Slavery, the treatment of human beings
as property, deprived of personal rights,
has occurred in many formsthroughout the world.
其中一种范围之广 影响之深 使其广为人知
But one institution stands out for both its global scale and its lasting legacy.
The Atlantic slave trade,
occurring from the late 15th to the mid 19th century
and spanning three continents,
forcibly brought more than 10 million Africans to the Americas.
The impact it would leave affectednot only these slaves
and their descendants, but the economies and histories
of large parts of the world.
There had been centuries of contactbetween Europe and Africa
via the Mediterranean.
But the Atlantic slave tradebegan in the late 1400s
with Portuguese colonies in West Africa,
and Spanish settlementof the Americas shortly after.
The crops grown in the new colonies, sugar cane, tobacco,
烟草 棉花等 需要大量人力
and cotton, were labor intensive,
and there were not enough settlers or indentured servants
to cultivate all the new land.
American Natives were enslaved,but many died from new diseases,
while others effectively resisted.
And so to meet the massivedemand for labor,
the Europeans looked to Africa.
African slavery had existedfor centuries in various forms.
Some slaves were indentured servants,
with a limited termand the chance to buy one’s freedom.
Others were more like European serfs.
In some societies, slaves couldbe part of a master’s family,
own land, and even riseto positions of power.
但当白人驾着船 带着手工艺品 武器
But when white captains came offeringmanufactured goods, weapons,
and rum for slaves,
African kings and merchantshad little reason to hesitate.
They viewed the people they soldnot as fellow Africans
而是罪犯 债务人 或者敌对部落的俘虏
but criminals, debtors,or prisoners of war from rival tribes.
By selling them, kings enrichedtheir own realms,
and strengthened themagainst neighboring enemies.
African kingdoms prosperedfrom the slave trade,
but meeting the European’s massive demandcreated intense competition.
Slavery replaced other criminal sentences,
and capturing slavesbecame a motivation for war,
rather than its result.
To defend themselves from slave raids,
neighboring kingdomsneeded European firearms,
which they also bought with slaves.
The slave trade had become an arms race,
altering societies and economiesacross the continent.
As for the slaves themselves,they faced unimaginable brutality.
After being marchedto slave forts on the coast,
shaved to prevent lice, and branded,
they were loaded onto shipsbound for the Americas.
About 20% of themwould never see land again.
Most captains of the daywere tight packers,
cramming as many menas possible below deck.
While the lack of sanitationcaused many to die of disease,
and others were thrownoverboard for being sick or as discipline.
The captains ensure their profits
by cutting off slave’s ears
as proof of purchase.
Some captives took mattersinto their own hands.
Many inland Africanshad never seen whites before,
and thought them to be cannibals,
constantly taking people away and returning for more.
Afraid of being eaten,or just to avoid further suffering,
they committed suicideor starved themselves,
believing that in death,their souls would return home.
Those who survivedwere completley dehumanized,
treated as mere cargo.
Women and children were kept
above deck and abused by the crew,
while the men were made to perform dances
in order to keep them exercisedand curb rebellion.
What happened to those Africanswho reached the New World
and how the legacy of slaverystill affects their descendants today
is fairly well known.
But what is not often discussed
is the effect that the Atlantic slave trade had on Africa’s future.
Not only did the continent lose tens
of millions of its able-bodied population,
but because most of the slavestaken were men,
the long-term demographiceffect was even greater.
When the slave trade was finally outlawed
in the Americas and Europe,
the African kingdoms whose economiesit had come to dominate collapsed,
leaving them opento conquest and colonization.
And the increased competitionand influx of European weapons
fueled warfare and instabilitythat continues to this day.
The Atlantic slave trade also contributed to the development of racist ideology.
Most African slavery had no deeper reasonthan legal punishment
or intertribal warfare, but the Europeanswho preached a universal religion,
and who had long agooutlawed enslaving fellow Christians,
needed justification for a practice
so obviously at oddswith their ideals of equality.
So they claimed thatAfricans were biologically inferior
and destined to be slaves, making great efforts to justify this theory. Thus,
slavery in Europe and the Americasacquired a racial basis,
making it impossible for slavesand their future descendants
to attain equal status in society.
In all of these ways,
the Atlantic slave trade was an injustice on a massive scale
whose impact has continuedlong after its abolition.