How Slavery Developed

‘Buying’ the slaves

Sugar mill

When the ships reached Africa they would cruise along the coast collecting as many men, women and children as they could, ‘paying’ for them with the goods brought from Europe. Sometimes these people were prisoners captured in local fighting. Sometimes they had been kidnapped for sale to the European traders.

When the ships were full they set sail across the Atlantic Ocean for the islands in the Caribbean or America. In the late 17th century, areas of land called plantations had been set up there to grow sugar cane and tobacco. The plantations were owned and run by Europeans. The original inhabitants of the Caribbean islands had been all but wiped out.

At first people from Europe worked on the plantations but the work was hard and more people were needed to look after the crops. Africans were chosen because there was a ready supply of enslaved Africans, and it was thought that they were used to working on the land and to the climate.

When the ships reached the islands the slaves were sold on the ship or unloaded and taken to the slave market. Here the plantation owner or manager would buy them. The enslaved Africans were the property of their owner. They were slaves for life. Often they never saw anyone from their own family or community again.

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