African-American Slavery answers questions
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African-American Slavery

Slave fort in Ghana
Slave fort (modern Ghana)

Although other people, both white and Native American, have been held as slaves in North America, the experience of the African people who were forced to come to North America as slaves was more unusual, because more than half of the people living in slave states were slaves.

Most of the people who became slaves in North America were from West Africa. You would be living in a village when outsiders attacked and captured you, and then they would sell you to somebody else, who sold you to somebody else, and in the end somebody would sell you to a white man who would keep you in a slave fort on the coast of Africa. Half of the people captured with you died of hunger or sickness, while you were walking to the coast.

Soon men with guns would force you to get on a ship, and they would take you to North America. The ship was terrible - dirty, and stinky, and you were crowded like on a crowded bus, and you had to stay there for two or three months. You wore chains that fastened you to people on either side of you the whole time. You had to lie down because there wasn't even room to sit up, the ceiling was so low. Almost one out of ten of the people around you got sick and died. Sometimes people gave up and tried to starve themselves to death, but the sailors beat them or tortured them until they ate something. Sometimes people call this trip the Middle Passage.

Slave Auction
Selling people to be slaves

When you got to North America, you got a few weeks to get healthier, and you got a European-style dress or pants to wear, and then the slave trader sold you to whoever would pay the most for you. Most people went to southern states like Mississippi to pick cotton, though a few people went further north, to the Carolinas, to plant and pick tobacco.

Learn by Doing - Slavery Project

Bibliography and further reading about American slavery:

More about slavery
Black people after the Civil War
The Civil Rights movement
American History home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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