African History 4: The Slave Trade

No jokes today, Shmoopers, slavery is a terrible thing. Notice we said is. Check out this video to learn more.

LanguageEnglish Language
World HistoryAfrican History

Transcript

00:16

Slavery.

00:17

Everybody knows it was a big deal.

00:19

But, seriously…it was a really big deal, majorly shaping the world as we know it today. [Man shaping the earth]

00:26

Some highlights on the Atlantic slave trade…

00:30

It enslaved millions…yes, millions…of Africans and shipped them off to the Americas

00:35

and other places to work on plantations.

00:37

It gave rise to nations in North and South America and made a ton of money for Europe [Man covered in money laughing]

00:42

in the process.

00:43

It forever altered the balance of world power, helping Europe and the US to stay in the forefront [Europe and US balancing on slaves shoulders]

00:48

even to this day.

00:49

Yeah, we’d say that qualifies as a Grade A really big deal. [Grade A ship appears]

00:52

Of course, slavery didn't just spring out of nowhere.

00:55

A bunch of sleazy Europeans didn't get together and think…

00:58

Hey, you know what’d be fun?

01:00

Making loads of cash by horrifically exploiting people! [Europeans eyes turn to dollar symbols]

01:04

Slavery has been around for a seriously long time.

01:07

Not only did slavery thrive in many ancient societies, but also many religions were totally

01:11

cool with it.

01:12

And we’re talkin’ major religions, not cults lead by some dude named Earl. [Earl holding poisonous lemonade]

01:16

Back in the day, people accepted slavery as a fact of life…

01:19

Like socks that disappear from the dryer… [Dryer eats a sock]

01:21

Or the coke machine that always eats your quarters.

01:23

Annoying, but what can you really do about it? [People chasing a coke vending machine]

01:26

However, for a long time, owning human beings was not all that profitable.

01:29

You had to clothe 'em, feed 'em, pay for their cable, and you really didn't get that much

01:33

labor in return.

01:37

But that changed in the 15th century, when slavery suddenly became as profitable as iPhones.

01:41

What happened?

01:42

Well, there was a major labor shortage in the Americas since the indigenous peoples

01:46

weren’t too keen about working on European plantations. [Man appears on plantation]

01:50

So European colonizers were willing to shell out the big bucks for workers. [Man carrying giant dollar bill]

01:54

What does that spell?

01:55

Everybody’s favorite blemish on the soul of humanity: the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

02:02

Slaves were shipped across the Atlantic on a Hell-like voyage called the Middle Passage. [Ship sailing across sea]

02:06

Usually, slaves were barely fed and were chained closely together in the hulls of ships that [Slaves chained on the ships hull]

02:12

made the NYC sewer system look sanitary.

02:15

When a slave died, which was pretty darn likely, his or her body was simply tossed over the [Men throw slaves body overboard]

02:18

side of the ship.

02:20

On the other side of the Atlantic, slaves were welcomed with a life of hard labor, rape,

02:25

and all the other joys that come with forced servitude.

02:28

Besides being awful for the slaves, themselves, the slave trade also wreaked havoc on African

02:32

politics.

02:34

How?

02:35

By giving power and wealth to the most aggressive rulers. [African President carrying pot of gold]

02:39

You know the ones who thought it was totally fine to betray their fellow countrymen to

02:44

get some gold.

02:45

Of course, some African states weren’t totally on the slavery bandwagon. [Slavery bandwagon drives by]

02:48

Which is good because it’s a pretty gross bandwagon.

02:49

Some rulers tried to restrict or regulate the slave trade.

02:52

And some took a stand against it all together. [Man slaps slavery bandwagon]

02:55

But all in all, the slave trade was so powerful, most states allowed slave traders to do their

03:03

thing.

03:04

After years of awful suffering and sometimes-bloody struggle, the abolitionist movement did finally

03:07

get slavery outlawed in the Western World.

03:09

So that’s good.

03:10

But don’t start singing It’s a Wonderful World just yet. [Man singing in the park]

03:13

Sure, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade has gone to its grave.

03:17

But despite laws against it, slavery still exists today on a depressingly large scale. [Woman slave sweeping]

03:23

If all the world's current slaves were a country, then that country would have roughly as many

03:30

people as Canada.....yeah, lot of maple syrup.