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Explore the history and legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Between 1501 and 1867, nearly 13 million African people were kidnapped, forced onto European and American ships, and trafficked across the Atlantic Ocean to be enslaved, abused, and forever separated from their homes, families, and cultures.
Coastal communities across the U.S. were permanently shaped by the trafficking of African people. New England, Boston, New York City, the Mid-Atlantic, Virginia, Richmond, the Carolinas, Charleston, Savannah, the Deep South, and New Orleans had local economies built around the enslavement of Black people. Few have acknowledged this history.
EJI’s new report examines the economic legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which created generational wealth for Europeans and white Americans and introduced a racial hierarchy that continues to haunt our nation.
Read the Report
EJI’s new report documents the abduction, abuse, and enslavement of Africans for nearly five centuries.
Nearly 13 million African people were kidnapped and trafficked across the Atlantic to the Americas, including the British, French, and Spanish colonies that would later comprise the United States.
Two million people died during the barbaric Middle Passage. African countries were destabilized and left vulnerable to conquest, colonization, and violence for centuries.
In the Americas, a caste system based on race and color emerged in tandem with legal and political systems to codify white supremacy and enshrine enslavement as a permanent and hereditary status.
Kidnapping, trafficking, abusing, and dehumanizing African people and their descendants was as lucrative for Europeans and white Americans as it was traumatizing for Black people.
The Transatlantic Slave Trade enriched many white people across occupations and industries—from early European colonists to priests and popes, shipbuilders to rum and textile producers, bankers to insurers—and generated the capital used to build some of America’s greatest cities and most successful companies.
While many families, businesses, and institutions continue to benefit today from the enormous wealth produced by enslavement, and Black Americans are still forced to grapple with its legacy of inequality and injustice across all areas of American life, few have acknowledged or honestly confronted this history.
This report seeks to contribute to a new era of truth-telling and reckoning with our past in order to create a healthy and just future.
To learn more about the Transatlantic Slave Trade, visit the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.
How to cite
Equal Justice Initiative, “The Transatlantic Slave Trade” (2022).
Social Justice Activist Bryan Stevenson, on Telling the Complete Story of the Slave Trade
New Report Takes a Fresh Look at Savannah’s Role in the History of American Slavery
Our nation’s history has been shaped by a narrative of racial inferiority that defined Black people as less human than white people. Rooted in the need to justify genocide and enslavement, this belief in racial hierarchy survived slavery’s abolition, fueled racial terror lynchings, demanded legally codified segregation, and spawned our mass incarceration crisis. This series follows the myth of racial difference and its legacy from enslavement to mass incarceration.
122 Commerce Street Montgomery, AL 36104 (334) 269-1803 [email protected]
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© Equal Justice Initiative 2022


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