One of the epic stories of the New World centered on the mass importation of untold millions of African slaves to North America, South America and the Caribbean.
Forced slavery and free labor formed an integral part of the economic success of the United States and other nations.
The descendants of the African slaves, now account for a significant part of the population of the U.S., Brazil and many Caribbean islands. But unlike immigrants from Europe and Asia, most Africans in the New World have little or no detailed accounts of their ancestors’ lives and histories.
While the number of people who were enslaved and brought to the western hemisphere will never be known, scholars have studied where in Africa they originated from and made estimates on the magnitude of this immense forced migration of humanity.
It is believed that the first African slaves were imported to the New World at the beginning of the 17th century and that the first slaves came from Senegambia and the Windward Coast.
Senegambia was a loosely defined region of West Africa that comprises the present-day nations of Senegal and The Gambia. Windward Coast is roughly the current country of Ivory Coast. This region also had a long history of supplying slaves to the Arab World.
When the Portuguese became heavily involved in the slave trade in the middle of the 17th century, they used their contacts in the Kingdom of Kongo to provide free labor for their empire in South America. Kongo comprises what is now northern Angola, and parts of the Republic of Congo and The Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kongo (Angola) would continue to ship slaves to the Americas for another two-hundred years.
Presumably, a large portion of Brazil’s current black population hail from these areas.
A large number of slaves came from the so-called Gold Coast (or sometimes known as the “Slave Coast” (which ultimately became the contemporary nation of Ghana in West Africa).
The Gold Coast and Biafra (which included parts of present-day Nigeria and Gabon) dominated trans-Atlantic slave trade from the middle of the 18th century until the middle of the next century, by which time slavery had been outlawed.
According to the book Transformation in Slavery by Paul E. Lovejoy, between 1650 and 1900, a total of 10-million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic. Almost 4-million of them came from West Central Africa.
These figures likely do not include the untold numbers of slaves who perished on the long, dangerous voyage across the Atlantic, nor does it include the many slaves who were sent to Europe, Middle East, as well as other African lands.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.