The Slave Trade Slavery is the holding of a human being as property. This practice is thousands of years old. The Egyptians used slaves to build their pyramids two thousand years ago. The practice of capturing Blacks from Africa, to use as slaves began with the Portuguese, who introduced African slaves to Europe in the 16 th century. European countries, such as Spain and England, introduced slavery to their colonies in the New World. Many explorers had African slaves on their voyages.
In 1637 the first slave ship was built in Massachusetts. The slave ships sailed from America to the west coast of Africa. It is important to understand that the Africans living on the west coast of Africa, did not consist of primitive tribes, but was a well developed civilization, with complex economic and political institutions. The slave traders acquired their Africans in one of two ways. One was very simple. The slave trader would lie in wait until an African would come along, and capture them.
The other was a little more complicated. The slave trader would make an alliance with a tribal chief. This tribal chief would wage war on a neighboring tribe. Any of the enemy that the chief captured he would trade for goods, such as tobacco, and liquor, with the slave traders. The means of acquiring the Africans was kind compared to how they were treated once aboard the slave ship. The more Africans the slave traders crammed into the ship, the more profit they would make once they sold their goods in America.
Africans were chained together and made to lie shoulder to shoulder in the dark hull of the ship, where no fresh air ever found its way. So stifling was the air, that some Africans actually suffocated during the long voyage. Once in America the Africans, still chained together, were lead into cities, towns and villages, to be put on the auction block. (Promoters had already put up signs announcing th auctions).
The objective of the slave trader was to sell his goods to the highest bidder, not make sure they went to kind masters. The slave owner often paid dearly for his slaves, and in order to get back some of his investment he would breed the Africans and sell the offspring at auction. Only the kindest of slave owners kept Black families together. Many mothers cried when their children, some as young as two years old, were sold to another master many miles away. By 1829 the practice of capturing Africans was banned in America, and shipping them to America, was banned. But during its practice it is estimated that over fifty million Africans were transported to the Americas and Europe..