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.
|World History||African History|
Everybody knows it was a big deal.
But, seriously…it was a really big deal, majorly shaping the world as we know it today. [Man shaping the earth]
Some highlights on the Atlantic slave trade…
It enslaved millions…yes, millions…of Africans and shipped them off to the Americas
and other places to work on plantations.
It gave rise to nations in North and South America and made a ton of money for Europe [Man covered in money laughing]
in the process.
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]
even to this day.
Yeah, we’d say that qualifies as a Grade A really big deal. [Grade A ship appears]
Of course, slavery didn't just spring out of nowhere.
A bunch of sleazy Europeans didn't get together and think…
Hey, you know what’d be fun?
Making loads of cash by horrifically exploiting people! [Europeans eyes turn to dollar symbols]
Slavery has been around for a seriously long time.
Not only did slavery thrive in many ancient societies, but also many religions were totally
cool with it.
And we’re talkin’ major religions, not cults lead by some dude named Earl. [Earl holding poisonous lemonade]
Back in the day, people accepted slavery as a fact of life…
Like socks that disappear from the dryer… [Dryer eats a sock]
Or the coke machine that always eats your quarters.
Annoying, but what can you really do about it? [People chasing a coke vending machine]
However, for a long time, owning human beings was not all that profitable.
You had to clothe 'em, feed 'em, pay for their cable, and you really didn't get that much
labor in return.
But that changed in the 15th century, when slavery suddenly became as profitable as iPhones.
Well, there was a major labor shortage in the Americas since the indigenous peoples
weren’t too keen about working on European plantations. [Man appears on plantation]
So European colonizers were willing to shell out the big bucks for workers. [Man carrying giant dollar bill]
What does that spell?
Everybody’s favorite blemish on the soul of humanity: the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
Slaves were shipped across the Atlantic on a Hell-like voyage called the Middle Passage. [Ship sailing across sea]
Usually, slaves were barely fed and were chained closely together in the hulls of ships that [Slaves chained on the ships hull]
made the NYC sewer system look sanitary.
When a slave died, which was pretty darn likely, his or her body was simply tossed over the [Men throw slaves body overboard]
side of the ship.
On the other side of the Atlantic, slaves were welcomed with a life of hard labor, rape,
and all the other joys that come with forced servitude.
Besides being awful for the slaves, themselves, the slave trade also wreaked havoc on African
By giving power and wealth to the most aggressive rulers. [African President carrying pot of gold]
You know the ones who thought it was totally fine to betray their fellow countrymen to
get some gold.
Of course, some African states weren’t totally on the slavery bandwagon. [Slavery bandwagon drives by]
Which is good because it’s a pretty gross bandwagon.
Some rulers tried to restrict or regulate the slave trade.
And some took a stand against it all together. [Man slaps slavery bandwagon]
But all in all, the slave trade was so powerful, most states allowed slave traders to do their
After years of awful suffering and sometimes-bloody struggle, the abolitionist movement did finally
get slavery outlawed in the Western World.
So that’s good.
But don’t start singing It’s a Wonderful World just yet. [Man singing in the park]
Sure, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade has gone to its grave.
But despite laws against it, slavery still exists today on a depressingly large scale. [Woman slave sweeping]
If all the world's current slaves were a country, then that country would have roughly as many
people as Canada.....yeah, lot of maple syrup.