ARC000321 Lecture 11 West Africa and the Atlantic Slave Trade

January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: History, European History, Age Of Exploration (1400-1600)
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West Africa and the Atlantic Slave Trade

Background to Atlantic Slavery • Ancient institution, flourished in Greece & Rome • By AD 1500 moribund within most of Europe • But survived in the Mediterranean in Spain & Portugal • Spread to the Americas as part of Europe’s general political & commercial expansion between the 15th–19th centuries

Background of slavery • Economic expansionism incorporated systems of unfree labor in colonies beyond the continent • Growth of slavery on the European periphery made provision of slave labourers a central part of international commerce

• European states were drawn to “sources” in Africa • Forms of domestic dependency known as slavery existed across much of the African continent, but these institutions did not involve the same scale, market orientation, or social alienation that characterized New World slavery systems

Background of slavery • The international demand for ever-increasing numbers of blacks transformed the character of slavery within certain regions of Africa as at the same time it produced a new order of “unfreedom” in the Western Hemisphere • Africans responded to European demand for labor by creating a muchexpanded internal market in humans • Particularly in West Africa, tribal & national conflict erupted specifically over the effort to seize war captives for sale to European traders

First Atlantic System • Portuguese explored west coast of Africa by 15th century, colonizing before 1480 islands of the Azores, Madeira, & Cape Verde in the Atlantic, Sao Tome in West Africa • Established trading station at El Mina on Gold Coast of Africa in 1481, expanding to Brazil in early 16th century, where they established sugar plantations

First Atlantic System The First Atlantic system (c. 1502 -1580) was the trade of enslaved Africans to South American colonies of the Portuguese and Spanish empires; it accounted for slightly more than 3% of all Atlantic slave trade. In 1580 Portugal was temporarily united with Spain. After the union, Portugal came under Spanish legislation that prohibited it from directly engaging in the slave trade as a carrier, and it become a target for the traditional enemies of Spain, losing a large share to the Dutch, British and French

Spanish slaves washing gold in Mexico

By 1650 some 250,000 – 300,000 Africans had been imported to Spanish America, primarily to Mexico and Peru to undertake mining, farming and textile manufacturing

Campeche earliest African slave burials in New World

Campeche burials

The strontium in the teeth showed that the individuals had been were born and spent their early years in West Africa. Some of their teeth were filed

and chipped to sharp edges in a decorative practice characteristic of Africa. Evidence indicated that the cemetery was in use around AD 1550

The Second Atlantic System The Second Atlantic System was the trade of enslaved Africans primarily by British, Portuguese, French and Dutch traders.

The main destinations of were the Caribbean colonies and Brazil, as nations built up slave-dependent colonies in the New World

The Middle Passage

The Triangular Trade

British Slavery • English involvement began in 1560s but initially not very interested; ended up getting slaves in Virginia in 1619 from a Dutch trader • By the 17th century, however, the trade to North America was dominated by London-based companies such as the English Royal African Company • By end of the 17th century, England was the largest of traffickers in slaves in the western world, shipping 6–8,000 slaves per year to the Americas (twice as many as the Dutch) • During first half of the 18th century, shipped over 20,000 persons per year, for the remainder of the trade, from 30–45,000 persons/year • Between 1698–1807, over 11,000 ships were fitted out in England, chiefly in Liverpool, London, and Bristol • Over 3 million slaves imported to the Americas in the 18th century

Outfitting a slave ship • Crew of 40 to 50 • Provisions for the Middle Passage

• Cargo of trade goods for barter • Indian fabrics • Manchester cottons • Copper & brass wares produced in Ironbridge

• Beads • Liquor • Firearms • Gunpowder • Return cargo of sugar, rum, &c.

French slave ship Marie-Séraphique

Slave ship Sultana

Close-packing & ‘spooning’

Shackles & irons

Slave ship insurrections

Where did the slaves come from? • Senegambia (present-day Senegal and Gambia) • Upper Guinea Coast (GuinéBissau, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia) • The Gold Coast ( Ghana and eastern Ivory Coast) • The Bight of Benin – or ‘Slave Coast’ (Togo, Benin, parts of Nigeria) • The Bight of Biafra (the Niger River Delta and part of Cameroon) • West Central Africa (Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Zaire, Angola)

Percentages of slaves sent to the Americas • West Central Africa


• Bight of Benin


• Bight of Biafra


• Gold Coast


• Other areas


The Kongo In the three hundred years from the date the kingdom was founded by Ne Lukeni Kia Nzinga until its destruction in 1665 by the Portuguese, Kongo was an organized stable, politically centralized society based upon a subsistence economy. The Kongo is significant in exploring the historic contexts of African American heritage because the majority of all Africans enslaved in the Southern English colonies were from West Central Africa

Christopher Fennell, University of Illinois, Urbana

BaKongo symbols & identity in the Americas Argued that BaKongo religion was a reservoir of core symbols that were used in a broad spectrum of expressive modes across Americas. There was continuity in ritual from West Africa, more than the shreds and tatters of an old religion

BaKongo cosmogram

Pottery made in South Carolina The land of the living is a mountain over a watery barrier separating this world from the land of the dead beneath. Each day the sun rises over the earth and proceeds in a counter-clockwise direction, across the sky to set in the water. During night time, the sun illuminates the underside of the universe, the land of the dead, until it rises again in the northeast. The cycle represents the continuity of life: birth, death, and rebirth

Gold coast


The Portuguese began to built a castle between 1482-1486

It was surrendered to the Dutch in 1637 It was destroyed by the British in 1873


By the seventeenth century, the material signature of the Atlantic Economy had become ubiquitous across West Africa:

• Cowrie shells • Venetian glass beads • Bottles and glass objects • Objects of copper • Iron tools • Smoking pipes • Chinaware • Firearms paraphernalia

Ecological impacts

Introduction of American cultigens transformed African agriculture and diets: Maize (cob impressions used to decorate pottery) Cassava Tomato Papaya Beans

Christopher de Corse Syracuse University “how the Elmina people thought about the trade materials they used, viewed the buildings they occupied, and conceived their religious life… suggests resilience rather than sequaciuosness, continuity rather than change in African befiefs and identity” De Corse examined more than 100,000 artefacts from 30 structures, including imported artifacts ceramics, glass, metal goods, beads, etc

Ann B Stahl University of Victoria, BC, Canada

Making History in Banda (Ghana) Looks at “endogenous historicity” Tries to move beyond western accounts which ‘silence’ African views; Africans have their own competing versions of the past Whereas classic ‘world systems theory’ focused on the agency of Europeans and created a Europe-centred view, Stahl focuses on African agencies and internal African dynamics


Attacks by Asante warriors de-populated the Banda area and increased the risk of enslavement in the 18th century


Fort Fredensborg, was constructed between 1736-42. The fortress was located on the Gold Coast for strategic reasons: to prevent competition from the Dutch and English forts in Accra, and to enable trade exchanges with Portuguese and French ships in particular. Fort Fredensborg played a key role in Danish-Norwegian trade during the eighteenth century. The fort was described by contemporary observers as one of the most beautiful buildings on the coast.

Fort Christiansborg

Fort Christiansborg is in Osu, Accra, on the coast of Guinea. The first substantial fort was built by the Danish in the 1660s, though the castle has changed hands between Denmark, Portugal, the Akwamu, the British, and finally postIndependence Ghana

Danish slave ship en route for the Caribbean

Summary: Atlantic Slave Trade • Over its four centuries of existence, the Atlantic slave trade between Africa & the Americas is estimated to have involved not just 12 million Africans who were shipped westward, but perhaps as many who died in Africa from the cruelties of capture & initial enslavement • The Atlantic slave trade constituted one of the largest forced movements of population in recorded history • The present-day U.S. was the northernmost destination of a trade that flourished in the Caribbean within a decade after Columbus’s voyage; by the middle of the 16th century Brazil was populated with sugar workers • Early importations involved mainly the Spanish & the Portuguese, who had also used slave labour on Old World plantations such as Cyprus, Madiera, and Sao Tome

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