How to load cargo on a slave ship

Slavery and Abolition 1600 - 1900

In terms of evil profit, slavery has been a successful business throughout history.

Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil.

Edmund Burke, British statesman, in his speech On Conciliation with America, March 22, 1775


Image Above

How to load cargo on a slave ship

One slave ship could have held approx. 300 people.

From The Slave Trade, Slavery, and Remembrance
National Park Service / Shackles of Memory Association, Nantes

Which in turn drew from Esclaves: Regards de Blancs 1672-1913, p.48
Musée de la Marine

And the slave trade is still alive and well as we speak.

How well?

The estimated minimum number of persons in forced labor at a given time as a result of trafficking is 2.45 million.

ILO - International Labour Organization
A Global Alliance Against Forced Labour - Global Report under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and rights at Work 2005. Page 14.


Although there is no longer any legal slavery in the world, the Global Slavery Index report released in October 2013 estimates that 29.8 million people remain enslaved today.

Using a broader definition of slavery, this includes those living in bondage as forced laborers, those in marriages against their will, and prostitutes engaged involuntarily in the sexual trade.


During our recent Human Rights Defenders Forum at The Carter Center, it was reported that between two hundred and three hundred children are sold in Atlanta alone each month!

Jimmy Carter - A Call to Action, 2014


Modern slavery is called human trafficking. If you live in the US and wish to report human trafficking, go to the FBI website.

Back to slavery in history.


When Did the Transatlantic Slave Trade Begin?

The Atlantic Slave Trade, also called African Slave Trade, Colonial Slave Trade, or Transatlantic Slave Trade, prospered over a period of roughly 400 years, from the 16th to the 19th century.

It definitely gained momentum in the 1660s. (See timeline below for more details.)

When Exactly Did the Transatlantic Slave Trade End?

Britain declared the slave trade illegal from May 1, 1807.

The U.S. declared the slave trade illegal from January 1, 1808.

Britain abolished slavery from August 1, 1834.

The U.S. abolished slavery from December 6, 1865.

In the Southern states of the U.S., abolition was followed by legal segregation, which, in turn, was followed by the civil rights movement.


How Many People Were Forced to Migrate?

Over 350 years, 43,600 voyages transported 12.5 million Africans aboard slave ships.

Only 10.7 million Africans survived the journey and were able to disembark.

Source: National Endowment for the Humanities

Brief Slavery Timeline

The King of Spain, Charles I, who will become Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1519, issues exclusive licenses to trade slaves to Laurent de Gouvenot and to Jorge de Portugal.

According to David Eltis at Emory University,

"the first slave voyage direct from Africa to the Americas probably sailed in 1526.[...] the 1526 voyage set out from the other major Portuguese factory in West Africa - Sao Tome in the Bight of Biafra - though the slaves almost certainly originated in the Congo."


Still quoting Mr. Eltis,

"The slave traffic to Brazil, eventually accounting for about forty percent of the trade, got underway around 1560. Sugar drove this traffic, as Africans gradually replaced the Amerindian labor force on which the early sugar mills (called engenhos) had drawn over the period 1560 to 1620."

May 1607
First permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, Virginia.

August 1619
Around 20 Africans arrive at Jamestown. They are labeled servants, not slaves. However, they were sold to the colony by a Dutch ship in exchange for supplies. Thus, formally slaves or not, they are considered personal property.

Still with Mr. Eltis:

"By the time the Dutch invaded Brazil in 1630, Pernambuco, Bahia, and Rio de Janeiro were supplying almost all of the sugar consumed in Europe, and almost all the slaves producing it were African."

Other than that, by now interracial sex is considered a crime.

Hugh Davis to be soundly whipt . . . for abusing himself to the dishonor of God and shame of Christianity by defiling his body in lying with a Negro, which fault he is to actk. next sabbath day.

Catterall, 1:77

Update to the Virginia Slave Law: It is now illegal to provide blacks with arms and ammunition.

Mr. Eltis continues:

"Consistent with the earlier discussion of Atlantic wind and ocean currents, there were by 1640 two major branches of the trans-Atlantic slave trade operating, one to Brazil, and the other to the mainland Spanish Americas, but together they accounted for less 7,500 departures a year from the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, almost all of them by 1600 from west-central Africa. The sugar complex spread to the eastern Caribbean from the beginning of the 1640s."


John Punch, a black runaway servant, is captured. He is punished to serve for the remainder of his life, officially a slave. Punch ran away with two whites, James Gregory and Victor. Interestingly, James and Victor got off with thirty stripes and an additional four years of servitude. John Punch, a Negro, got life.

The English, led by William Penn and Robert Venables, capture Jamaica. By the 1680s, the island's population will grow to about 18,000, with slaves accounting for more than half of the total.

Virginia law makers ponder the status of children whose father is an "Englishman" and whose mother is a "Negro woman" and decide,

that all children borne in this country shalbe held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother, And that if any christian shall committ ffornication with a negro man or woman, hee or shee soe offending shall pay double the ffines imposed by the former act.

Virginia 1662-ACT XII, 2:170

This is a deviation from the English law under which a child inherits either freedom or dependence according to the status of their father.

Eager to close (or create, depending on how you look at it) loopholes, a new law in Virginia decides that it is now legal for a Christian to keep a fellow Christian as a slave.

According to new Virginian law, killing your slave is no longer a felony.

Free Christian Blacks or Indians can no longer own white servants, but are,

yet not debarred from buying any of their owne nation.

Virginia 1670-ACT V, 2:280

There are around 2,000 Blacks in Virginia at the moment.

The Royal African Company is formed "for the development of new trade", i.e. to extract gold and slaves from Africa.

Bacon's Rebellion. In Virginia, Nathaniel Bacon, joined by blacks and whites alike, fights Virginia Governor William Berkeley and his men.

The issue?

Hostility broke out between the two men, who were cousins by marriage, over disagreement on how to treat the Indians. Berkeley wanted to trade with them, Bacon wanted them gone. When Bacon assembled his posse to go after the Indians, Bacon called him a traitor.

In Virginia, an act is passed with the objective to prevent insurrections among slaves by outlawing large funerals or parties among Blacks.

April 1691
Interracial marriage in Virginia now gets you deported. The law calls it an "abominable mixture."

Negroes are not allowed to own horses and cattle any longer.


By means of the
Treaty of Rijswijk, Spain cedes the western third of Hispaniola (today's Haiti) to France. It is now called Saint Domingue and will play a major role in the history of abolition. (See the Haitian Revolution in 1791)

Virginia law makers issue their 1705 Slave Code, declaring slaves to be real estate:

An act declaring the Negro, Mulatto, and Indian slaves within this dominion, to be real estate.

For the better settling and preservation of estates within this dominion, . . . .

II. Be it enacted, by the governor, council and burgesses of this present general assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That from and after the passing of this act, all negro, mulatto, and Indian slaves, in all courts of judicature, and other places, within this dominion, shall be held, taken, and adjudged, to be real estate (and not chattels;) and shall descend unto the heirs and widows of persons departing this life, according to the manner and custom of land of inheritance, held in [illegible] simple.

Virginia General Assembly, Virginia Slavery Act (19 March 1705)


New Maryland law decrees that neither Blacks nor Indians are permitted to testify in court against a white Christian.

The First Maroon War begins in Jamaica. It will end in 1739. The Maroons were fugitive slaves and their descendants.

May 16, 1749

The Georgia Colonial Assembly asks to permit slavery in the Colony of Georgia by demanding the repeal of its slavery prohibition law from 1735.

American Revolution begins. It will end in 1783.


If you are in Charleston, South Carolina, and have nothing planned on May 6, why not pop down Austin, Laurens & Appleby's who have a choice cargo of 250 fine healthy Negroes on sale.

If you are in Charleston, South Carolina, and have nothing planned on May 6: Austin, Laurens & Appleby have a choice cargo of 250 fine healthy Negroes on sale.
Slave Ad
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration


The Quakers in England set up an organization "for the relief and liberation of negro slaves in the West Indies, and for the discouragement of the slave trade on the coast of Africa".

In order to improve, but not to end, the slave trade, the Dolben Act of 1788 is passed by the British Parliament. This Slave Trade Act, introduced by the abolitionist William Dolben, restricts the number of slaves that are allowed to be carried on a ship according to its weight in tons.

Stowage of the British Slave Ship "Brookes" Under the Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788
Slave Ship Brookes - Stowage

However, while this act regulates the problem of overcrowded "cargo" and eliminates numerous deaths as one of its consequences, it would backfire with regards to the protection of children:

While [the Dolben's Act of 1788] was meant to restrict the slave trade, it actually had an adverse effect on children. The act mandated that no more than two fifths of a ship's cargo be children, and it also limited the number of African men to 1 male per ship ton.

With such restrictions threatening slave supply, planter demand began to change in response. Since this act did not define a 'child,' more children between the ages of 12 and 18 entered the trade. Furthermore, this act sparked an important debate on the benefits of breeding slaves rather than buying them.

Consequently, this act was somewhat responsible for an increased number of girls and children in the trade.

Donnan, Elizabeth. Documents Illustrative of the Slave Trade to America. Volume 2. New York: Octagon Books, 1965, 583-87. Annotated by Colleen A. Vasconcellos.


Abolition delivered by William Wilberforce on May 12, 1789. Helping Wilberforce draft the speech was his friend, William Pitt, the Younger.

The Haitian Revolution, a slave revolution, begins. It will end in 1804 and it will have a global impact on slavery.

Denmark decides that after ten years, from 1803, the slave trade will be abolished in the Danish West Indies. Up until then, however, the slave population of the islands will be increased.

February 4, 1794
The French National Convention decrees the abolition of slavery in all French colonies, except Bourbon Island (Reunion) and the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean.

This is the first abolition. It will be revoked in 1802. The second, and final, abolition will be passed in 1848.

The Second Maroon War begins. It will end in 1797.

The French revoke their first abolition decree from 1794. The second abolition will pass in 1848.

The Haitian Revolution ends. It had begun in 1791.

March 25, 1807
By means of the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, the British abolish the slave trade with their colonies. This act will take effect on May 1, 1807. However, owning slaves is still legal.

January 1, 1808
Starting today, the importation of slaves into the United States is outlawed, thanks to the Slave Trade Act (Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves into any Port or Place Within the Jurisdiction of the United States) which had been approved on March 2, 1807.

The slave trade is declared illegal in Venezuela and in Mexico.

The slave trade is declared illegal in Chile as well as in Spain and its colonies, which normally would include Cuba, but there the new law is ignored.

The slave trade is declared illegal in Argentina.

The slave trade is declared illegal by Sweden.

The Netherlands (Holland) ban the slave trade.

December 24, 1814
In the Treaty of Ghent, both Britain and the U.S. promise to work toward abolition of slavery.

January 22, 1815
Britain and Portugal sign an agreement. Portugal agrees to discontinue its slave trade north of the equator.

February 8, 1815
In its Act XV, the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna salutes efforts

to induce all the Powers of Christendom to proclaim the universal and definitive Abolition of the Slave Trade

but admits

that this general Declaration cannot prejudge the period that each particular Power may consider as most advisable for the definitive Abolition of the Slave Trade.

The slave trade is abolished in Chile.

The slave trade is abolished in Mexico.

August 28, 1833
British Parliament passes legislation to end slavery, the Abolition of Slavery Act, which will, from August 1, 1834, apply throughout the British Colonies, especially in the British West Indies, Canada, and the Cape of Good Hope. It is now illegal to own slaves.

December 10, 1836
Portugal bans the slave trade.

April 27, 1848
The French pass a Décret relatif à l'abolition de l'esclavage dans les colonies et les possessions françaises, or in other words, a Decree on the abolition of slavery in French colonies and possessions.

This law directs that "Le sol de France affranchit l'esclave qui le touche." In other words, "The soil of France frees the slave who touches it."

Whereas slavery is an attack on human dignity,
destroying the free agency of man,
removing the principle natural right and obligation,
being a flagrant violation of the Republican dogma: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,
it is declared that slavery
is completely abolished in all French colonies and possessions.

The French have come a long way since 1794, the year when they decreed the first abolition. This time, however, it's final.

By the way, Victor Schoelcher was the man who prepared this law.

Victor Schoelcher, who lived 1804-1893. One of the strongest French voices against slavery.
Victor Schoelcher, who lived 1804-1893
One of the strongest and clearest French voices against slavery.


Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies in 1848
Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies in 1848
Oil on canvas by Francois Auguste Biard, 1849
In this allegorical representation, the central figure could be that of Schoelcher.
Versailles Castle National Museum, Photo RMN / © Gérard Blot

September 18, 1850
The opponents of abolition are not quite done yet. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 requires citizens to assist in the return of escaped slaves to their owners.

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass delivers his speech The Hypocrisy of American Slavery.

On August 26, 1852, Charles Sumner delivers his speech Freedom National; Slavery Sectional.

On September 25, 1852, at Ryan's Mart, Charleston, you can choose from A prime gang of 25 Negroes. Check out the ad, which describes age, ability, and condition of each slave for sale.

Gang of 25 Sea Island Cotton And Rice Negroes, By Louis D. De Saussure, 1852
Gang of 25 Sea Island Cotton And Rice Negroes, By Louis De Saussure, 1852
Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University

The slave trade is abolished in Peru.

On May 19, 1856, Charles Sumner delivers his speech The Crime Against Kansas.

October 16, 1859
White skinned
John Brown launches his raid on the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (today's West Virginia). His objective is to liberate the slaves.

January 1, 1863
Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, which frees the slaves of the Confederate states in rebellion against the Union.

April 8, 1864
The Thirteenth Amendment is passed by the Senate.

January 31, 1865
The Thirteenth Amendment is passed by the House.

February 1, 1865
Lincoln signs the Thirteenth Amendment.

December 6, 1865
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified. This amendment ends slavery and involuntary servitude in the country as follows:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

November 1, 1868
While on anti-slave-trade-patrol off the African coast, the British vessel HMS Daphne frees 156 East African enslaved people from a dhow ( What in the world is a dhow?) — 48 men, 53 women, and 55 children. Captain G.L. Sullivan reports,

The deplorable condition of some of these poor wretches, crammed into a small dhow, surpasses all description; on the bottom of the dhow was a pile of stones as ballast, and on these stones, without even a mat, were twenty-three women huddled together - one or two with infants in their arms - these women were literally doubled up, there being no room to sit erect; on a bamboo deck, about three feet above the keel, were forty-eight men, crowded together in the same way, and on another deck above this were fifty-three children. Some of the slaves were in the last stages of starvation and dysentery.

Captain G.L. Sullivan, Dhow Chasing in
Zanzibar Waters and on the Eastern Coast of Africa
, p. 168 —
Found via Edward A. Alpers The Dhow Slave Trade, p. 16


Here is the photograph taken onboard the HMS Daphne:

Rescued East African slaves taken aboard HMS Daphne from a dhow, November 1868
Rescued East African slaves taken aboard HMS Daphne from a dhow,
November 1868
The National Archives of the UK

September 28, 1871
Under Emperor Pedro II, Brazil passes the Law of the Free Womb, or Lei do Ventre Livre. This new law gives freedom to all children that are born to slaves. Thus, slavery will die out soon.



In Britain, the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 was repealed in its entirety on November 19, 1998, by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act of 1998, in order to modernize and simplify the law.

The Human Rights Act 1998, Article 4, reads:

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.


Go here for more about Human Rights in History.



Let's wrap it up with a quote from Abraham Lincoln's speech to the 14th Indiana Regiment, delivered on March 17, 1865:

Whenever I hear anyone arguing over slavery,
I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.




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Definition — What is Slavery?

The condition or fact of being entirely subject to, or under the domination of, some power or influence.


Definition — What is an Abolitionists?

An abolitionists is "one who aims at or advocates the abolition of any institution or custom."


Definition —What Is Chattel?

Chattel refers to slaves or bondmen.


Definition —What Is an Indentured Servant?

In the 17th century, an indentured servant, black or a white, served voluntarily in the American colonies in return for their passage. Pretty soon it became clear, however, that a white person could re-enter society after his years of service. A black person, not so much.

Definition —What Is a Manumit?

A manumit is a freed bondman.

Definition —What Is the Middle Passage?

The middle part of a slave's journey, the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.



Slavery Today

To fight slavery today see also


and La Strada International - European Network against Trafficking in Human Beings




And here are the maps:

Maps: Slave Trade in History


Five World Maps: Slave Trade in History 1400-1900
1400-1900 Five World Maps: Slave Trade in History


World Map 1400-1900 Slave Trade: Raiding Zones, Deportees
1400-1900 Slave Trade: Raiding Zones, Deportees


1400-1600 World Map Slave Trade
1400-1600 World Map Slave Trade


1600-1700 World Map Slave Trade
1600-1700 World Map Slave Trade


1700-1800 World Map Slave Trade
1700-1800 World Map Slave Trade


1800-1900 World Map Slave Trade
1800-1900 World Map Slave Trade and Abolition


1500-1815 Map: Traffic of European Slave Ports
1500-1815 Traffic of European Slave Ports


Slavery and Emancipation in the United States, 1777-1865. Inset: The Region South of the Great Lakes.
1777-1865 United States Slavery and Emancipation


1860 United States Slave Population (Huge Map)
United States 1860 Slave Population (Huge Map)



Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database

Go here for the absolutely mind-boggling Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, sponsored by Emory University, NEH, and W.E.B. Du Bois Institute.

Search for African name, ship name, search by time frame, age, height, gender, age, place of origin, embarkation, disembarkation, browse through educational materials, image collection, tables, timelines, maps, and then some.

An enormously impressive research tool:


"America Reinvented Slavery" - Clip

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