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The Slave Trade

Slave travel and purposes

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The travel

After kidnapping potential slaves, merchants forced them to walk in slave caravans to the European coastal forts, sometimes as far as 1,000 miles. Shackled and underfed, only half the people survived these death marches. Those too sick or weary to keep up were often killed or left to die. Those who reached the coastal forts were put into underground dungeons where they would stay -- sometimes for as long as a year -- until they were boarded on ships.
Captains sold the slaves and purchased raw materials to be brought back to Europe on the last leg of the trip. Roughly 54,000 voyages were made by Europeans to buy and sell slaves.
Africans were often treated like cattle during the crossing. The heat was often unbearable, and the air nearly unbreathable. People were crowded together, usually forced to lie on their backs with their heads between the legs of others. The diseased were sometimes thrown overboard to prevent wholesale epidemics.

What did they do?

Slaves were often bought and sold for plantation work from slave blocks, in front of taverns. Once a slave was purchased, he or she became the property of the plantation owner. Slaves planted and harvested the tobacco crop, built the tobacco shipping barrels, delivered the tobacco crop to the inspections warehouses and loaded and unloaded the ships preparing for sail to England. Some slaves even became skilled labourers such as blacksmiths, shoemakers and coopers. Slaves worked long days, doing very hard work with no pay. Slaves were given only basic food, clothing and shelter for their hard work on plantations. Although owning slaves became a way of life for colonial Virginia, many did not feel comfortable with slavery and opposed this form of work.