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Animated interactive of the history of the Atlantic slave trade.

20/02/2016 15:05

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THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN SLAVERY

OUR DEFINING INSTITUTION, IN NINE LIVES.

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JUNE 25 2015 1:35 PM

The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes
315 years. 20,528 voyages. Millions of lives.
By Andrew Kahn and Jamelle Bouie

1860

Slaves disembarked
(cumulative)

▶ Play

Caribbean
3.6 million

Brazil

2.4 million
1.2 million
Mainland N. America
1583

1625

1666

1708

1750

1791

1833

Source: slavevoyages.org
Interactive by Andrew Kahn. Background image by Tim Jones.

U

sually, when we say “American slavery” or the “American slave trade,” we mean the American colonies or, later, the United States. But as we
discussed in Episode 2 of Slate’s History of American Slavery Academy, relative to the entire slave trade, North America was a bit player.
From the trade’s beginning in the 16th century to its conclusion in the 19th, slave merchants brought the vast majority of enslaved Africans to

two places: the Caribbean and Brazil. Of the more than 10 million enslaved Africans to eventually reach the Western Hemisphere, just 388,747—less
than 4 percent of the total—came to North America. This was dwarfed by the 1.3 million brought to Spanish Central America, the 4 million brought to
British, French, Dutch, and Danish holdings in the Caribbean, and the 4.8 million brought to Brazil.
This interactive, designed and built by Slate’s Andrew Kahn, gives you a sense of the scale of the trans-Atlantic slave trade across time, as well as the
flow of transport and eventual destinations. The dots—which represent individual slave ships—also correspond to the size of each voyage. The larger
the dot, the more enslaved people on board. And if you pause the map and click on a dot, you’ll learn about the ship’s flag—was it British? Portuguese?
French?—its origin point, its destination, and its history in the slave trade. The interactive animates more than 20,000 voyages cataloged in the TransAtlantic Slave Trade Database. (We excluded voyages for which there is incomplete or vague information in the database.) The graph at the bottom
accumulates statistics based on the raw data used in the interactive and, again, only represents a portion of the actual slave trade—about one-half of
the number of enslaved Africans who actually were transported away from the continent.

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