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IntroductionDepartureMiddle PassageArrivalAbolitionLegacy

Captive Passage: The Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Making of the Americas

Captive Passage
has been made
possible in part by:
National Endowment for the Humanities
Recognition of
additional sponsors
for this exhibition
can be found by
clicking on
ExhibitionSponsors.

Arrival: Life in the AmericasPreference for AfricansThe Slave Markets
European RewardsSlave Populations in the AmericasThe Ships Return to EuropeEconomics
Sugar IntroductionSlavery in North AmericaReligionSilver Mines of South America

Slave Populations in the Americas

Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Brazil was by far the largest single participant in the traffic of African slaves accounting for 41 percent of the total. British and French-owned colonies in the Caribbean and the distant Spanish-American holdings were the destination of 47 percent of the traffic, Dutch, Danish, and Swedish colonies took another 5 percent. The remaining 7 percent represent the share of the North American colonies (The United States) in the Atlantic Slave Trade.

A View of Charlestown the Capital of South Carolina in North America
A View of Charlestown the Capital of South Carolina in North America

A View of New Orleans Taken from the Plantation of Marginy
A View of New Orleans Taken from the Plantation of Marginy

* Despite their low rates of importations, which initially caused the growth of the U.S. slave population to lag behind that of the Caribbean, the North American colonies not only overtook but far exceeded the rate of growth of the slave population elsewhere in the hemisphere by 1720, the annual rate of natural increase in the North American colonies was greater than the annual increase due to importations. And although the absolute level of importations was high after The Revolution, importations contributed only half as much to the growth of the black population, as did natural increase. The United States became the leading user of slave labor in the New World, not because it participated heavily in the slave trade, but because of the unusually high rate of natural increase. By 1825 there were about 1,750,000 slaves in the southern United States. This represented 36 percent of all slaves in the New World in that year. Despite its peripheral role in the Atlantic slave trade, the size of its slave population and success of its plantation system during the three decades preceding the Civil War made the South the greatest center of slavery in the new world and the bulwark of resistance to its abolition.

*Robert William Fogel, Without Consent or Contract