Atlantic Slave Trade
“Earth, Wind, and Fire: Slavery in Early America” is a type of primary source reader that traces the early slave trade in the United States up until 1877. The authors of the article have clearly addressed the issues concerning slave trade looking particular at Atlantic Slave Trade. The aim of the article was to capture ideas, emotions and assumptions surrounding slave trade during the 17th century. This gives the readers a deeper look into history enabling them to come up with ideas regarding how Atlantic Slave Trade took place and the events surrounding it.
Atlantic trade is one of the few trades that are labeled as the most significance in the history of humanity. The trade is also known by several other names such as transatlantic trade since it took place across the Atlantic Ocean and triangular trade which came as a result of the shape that the trade took especially the regions that participated in it. The trade took place from the 15th to 19th century illustrating the duration it existed. It had a huge and an immense effect, for instance, it promoted slavery in major parts of the world with most victims being Black Americans and Asians (Labelle 234).
The Atlantic trade is a perfect example of a commercial and economic venture that involved human beings as the commodity of the enterprise. This trade has been labeled by many as one of the first examples of globalization. It revealed what can happen when people from different regions of the world interact with one another which is the major concept of globalization. It involved several regions namely; Africa, America, Europe, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. It is known to be the largest trade that involved deportation of human beings as slaves to other parts of the world. Atlantic trade, therefore, played an important role in dispersion of people of color to America and Europe. During this trade, millions of Africans were taken forcefully from their homes and sold to America as slaves (Labelle 143).
It also played a key factor in the development and direction of the global economy. It connected three main economies which are the African, American and the European. The statistics show that during this time, likely more than 30 million Africans who included men, women and children were taken from their homes and deported as slaves. The figure is not accurate since a number of them died along the way.
The Atlantic trade took place in three steps. The process started in West Europe where ships were loaded with gifts and other goods meant to go to Africa. The ship would then head to West Africa from where the captains of the ships would trade their gifts and other merchandise in exchange of slaves taken from the interior of Africa. Some of the gifts that the commanders would trade with included guns and gun powder. Others included textiles and pearls (Labelle 134). This exchange lasted for a period of one month depending on how ready the captives were for deportation. After this, they were loaded on the ships then transported through the Atlantic Ocean to America. Here, they would be sold as slaves and then distributed across the continent. The buyers would be waiting for slaves at the docking sites near the ocean. The third step of the trade would involve the connection that existed between America and Europe. From America, what the slave traders took to Europe were the agricultural products that were produced by the slaves who were working in America plantations. The products included cotton, tobacco, rice and also coffee. For this circuit to be completed, it lasted for more than 18 months which was one year and a half. The European countries that were involved in the trade include Spain, France, Portugal, England and Netherlands (Hall 156).
The Atlantic trade is usually divided into two phases known as the first era of the Atlantic slave and the second era. In the first era, the captives captured in Africa were sold primarily in South America to the Portuguese traders only. This era lasted for less than a century and it contributed to less than 3 percent of the whole trade. The second part of the Atlantic trade came when other European forces got interested in the slave trade. These were the English, the Spanish, and the French. During their entry, the trade had lasted for almost a century. The destination of slaves in this second phase changed from South America as a whole to the Caribbean and the Brazil. This was possible because the European nations were building colonies in the new worlds that they had acquired and were purely slave dependent. Therefore, it was necessary to have slaves work (Hall 187).
Atlantic slave trade, in general, was one of the most efficient, well-organized trades in history. Its well structure enabled it to survive for four centuries in history. However, the US and the British decided to put an end to the slave trade by the year 1808 which also affected the trade. It is important to note that putting an end to slave trade was heavily contented across the world because majority of the Whites benefited from the slaves. The ban on slavery saw an end to Atlantic slave trade even though some Whites continued to buy and sell slaves secretly among themselves to help in their plantations. Statistics show that even after the ban, almost 28 percent of the slave trade continued to take place in Europe and America (Christopher 165).
Slave rebellion was among the challenges faced in Atlantic slave trade. However, this was expected because the slaves did not only suffer, but were also overburdened with work. Rebellion was one way in which they could liberate themselves from the suffering they went through. The rebellion took place during the time when they were captured, especially the women who had children and did not want to leave them behind. It also took place on board in the ships during transportation to the plantations. Some slaves also rebelled in the plantations because of the huge amount of work assigned to them. To curb this, the slave owners had to come up with ways through which they would prevent the rebellion from happening. There were several methods they used depending on where they prevented it from taking place (Christopher 118). For instance, they punished those who rebelled by beating them or denying them food for a period of time.
When Slaves were on Board
While the slaves were on board to various destinations, the slave owners ensured that those close to each other were not put together to avoid rebellion. They would punish those who tried to revolt heavily. The punishment was meant to warn those who wanted to revolt and at the same time scare others not to get tempted to rebel. The other method included heavy guarding to prevent the slaves from conversing among themselves. This was also another way to prevent rebellion and stop the slaves from forming a movement that could hinder them from being effective as required. The captains and slave owners were relieved when the slaves turned up against one another since they knew no plans could take place. They also played the approach of divide and rule to make them become their own enemies (Ferro 109).
When in Plantations
Once the slaves had been transferred to the plantations, the slave owners also had to come up with ways that would help them prevent the rebellion. One of the methods used was to keep them busy and tired. When they were committed, the slaves would not get time to discuss and strategize a plan to escape. The slave owners also ensured that the slaves were under constant supervision to determine whether they were obedient. The supervision was another means to ensure the rebellion was never planned (Hall 108).
Reshuffling was the other method. The slaves would not work in the same place for long. They would be transferred and reshuffled to different regions across Europe or America. This prevented those who had formed relationships from knowing each other further. It was also a way in which the plantation owners managed any dangers that could have occurred.
On the other hand, those who tried to revolt were heavily punished. History has it that majority of the slaves died because of the punishment that they were subjected to by their employers in the plantations. Some died as a result of hunger while others fatigue. Despite the kind of punishment given, the slaves were still expected to work thus making it hard to survive (Labelle 112).
Christopher, Emma (2006). Slave Ship Sailors and Their Captive Cargoes, 1730–1807. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.
Ferro, Mark (1997). Colonization: A Global History. New York: Routledge, 1997. Print
Hall, Gwendolyn: Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links. Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 2006. Print.
Labelle, Peter. (2015). Earth, Wind and Fire. London: A & B, 2015. Print.