Summary Objective 3

Students will describe the slave trade from Africa to the Americas. Maps to Key Concepts 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 & 10


What else should my students know?

3.A Western Hemispheric destinations of captive Africans included South America, the Caribbean and North America.

3.B European slave traders participated in and fundamentally changed the existing slave trade in Africa. The demand for enslaved people in the European colonies of the Western Hemisphere greatly expanded the African slave trade beyond taking people captive in war. 

3.C Europeans argued that dark skin color (which they hyperbolically described as “black”), lack of Christianity and different styles of dress were evidence that Africans were less civilized. These were rationales for enslavement. Many believed that it was generally acceptable to enslave non-Christians.

3.D The Middle Passage was the voyage of enslaved people from the west coast of Africa to the Americas, usually via the Caribbean. Enslaved people endured traumatic conditions on slavers’ ships, including cramped quarters, meager rations and physical and sexual assault.

3.E Enslavers assigned monetary value to the people they traded. These prices varied over time and place. For much of the trade in enslaved Native people, women and children were the most highly valued because they were thought to be less rebellious and more suited to household labor. Enslavers assigned different values to enslaved Africans and African Americans, particularly in the 19th century. Men in their mid-20s were the most expensive because of their physical strength; young enslaved African women were most valuable before puberty because of the assumption that they would have children who would be the property of their enslaver.


How can I teach this? 

  • Slave Voyages maps the destinations of ships of the Middle Passage and allows users to search slave trade voyages based on data including (but not limited to) origin, destination or date.
  • Slate has developed a short interactive animation illustrating the transatlantic trade in enslaved people. With an accompanying short essay by Jamelle Bouie, the video offers a global perspective of the trade over time.
  • Stowage on the Slave Ship Brookes, 1788” represents 18th-century guidelines for transporting enslaved people during the Middle Passage. Abolitionists used this image to convey the horrifying conditions enslaved people suffered while being forcibly transported from Africa to the Americas.
  • Portuguese chronicler Gomes Eannes de Azurara compiled accounts of the slave trade circa 1450. His description of the division of captives demonstrates the prejudices of the Europeans and the horrors of the slave trade. 
  • Excerpts from slaver John Newton’s journal describe the horrors of the Middle Passage, including disease, suicide attempts and sexual assault. He also discusses the ways enslaved people resisted their captors, including plans for violent rebellion.
  • The Clotilda was the last known ship carrying enslaved Africans to what is now the United States. Examining its recent discovery and the importance of this finding for descendent communities makes connections to the present.



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