A map on a building on Robben Island, South Africa, shows the routes of the transatlantic slave trade that thrived between the 16th and 19th centuries. 
Photograph by Claire Pascua, MyShot
  • On August 23, 1998, the United Nations recognized the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. The date commemorates the economic and social roots of the transatlantic African slave trade, the largest deportation in history. 
    The transatlantic slave trade was a classic example of “triangle trade.” In the first leg of the deadly triangle, wealthy nations and empires of western Europe (primarily Spain, Portugal, and France) sent ships to Africa to supply local ports and collect slaves. Most people who were enslaved came from central and western Africa, and were forced into slavery by local dealers employed by European agents. 
    The second leg of the triangle was the harrowingMiddle Passage” across the Atlantic Ocean. Slave ships departed from ports on Africa’s west coast, such as Luanda, Angola; and Badagry, Nigeria. About one out of every eight slaves died on board cramped ships on the Middle Passage.
    Slaves were sold at markets throughout the Americas. The sugar plantations and gold mines of Brazil were the leading destination for slaves. Other slaves worked on sugar plantations and rum factories in the Caribbean. 
    The final leg of the triangle trade was completed by ships carrying goods produced by slave labor back to Europe and urban areas in North America. Goods included sugar and its products, such as rum and syrup; coffee; tobacco; and precious metals such as gold and silver. 
    The date of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition recognizes the slave uprising that started in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, in what is today Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The large and well-organized uprising—better known as the Haitian Revolution—lasted 13 years and ended with the independent nation of Haiti. In 1888, nearly 85 years later, Brazil became the last nation in the Americas to abolish slavery. 
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    abolish Verb

    to wipe out or get rid of.

    African slave trade Noun

    (1500-1888) exchange of goods and services from Europe and the Americas in exchange for human beings from Africa. Also called the Atlantic slave trade.

    agent Noun

    person authorized or employed to act on another's behalf.

    coast Noun

    edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: coast
    colony Noun

    people and land separated by distance or culture from the government that controls them.

    commemorate Verb

    to honor an event on a specific date.

    cramped Adjective

    crowded or having very little space.

    depart Verb

    to leave.

    deport Verb

    to send away from a country or region.

    destination Noun

    place where a person or thing is going.

    economic Adjective

    having to do with money.

    empire Noun

    group of nations, territories or other groups of people controlled by a single, more powerful authority.

    employ Verb

    to hire or use.

    enslave Verb

    to totally control.

    factory Noun

    one or more buildings used for the manufacture of a product.

    harrowing Adjective

    extremely disturbing or scary.

    independent Adjective

    free from influence, threat, or support.

    labor Noun

    work or employment.

    market Noun

    central place for the sale of goods.

    Middle Passage Noun

    route traveled by slave ships between West Africa and the Caribbean or eastern North America.

    mine Noun

    place dug in the earth where ores are extracted.

    nation Noun

    political unit made of people who share a common territory.

    Encyclopedic Entry: nation
    plantation Noun

    large estate or farm involving large landholdings and many workers.

    port Noun

    place on a body of water where ships can tie up or dock and load and unload cargo.

    Encyclopedic Entry: port
    precious metal Noun

    valuable metal, such as gold, silver, or platinum.

    recognize Verb

    to identify or acknowledge.

    slave Noun

    person who is owned by another person or group of people.

    social Adjective

    having to do with a community or other group of organized people.

    supply Verb

    to provide a good or service.

    transatlantic Adjective

    across the Atlantic Ocean.

    triangle trade Noun

    historically, the exchange of goods and services between Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

    United Nations Noun

    international organization that works for peace, security and cooperation.

    uprising Noun

    revolt or rebellion.

    urban area Noun

    developed, densely populated area where most inhabitants have nonagricultural jobs.

    Encyclopedic Entry: urban area
    wealthy Adjective

    very rich.