantic slave trade is often regarded as the first system of globalization. According to French historian Jean-Michel Deveau the slave trade and consequently slavery, which lasted from the 16th to the 19th century, constitute one of "the greatest tragedies in the history of humanity in terms of scale and duration". The transatlantic slave trade was the biggest deportation in history and a determining factor in the world economy of the 18th century.