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African Slave Trade


The Henrietta Marie 1699 highlights the full side-view of the ship in brown with red highlights, two red flags, and two sailors with blue waves underneath
The Henrietta Marie 1699 highlights the full side-view of the ship in brown with red highlights, two red flags, and two sailors with blue waves underneath. (Credit: Duke Long)





Moe Molinar, a black underwater treasure hunter, was 35 miles off the southern Florida coast in the Gulf of Mexico when he stumbled onto the wreck of the slave ship Henrietta Marie – the only one ever found in U.S. waters – with its grisly artifacts wedged in the sand around it.

The Henrietta Marie was one of hundreds of slave ships that sailed during the trans-Atlantic slave trade beginning around the mid-15th century when Portuguese sailors traveled to Africa in search of gold – and a much more readily available commodity – African slaves. By the 17th century, the trade was quite lucrative, reaching a peak toward the end of the 18th century when an estimated 80,000 Africans annually crossed the Atlantic to spend the rest of their lives in chains.

The labor-intensive agriculture of the New World demanded a large workforce. Crops such as sugar cane, tobacco and cotton required an unlimited and inexpensive supply of strong backs to assure timely production for the European market. Slaves from Africa offered the solution.


Slaves forced into cramped quarters on a slave ship.
Slaves forced into cramped quarters on a slave ship. (Credit: Notices of Brazil, Walsh, 1831)
The Henrietta Marie, 80 feet long and 120 tons, was stocked with the basics required by slave traders: iron bars, glass beads and pewter ware to trade for humans in Africa; linen and calico cloth, indigo and paint for the British inhabitants of the Caribbean, where the slaves would eventually be sold; weapons, fresh water, tobacco, rum, brandy and wine for the crew. "

According to a newspaper report from the time, the Henrietta Marie left London in September 1699. The vessel set a course for Africa's Guinea Coast – which ran from what is now Sierra Leone to Lagos in Nigeria. It likely would have taken about three months to arrive.


NABS members honor the courage and strength of the slaves from the Henrietta Marie with a 2,700 pound concrete monument facing East towards Africa.
NABS members honor the courage and strength of the slaves from the Henrietta Marie with a 2,700 pound concrete monument facing East towards Africa. (Credit: NABS)
From 1540 to 1850 and estimated 15 million Africans were shipped to the West Indies and the United States. Chained together by their hands and feet, the slaves had little room to move on the slave ships. An estimated six million slaves died from malnutrition and disease.

For many enslaved Africans, the slave house on Goree Island is believed to have been their last stop before leaving the continent for the last time. Warehoused in crammed, airless stone chambers, the captives were shackled by the neck and ankles, given European names and routinely flogged, raped, even murdered.

The survivors were dragged through the “Door of No Return,” a passageway leading to waiting slave ships anchored in the harbor. It was the last thing they would see or touch of their homelands or, in many cases, their families.


 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
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