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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

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

Preference for Africans

The Spanish, Portuguese, and English colonists in the New World all perceived that black slaves from Africa possessed numerous advantages....especially in the early years. Many of the Africans, unlike many Amerindians, were accustomed to the labor discipline inherent in societies that practiced large-scale agriculture. Many blacks knew metal working, especially in iron, whereas the native Americans were unfamiliar with iron and used softer metals, primarily for decorative rather than productive purposes.

Enslaved Africans were not covered by some early Spanish regulations that forbade the exploitation of native Americans. Epidemiologically Africans came from a region that shared a pool of several diseases with Europeans and were less susceptible to European-borne diseases that were devastating the Native American population and to certain tropical diseases. For all of these reasons, each of the first three colonial powers concluded that enslaved Africans were an ideal choice of labor in the New World.

William D. Phillips, Jr. The Old World Background of Slavery in the Americas

Continue to:
The Slave Markets