Slavery in the Atlantic World | National Humanities Center

Humanities in Class: Webinar Series

Slavery in the Atlantic World

James H. Sweet (Fellow, 2006–07)

October 4, 2012

The first “20. and odd” Africans to arrive in British North America are generally believed to have landed in the Chesapeake in 1619 aboard a Dutch man of war. Though this watershed marks the beginning of the African slave trade to the lands that would eventually become the United States, its importance to the broader history of slavery and the slave trade in the Atlantic world is minimal. Prior to 1619, more than 500,000 Africans had already been toiling as slaves in Europe, Latin America, and the Spanish Caribbean. Moreover, thousands of Native Americans served as forced laborers for European colonists in Latin America and the Caribbean. This seminar situates British North American slavery in this broader Atlantic context. It addresses questions crucial to telling this under-explored story. How did slavery, as practiced in African societies, contrast with chattel slavery as it developed first in Europe and then in the Americas? Why did African chattel slavery gradually replace Indian labor in Spanish and Portuguese colonies? How and why were slaves in those colonies treated differently than their counterparts in British North America?


History / Transatlantic Slave Trade / Slavery / Enslaved Persons / Slave Trade /


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