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

Captive Passage
has been made
possible in part by:
National Endowment for the Humanities
Recognition of
additional sponsors
for this exhibition
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DepartureDeparture from AfricaWest Africa Before Slaving
Contact Between Europeans and AfricaThe Enslavement of AfricansResistance and Endurance

The Enslavement of Africans

The Selection
The Selection

Most of the Africans who were enslaved were captured in battle or kidnapped, though some were sold into slavery for debt or as punishment for another offense. Most European and African dealers had a sophisticated network of trading alliances for gathering captives and marching them to the coast.

The Prospect of St. Georges Castle at Mina
The Prospect of St. Georges Castle at Mina

The captives of course were not merely "slaves" but individuals with their own lives and identities. They were farmers, merchants, priests, goldsmiths, and musicians. They were husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. The slave trade forcibly uprooted them and dispersed them across the Americas without thought for their personal lives.

After the traders agreed upon and paid a price, the captives were taken by boat from the fort to the waiting ship. There they were loaded aboard as cargo, usually chained together for the long, terrifying and, for many, fatal voyage.

Gate of No Return
The Celebrated Piratical Slaver L'Antonio
Gate of No Return Untitled The Celebrated Piratical Slaver L'Antonio

I cannot make war to catch slaves in the bush like a thief. My ancestors never did so. But if I fight a king and kill him when he is insolent, then certainly I must have his gold, and his slaves, and his people are mine too. Do not the white kings act like this?
Osei Bonsu, King of Ashante, 1820.

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Interior to the Coast