Atlantic Slave Trade

Facts you probably didn't know

Slavery was prevalent in Africa for many centuries before the colonization of the New World. 

Africans were enslaved after being captured in the widespread warfare between African states and ethnic groups. African tribal chiefs played a direct role in selling their captives to buyers for export to countries in Europe and Asia and many more to the Muslim world.

In 1998, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda called tribal chieftains to apologize for their involvement in the slave trade:  "African chiefs were the ones waging war on each other and capturing their own people and selling them. If anyone should apologize it should be the African chiefs. We still have those traitors here even today."

According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America, mainly Brazil.

The vast majority of slaves, 96%, were sent to the Caribbean colonies, Central America and South America. Malnutrition, poor housing, inadequate clothing, tropical disease, and overwork contributed to a high mortality rate and required large numbers of replacements.
Only 4% of the total slaves sent to the New World came to the United States.
More than a million slaves were brought to Cuba, more than twice as many as sent to the United States. 

How Many Slaves Landed in the U.S.?

Quotes of Henry Louis Gates Jr,. the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

"The most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (While the editors are careful to say that all of their figures are estimates, I believe that they are the best estimates that we have, the proverbial “gold standard” in the field of the study of the slave trade.) Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.

And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage."

"Another 60,000 to 70,000 Africans ended up in the United States after touching down in the Caribbean first, so that would bring the total to approximately 450,000 (4%) Africans who arrived in the United States over the course of the slave trade. In North America the slave population rapidly increased via the birth rate. Incredibly, most of the 42 million members of the current African-American community descended from this tiny group of less than half a million Africans. And I, for one, find this amazing."  

 Enslavement is a terrible offense against humanity but African slaves sent to the United States would have been enslaved even if the United States had never existed. Had the Africans sent to the United States remained slaves in Africa or been sent to the Caribbean or South America, it is likely that many would not have survived to have descendants. By the start of the Civil War in 1861, the total slave population in the United States had increased around 10 fold because of the birth rate. In approximate figures, the original 450,000 increased to around 4,000,000.

The Atlantic Slave Trade

 Only a very small percentage of African slaves were sent to the United States but 
 many American were led to believe that our country was a major slave holding country. 

Acts Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves began 65 years before the Civil War.
Slaves owned within the United States were unaffected by these laws.

The Slave Trade Act of 1794 passed by the United States Congress limited American involvement in the international slave trade. It was signed into law by President George Washington.

The Slave Trade Act of 1800  built upon the Slave Trade Act of 1794, It was signed into law by President John Adams.

The 1807 Prohibiting Importation of Slaves to the United States was signed into law by President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson had promoted the idea since the 1770s and called for its enactment in his 1806 State of the Union Address.

In 1819 Congress passed yet another act that authorized the president to send "armed vessels of the United States, to be employed to cruise on any of the coasts of the United States ... or the coast of Africa" to interdict slave traders. The act authorized the president to appoint agents to receive rescued Africans and return them to the continent of their birth.

The best data indicates that around 25% of the southern United States households owned slaves and that around 4,000 free Negroes owned around 20,000 slaves.
President Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation freed only the slaves in the states in rebellion against the Federal government. It did not free the slaves held in Union states. At the end of the Civil War on December 6, 1865 the US Congress passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery through the United States. 

Approximately 620,000 soldiers died from combat, accident, starvation, and disease during the Civil War. Total military deaths for World War I and World War II were around 520,000.


Slave Voyages - 
Slaves landed in the United States -
History of Slavery -
Arab Slave Trade -
Atlantic Slave Trade -


The charge that the United States is a racist country and that slaves were grossly mistreated was originated by left/liberal politicians and their supporters in the news media. This deception is used to promote their political ideology. 

Reading first hand accounts and articles published by unbiased authors reveals that the great majority of slaves were fairly treated and in some cases were virtual members of the family. Gross mistreatment of people exists in all cultures and that was true for some slave holders but there is no indication that this was prevalent among the great majority of slave owning families. If it seems otherwise it is because the media heavily promotes their stories on race and the maltreatment of slaves. You seldom, or never, hear of the kindness and concern that was extended to slaves.

Below is a link to a book at the Internet Archive. It is titled "My Life at Oxmoor" by Thomas Bullitt.
This interesting book is about farm life in the Louisville area in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The Bullitts had many slaves.
Oxmoor was/is a farm in Louisville on Shelbyville Road adjacent to the Watterson Expressway. 
The original home and much of the property still exist except for commercial development around the Oxmoor Mall. 

A chapter, "The Negroes"  is from page 37 to 63. 

The book can be downloaded or read on-line. 

Donald Wachtel

The Oxmoor Property in 1939. The arrow points to the Home.
It would have looked much like this in the slave holding days.

The Oxmoor property around 2015. The Arrow points to the home.