Professor Myles Osborne
6 February, 2015
Effects of the Trans – Atlantic Slave Trade
The Trans – Atlantic slave trade, was a period during which 12 to 13 million African people were forcibly taken from their homes and sent across the Atlantic Ocean to live and work in the Americas. Removing so many people from their homeland inevitably had far reaching consequences. As a result of the Trans – Atlantic slave trade, families and communities were torn apart. It also halted the development of many parts of Atlantic Africa. This devastating event brought about the spread of racism and prejudice against Africans and people of African descent as well. Finally, the Trans – Atlantic slave trade spread the people of African origins across the face of the planet.
Before the Trans – Atlantic slave trade, African tribes and communities in western Africa relied on close-knit social ties in order to maintain order and well being, where many of one’s tribe members were also his/her extended family. Each individual was key in doing his part for the betterment of the community. During the slave trade, raiders would sneak into these communities, usually under cover of darkness, or when most people were out to work, and they would kidnap people (mostly strong, young men since they were the best workers). Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian born in the mid – 1740’s, describes the moment he was taken from his home:
“One day, when all of our people were gone out to their works as usual, and only I and my dear sister were left to mind the house, two men and a woman got over our walls, and in a moment, seized us both, and without having time to cry out, or make resistance, they stopped our mouths, and ran off with us into the nearest wood.” (Worger, Clark, Alpers 58)
This removal of many of a tribe’s valuable members devastated the small groups of people who relied very heavily on each member’s ability to do work. Over the course of a few hundred years of slave trading, many tribes were unable to recover, and their remaining members would starve to death for lack of ability to produce food. Not only did the slave trade ravage small communities, but it nearly halted the development of many parts of western Africa as well. Cities and towns were fled and left to fall apart while its inhabitants attempted to hide from the raiders. The strong social ties that used to exist between neighbors and communities had also been severed. This was due to a couple of factors. One reason was that people could no longer live and work for the well being of the community. Instead most people focused on keeping their immediate families safe. Another reason is that the raiders were usually other Africans, simply looking out for their own safety and welfare by becoming employed as raiders. Often times, the raiders would be kidnapped themselves by other raiders to be traded as slaves (Worger, Alpers, Clark 71). This led to mistrust, uneasiness and often violence between peoples, as every man looked out for himself while others competed and fought with one another for people to trade as slaves. The slave trade was extremely detrimental to the economy and population in many parts of Atlantic Africa as well. So many people were relocated that the population levels remained the same and possibly even decreased by the time that abolition came about (Reid 24). In order to legitimize the slave trade, Europeans created an extremely negative image of the African people. They were portrayed as dark-skinned, uneducated, savages; more like animals than people. Alex Falconbridge, a slave ship physician in 1788, writes, “The Gold Coast negroes scarcely ever refuse any