Colonial North American ships began to participate in the slave trade as early as the 1640s. Almost all of colonial America’s slave ships originated in New England. Confronted with a landscape and climate unsuitable for large-scale commercial farming.
As a result, in the eighteenth century, New Englanders developed what came to be known as the Triangular Trade. Ships carried sugar and molasses from the plantation colonies of the Caribbean to New England where colonists distilled it into rum. Merchants then shipped this rum to Africa where it was exchanged for slaves, who were carried back to the Caribbean to produce more sugar.
Some Africans were brought back to New England. Because paid employees were often unavailable or too expensive to use profitably, many New Englanders chose to purchase enslaved Africans. Though the vast majority of the slaves were carried to the sugar colonies of the Caribbean and South America, by 1755, more than thirteen thousand enslaved people were working in New England.
The first recorded New England slave voyage sailed from the city of Boston, Massachusetts in 1644. By the 1670s, Massachusetts traders were regularly carrying slaves between Africa and the Caribbean. Rhode Islanders entered the trade in about 1700. By the middle of the eighteenth century, upwards of twenty ships per year sailed for Africa from the tiny colony, most of them from the city of Newport. Two-thirds of Rhode Island’s fleet was engaged in the slave trade. Over the next century, more than 60 percent of the North American ships