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HIST251: History of Africa to 1890

Unit 6: Africans and The Atlantic World (c. 1440 – 1820 CE)  

After 1450, much of Africa was brought into the Atlantic trade system, increasingly through involvement in the slave trade. Through the institution of slavery, African lifestyles and cultural practices were transferred to the New World, where they developed as cultures of survival, resistance, and production in plantation societies and elsewhere. The first African slaves brought directly to Portugal arrived in 1441. As European relations with African rulers expanded, the export of slaves grew in volume. With the development of plantation agriculture in the Atlantic islands, and then the Americas, slaves became the primary component of the coercive labor system. By 1600, the slave trade was the most lucrative element of European trade with Africa. Between 1450 and 1850, about 12 million Africans were shipped to plantations in the Americas.

In this unit, you will study the complex and brutal nature of the Atlantic slave trade. We will also take a look at the indigenous slavery of West African kingdoms, European commercial interests in Africa, the relationships between African rulers and European traders, and the rise of New World slave societies.

Unit 6 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: This unit should take you approximately 17 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 6.1: 1 hours

☐    Subunit 6.2: 10 hours

☐    Subunit 6.3: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 6.4: 2 hours

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Explain the origins of the Atlantic slave trade.

  • Analyze the impact of the Atlantic slave trade on African societies.
  • Assess the contributions of Africans to societies in the Americas during the period covered by this chapter.

6.1 The Making of the Atlantic World   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Making of the Atlantic World” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Making of the Atlantic World” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the linked article.

  • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “The End of the Old World and the Beginning of the New” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s "The End of the Old World and the Beginning of the New" (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read the first three pages of this article to gain an understanding of the reasons why the slave trade developed in the Americas. Pay particular attention to the section on the “Columbian Exchange and Slavery” on page 3. Reading pages 4-8 is optional.
     
    Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

  • Reading: Connexions: Jack E. Maxfield’s A Comprehensive Outline of World History: “Africa: A.D. 1601 to 1700” and “Africa: A.D. 1701-1800” Link: Connexions: Jack E. Maxfield’s A Comprehensive Outline of World History: “Africa: A.D. 1601 to 1700” (HTML) and “Africa: A.D. 1701-1800” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read these two sections on sub-Saharan Africa for an introduction on the period in which the transatlantic slave trade developed, reached its peak, and began to decline. It had begun in the sixteenth century and ended in the nineteenth. Considering these two articles as well as the previous reading, answer the following questions:

    • What conditions in Europe, Africa, and the Americas contributed to the development of the slave trade? Which people were enslaved?
    • What role did slaves play in the economic development of the Americas?
    • How did the transatlantic trade in people and commodities link up with the Asia trade to create a world trade and economic system?

    Reading these articles and answering the questions should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: These articles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License. It is attributed to Jack E. Maxfield, and the original versions can be found here and here.

6.2 Origins and Operation of the Atlantic Slave Trade   - Reading: About.com: Alistair Boddy-Evans’s “Types of Slavery in Africa” Link: About.com: Alistair Boddy-Evans’s “Types of Slavery in Africa” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This article outlines the various forms of slavery that existed in Africa both before and after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.  Read the entire article.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.1 Causes and Origins of the Atlantic Slave Trade   - Lecture: Arizona State University: “The Birth of the Modern: Europe and Its Others” Link: Arizona State University: “The Birth of the Modern: Europe and Its Others” (iTunesU Audio)
 
Instructions: Listen to both “The African as Other Part I” and “The African as Other Part II” (lectures 17 and 18, respectively).
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: PBS: “Europeans Come to Western Africa” Link: PBS: “Europeans Come to Western Africa” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: This article describes the first fateful points of contact made between Western Europeans and the various inhabitants of Africa’s West Coast during the early modern period.  Please read the entire article.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.2 Operation of the Atlantic Slave Trade   - Reading: Exploring Africa: “The Atlantic Slave Trade-Engage” Link: Exploring Africa: “The Atlantic Slave Trade-Engage” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This resource provides an overview of the origins and outcomes of the transatlantic slave trade and its various impacts on both Africa and the global African Diaspora.  Please read the entire article.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Steven Mintz, ed.: “Excerpts from Slave Narratives” Link: Steven Mintz, ed.: “Excerpts from Slave Narratives” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Browse through the following sections: “… Enslavement,” “… The Middle Passage,” “… Arrival,” “… Conditions of Life,” and “… Emancipation.” This resource provides transcribed first-hand accounts of the experience of enslavement and emancipation in North America.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.3 Demographic Patterns   - Web Media: SlaveVoyages.org: “The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database” Link: SlaveVoyages.org: “The Tranatlantic Slave Trade Database” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Study the maps on the website provided above.  These maps detail the locations of origin and arrival, as well as the astonishing numbers of slaves between Africa and the Americas.  (Also, interested students might want to further explore this extraordinary online resource by clicking on “Voyages Database” in the main menu at the top of the page.  This section of the website allows users to conduct statistical searches on specific transatlantic slave trade voyages between Africa and the Americas.  However, this activity is not required for this particular assignment.)
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Assessment: Felicia McCrary and Diane Marie M. St. George’s “Mortality and the Transatlantic Slave Trade” (PDF) Link: Felicia McCrary and Diane Marie M. St. George’s “Mortality and the Transatlantic Slave Trade” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Click on the “Download Mortality and the Transatlantic Slave Trade” link to open the PDF.  Scroll down to the “Student’s Worksheet” section.  Read the introductory paragraph, analyze the data in tables 1 through 5, and answer questions 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.4 Organization of the System   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Organization of the System” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Organization of the System” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the linked entry.

6.2.5 Abolition   - Reading: UNC Press: “The Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Origins, Effects, and Legacies” Link: UNC Press: “The Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Origins, Effects, and Legacies” (PDF)
 
Instructions: When you click on the link above, you will be directed to a webpage for the UNC Press.  Select the “Guide for Teachers” link from the menu on the left-hand side of the page, beneath the heading for “Special Features.”  Read chapters 1 and 2, which discuss the origins and effects of abolitionism in the nineteenth-century Atlantic World.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: “Am I not a Man and a Brother?” Link: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: “Am I not a Man and a Brother?” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the “Introduction” and browse through the abstracts of primary source texts pertaining to the transatlantic slave trade that immediately follow.  The introductory essay provides a brief overview of the process of abolishing the slave trade among Great Britain, France, and other Western European imperial powers.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Lecture: YouTube: Inge Dornan’s “Transatlantic slave trade—Inge Dornan” Link: YouTube: Inge Dornan’s “Transatlantic slave trade—Inge Dornan” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch Inge Dornan’s lecture on the transatlantic slave trade.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3 Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade   6.3.1 Political and Economic Impact   - Reading: UNC Press: “The Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Origins, Effects, and Legacies” Link: UNC Press: “The Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Origins, Effects, and Legacies” (PDF)
 
Instructions: When you click on the link above, you will be directed to a webpage for the UNC Press.  Select the “Guide for Teachers” link from the menu on the left-hand side of the page, beneath the heading for “Special Features.”  Read chapter 3, which explores the legacies of slavery in the post-emancipation Atlantic World.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Le Monde diplomatique: Elikia M’bokolo’s “The Impact of the Slave Trade on Africa” Link: Le Monde diplomatique: Elikia M’bokolo’s “The Impact of the Slave Trade on Africa” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Elikia M’bokolo’s article discusses the “state of the field” on the topic of the origins, outcomes, and legacies of the transatlantic slave trade.  Please read the entire article.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.2 The Atlantic Slave Trade in Memory and Tradition   - Reading: New West Indian Guide: Ted Maris-Wolf’s “Many Seasons Gone: Memory, History, and the Atlantic Slave Trade” Link: New West Indian Guide: Ted Maris-Wolf’s “Many Seasons Gone: Memory, History, and the Atlantic Slave Trade”  (PDF)
 
Instructions: When you click the link above, you will be taken to an entry on the article listed above.  Click the link for “PDF” at the bottom of the page to access and read the article.  Ted Maris-Wolf’s review essay synthesizes the theses and content of two monographs—African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade and Lose Your Mother—on the cultural legacies of the transatlantic slave trade.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.3 Congo and Central Africa in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries   - Reading: Country Studies: “Kongo Kingdom Link: Country Studies: “Kongo Kingdom” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This article briefly discusses the Kongo Kingdom both before and after the introduction of the transatlantic slave trade.  Read the entire article.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Buala: Aurora da Fonseca Ferreira’s “Memories of the Angolan Slave Trade” Link: Buala: Aurora da Fonseca Ferreira’s “Memories of the Angolan Slave Trade” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this description of the slave trade from Angola. Pay particular attention to the author's point of view.
     
    Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Portugal License. It is attributed to Aurora da Fonseca Ferreira, and the original version can be found here.

  • Reading: University of Southern Maine: “Origins of the African-American Diaspora” Link: University of Southern Maine: Osher Map Library's “Origins of the African-American Diaspora” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Examine the maps and read the accompanying descriptions to visualize the economic geography of European trade in Africa. Considering the previous reading from Buala as well, answer the following questions:

    • The consensus of the number of Africans enslaved and exported seems to be over ten and under fifteen million. Why do you think Buala.org cites a number as high as 100 million?
    • What reasons does Buala give for not forgetting the impact of slavery on Africa?
    • According to these resources, what were the primary reasons for the enslavement of millions of Africans?
    • Why do you think some people might highlight or ignore the role of the African elite in the slave trade?

    Reading this article, examining the maps, and answering the questions should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to the University of Southern Maine, and the original version can be found here.

6.4 The African Diaspora   6.4.1 Africans in the New World   - Reading: PBS: “The Growth of Slavery in North America” Link: PBS: “The Growth of Slavery in North America” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This article discusses the onset and growth of slavery in North America.  Pay particularly close attention to the various forms of dissuasion and punishment used by slave owners to manage slaves’ behavior and obedience on North American plantations.  Please read the entire article.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.4.2 “Survivals” and “Transformations”   - Reading: Study World: “The African Diaspora in the New World” Link: Study World: “The African Diaspora in the New World” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This paper addresses the new cultures that were created as a result of the experience of enslavement in North America.  Please read the entire paper.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: BBC and The British Museum: “Akan Drum” Link: BBC and The British Museum: “Akan Drum” (HTML, Flash Videos, and Java)
     
    Instructions: Read the entire article (being sure to click on the “…Read more” button in the “Taken from Africa” section) and browse through the photos provided in the interactive multimedia viewer. The object featured in this online resource is believed to be one of the oldest surviving African-American objects and, thus, represents a new social and cultural phase in the global African diasporic experience.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.