Chapter 4
Slavery and Empire
MAP 4.1 The African Slave Trade The enslaved men, women, and children transported to
the Americas came from West Africa, the majority from the lower Niger River (called the Slave
Coast) and the region of the Congo and Angola.
MAP 4.2 Slave Colonies of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries By the eighteenth
century, the system of slavery had created societies with large African populations throughout
the Caribbean and along the southern coast of North America.
MAP 4.3 Triangular Trade Across the Atlantic The pattern of commerce among Europe,
Africa, and the Americas became known as the “Triangular Trade.” Sailors called the voyage
of slave ships from Africa to America the “Middle Passage” because it formed the crucial
middle section of this trading triangle.
FIGURE 4.1 Estimated Number of Africans Imported to British North America, 1701–75
These official British statistics include only slaves imported legally, and consequently
undercount the total number who arrived on American shores. But the trend over time is
clear. With the exception of the 1750s, when the British colonies were engulfed by the Seven
Years War, the slave trade continued to rise in importance in the decades before the
FIGURE 4.2 Africans as a Percentage of Total Population of the British Colonies, 1650 –
1770 Although the proportion of Africans and African Americans was never as high in the
South as in the Caribbean, the ethnic structure of the South diverged radically from that of the
North during the eighteenth century. SOURCE:Robert W.Fogel and Stanley L.Engerman,Time on the Cross (Boston:Little,Brown,1974),21.
FIGURE 4.3 Value of Colonial
Exports by Region, Annual
Average, 1768–72 With tobacco, rice,
grain, and indigo, the Chesapeake
and Lower South accounted for nearly
two-thirds of colonial exports in the
late eighteenth century. The Middle
Colonies, however, were also
becoming major exporters of grain.
SOURCE:James F.Shepherd and Gary M.Walton,Shipping,Maritime Trade and the Economic
Development of Colonial America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1972),211 –27.
This image of Mansa Musa (1312–37), the ruler of the Muslim kingdom of Mali in West Africa,
is taken from the Catalan Atlas, a magnificent map presented to the king of France in 1381 by
his cousin, the king of Aragon. In the words of the Catalan inscription, Musa was “the richest,
the most noble lord in all this region on account of the abundance of gold that is gathered in
his land.” He holds what was thought to be the world’s largest gold nugget. Under Musa’s
reign, Timbuktu became a capital of world renown. SOURCE:Courtesy of Library of Congress.
A black slave deiver supervises a gang of slave men and women preparing the fields for the
planting of sugar care in the West Indies, a colored engraving published in William Clark’s
Ten Views Found in the Island of Antigua (London, 4823) SOURCE:The British Library.
A slave coffle in an eighteenth-century print. As the demand for slaves increased, raids
extended deeper and deeper into the African interior. Tied together with forked logs or bark
rope, men, women, and children were marched hundreds of miles toward the coast, where
their African captors traded them to Europeans. SOURCE:North Wind Picture Archives.
Slaves below deck on a Spanish slaver, a sketch made when the vessel was captured by a
British warship in the early nineteenth century. Slaves were “stowed so close, that they were
not allowed above a foot and a half for each in breadth,” wrote one observer. The close
quarters and unsanitary conditions created a stench so bad that Atlantic sailors said you
could “smell a slaver five miles down wind.” SOURCE:The Granger Collection.
Portrait of Olaudah Equiano, by an
unknown English artist, ca. 1780.
Captured in Nigeria in 1756 when
he was eleven years old, Equiano
was transported to America and
was eventually purchased by an
English sea captain. After ten years
as a slave, he succeeded in buying
his own freedom and dedicated
himself to the antislavery cause.
His book, The Interesting Narrative
of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
(1789), was published in numerous
editions, translated into several
languages, and became the
prototype for dozens of other slave
narratives in the nineteenth
SOURCE:Portrait of a Negro Man,Olaudah Equiano ,ca.1780, (previously attributed to
Joshua Reynolds)by English School.Royal Albert Memorial
Museum,Exeter,Devon,UK/Bridgeman Art Library, London/New York.
Africans herded from a slave ship to a corral where they were to be sold by the cruel method
known as "the scramble," buyers rushing in and grabbing their pick. This image was featured
in an antislavery narrative published in 1796. Source: The Granger Collection, New York.
Residence and Slave Quarters of Mulberry Plantation, by Thomas Coram, ca. 1770. The
slave quarters are on the left in this painting of a rice plantation near Charleston, South
Carolina. The steep roofs of the slave cabins, an African architectural feature introduced in
America by slave builders, kept living quarters cool by allowing the heat to rise and dissipate
in the rafters. SOURCE:Thomas Coram,Residence and Slave Quarters of Mulberry Plantation ca.1770.Oil on paper,10 •17.6 cm. Gibbes Museum of Art,Carolina Art Association.
The London Coffee House, near the docks of Philadelphia, was the center of the city’s
business and political life in the mid-eighteenth century. Sea captains and Merchants
congregated here to do business, and as this contemporary print illustrates (in the detail on
the far right), it was the site of many slave auctions. Slavery was a vital part of the economy
of northern cities. SOURCE:The Library Company of Philadelphia.
Bett, also known as Elizabeth
Freeman, was born into slavery in a
Massachusetts household about
1742. As a young woman she was
subjected to the violent abuse of her
mistress, who struck her with a hot
shovel, leaving an indelible scar.
Fleeing her owner Mum Bett enlisted
the aid of antislavery lawyer Thomas
Sedgwick, who helped win her
freedom in 1772. This miniature was
painted by Sedgwick's daughter
Susan in 1811.
SOURCE:Courtesy of Massachusetts Historical Society.
Buddy Qua of St. Vincent. African
names for weekdays, such as “Qua”
or “Quow” (Tuesday), were common
among the slaves of the Caribbean
and the Lower South. This sketch
comes from an eighteenth-century
series showing slaves going about
their daily tasks.
SOURCE:National Library of Jamaica.
This eighteenth-century painting depicts a celebration in the slave quarters on a South Carolina
plantation. One planter’s description of a slave dance seems to fit this scene: the men leading the
women in “a slow shuffling gait, edging along by some unseen exertion of the feet, from one side to
the other—sometimes courtesying down and remaining in that posture while the edging motion
from one side to the other continued.” The women, he wrote, “always carried a handkerchief held at
arm’s length, which was waved in a graceful motion to and fro as she moved.”
SOURCE:Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center,Williamsburg,Virginia.
Fugitive slaves flee through the swamps in Thomas Moran’s The Slave Hunt (1862). Many
slaves ran away from their masters, and colonial newspapers included notices urging readers
to be on the lookout for them. Some fled in groups or collected together in isolated
communities called “maroon” colonies, located in inaccessible swamps and woods.
SOURCE:Thomas Moran,The Slave Hunt,1862,oil on canvas,86.4 •111.8 cm.Gift of Laura A.Clubb,The Philbrook Museum of Art,Tulsa,Oklahoma.
Eighteenth-century ships being
unloaded of their colonial cargoes on
London’s Old Custom House Quay.
Most of the goods imported into
England from the American colonies
were produced by slave labor.
SOURCE:Samuel Scott,Old Custom House Quay Collection.By courtesy of the Board of
Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The New England artist John Greenwood painted this amusing view of New England sea
captains in Surinam in 1757. By the early eighteenth century, New England merchant traders
like these had become important participants in the traffic in slaves and sugar to and from the
West Indies. Northern ports thus became important pivots in the expanding commercial
network linking slave plantations with Atlantic markets.
SOURCE:John Greenwood,Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam, 1757.Oil on bed ticking,95.9 •191.2 cm.The Saint Louis Art Museum,Museum Purchase.
Thomas Jefferson placed this advertisement in the Virginia Gazette on September 14, 1769.
Americans need to seriously consider the historical relationship between the prosperity and
freedom of white people and the oppression and exploitation of Africans and African
Americans. SOURCE:Virginia Historical Society.

Cortes & Montezuma, 1519