|About the Book|
The Atlantic slave trade began in the 1400s, when Portuguese navigators reached the coast of Sub-Saharan Africa. In that period, the famous Portuguese prince, Henry the Navigator, organized annual oceanic voyages towards the South Atlantic, in orderMoreThe Atlantic slave trade began in the 1400s, when Portuguese navigators reached the coast of Sub-Saharan Africa. In that period, the famous Portuguese prince, Henry the Navigator, organized annual oceanic voyages towards the South Atlantic, in order to open up a sea route to India. As they sailed around the African coast, the Portuguese sailors came into contact with the people living in those areas. At first Portuguese sailors kidnapped Africans and sold them into slavery. But they soon realized that it was more effective to obtain slaves from local Africans through peaceful trade, rather than obtaining captives themselves through war.As time went on, the transatlantic slave trade grew, while Portuguese slave traders were overshadowed by Dutch, French, British, and other European and American competitors. The Atlantic slave trade was driven by the demand for labor in the New World, especially on the sugar plantations of Brazil and the Caribbean. Thousands of enslaved Africans were shipped to the Americas, especially when the trade was at its peak in the 18th century.African rulers and merchants were enriched by the trade. The Africans sold into the Atlantic slave trade were enslaved in various ways, but warfare was often the reason for enslavement. During African wars, armies often enslaved captured enemy soldiers and civilians, and these captives could be sold to other Africans, with some of them ending up being sold to Europeans on the coast.In the late 18th century an abolitionist movement, calling for the end of the slave trade, gained support in Great Britain. Led by parliamentarian William Wilberforce, the abolitionists were able secure the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade in the British Empire in 1807. Some slave owners in the British West Indies also supported the outlawing of the slave trade because they saw African-born slaves as more dangerous than their New World-born counterparts. There had been a number of African-led slave revolts in the 17th and 18th centuries, including Tacky’s Rebellion in Jamaica.The Atlantic slave trade was banned around the same time in the United States as it was in Great Britain. In the years that followed, Britain made a number of treaties with other European and American countries to outlaw the transatlantic slave trade. The Netherlands, France, and other European nations followed the British example, outlawing the Atlantic slave trade, and the Royal Navy began patrolling the African coast to catch illegal slave trading ships.The transatlantic slave trade continued for several more decades, however. Illegal slave traders continued to smuggle African captives into Cuba and Brazil into the second half of the 19th century.“African Reactions to the Abolition of the Slave Trade” is a letter that was written to the editor of the Sierra Leone Gazette in March 1808, soon after the Atlantic slave trade was abolished by Great Britain. It describes the reactions of some African rulers in the Senegambia (modern-day Senegal and Gambia) region to the abolition of the trade. As might be expected, some of the African rulers and merchants who had gained wealth from trading slaves would not have been happy with the outlawing of the trade. On the other hand, some rulers tried to stop or at least regulate the trade in their jurisdictions. Abdul Kader of Futa Toro, for example, opposed the sale of Muslims, the Kongolese king Afonso complained about the slave trade in his kingdom, and the kingdom of Benin banned the export of male slaves from its territory.Sierra Leone, where this report was first published, was a British colony, founded as a home for British subjects of African descent, including American Loyalists and West Indian exiles.