Examining the heinous Transatlantic Slave Trade

By Imanche Sunday Adiyoh March 30, 2024

The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is observed annually on 25 March. This day serves as a tribute to the victims of slavery and aims to increase awareness regarding the perils of persistent racism and prejudice.

Every day, tourists who tour Elmina Castle, a massive 97,000-square-foot building west of Cape Coast, Ghana, suffer emotional distress. Constructed in 1482 by the Portuguese as a strategic trading outpost for gold along the Gulf of Guinea, the structure underwent a transformation into a stronghold for the transatlantic slave trade by the Dutch in 1637.

Currently, travelers have the opportunity to witness the formerly opulent suites where European slave dealers resided and subjected female slaves to sexual exploitation. In addition, they observe the dungeons that formerly accommodated the enslaved individuals and the dimly illuminated corridors that proceed towards the “door of no return.” Situated within the castle’s exterior walls, this door is oriented towards the sea and acquired its name due to the fact that once slaves passed through it, they never came back.

Upon reaching the “door of no return,” the enslaved individuals were escorted onto vessels that transported them to larger vessels situated further ashore, embarking on a protracted and harrowing voyage to the Americas.
According to Patricia Schultz’s travel book, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die,” it is documented that throughout the 18th century, an estimated 30,000 slaves were subjected to the “door of no return” annually. Anouk Zijlma, a travel guide from Malawi, describes her visit to Elmina Castle as a haunting experience characterized by a pervasive sense of misery.

Elmina Castle, which has been officially recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) owing to its noteworthy importance, is among the numerous remnants of slavery found in Ghana and various other African nations.

In 2009, former US President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, and their kids visited Cape Coast Castle, which is located in Ghana. President Obama expressed that the site served as a reminder of humanity’s capacity for “significant malevolence.”

The slave post on Goree Island in Senegal elicits equally unsettling sensations. In March 2013, Chernor Bah, the Minister of Information and Civic Education of Sierra Leone, expressed her profound humility upon her visit to Goree Island, highlighting the harsh nature of the historical slave trade.

Transatlantic slave trade

According to Nathan Nunn, an economist and Professor at the Vancouver School of Economics in the University of British Columbia, Africa underwent four slave trades from 1400 to 1900, although the transatlantic slave trade is the most widely recognized. Commencing in 1519, the Portuguese initiated the event, which concluded in 1867 with the participation of Britain, France, the Netherlands, and various other nations.

Approximately 15 million individuals originating from West Africa, Central Africa, and Eastern Africa were forcibly seized and transported to European colonies under conditions that were deemed barbaric. Approximately 9.6 million individuals are reported to have survived, although millions of others perished throughout the course of the expedition.

The transatlantic slave trade remains a blemish on the global conscience, prompting ongoing inquiries into the reasons for the inhumane treatment of fellow individuals.

Orlando Patterson, a Jamaican-born American sociologist, characterizes slavery as “social death” due to the perception that slaves were inherently flawed individuals who were unsuitable for inclusion in society.

However, there is currently a global consensus against the historical periods of slavery, and trips to former slave fortifications in Ghana, Senegal, and other locations serve to reignite resentment towards the historical and ongoing acts of cruelty.

In 2007, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade was officially designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the 25th of March annually. According to the United Nations, the day provides a platform to pay tribute and commemorate individuals who endured and perished as a result of the oppressive institution of slavery, while also fostering consciousness regarding the contemporary perils of racism and prejudice.

Contemporary slavery

The United Nations (UN) advocates for comprehensive efforts to address the issue of modern slavery, acknowledging the persistence of enslaving practices in contemporary society. The establishment of an expert team by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights in 1997 aimed to address various manifestations of slavery in the present era. These manifestations encompass debt bondage, serfdom, forced labor, child slavery, sexual slavery, forced or early marriages, and the practice of selling spouses.

According to Gulnara Shahinian, the inaugural special rapporteur on contemporary manifestations of slavery, women and girls who are compelled to enter into marriages are subjected to lifelong servitude. These forms of slavery cannot be justified under any circumstances, including traditional, religious, cultural, economic, or security grounds.

Ms. Shahinian did not employ abstract language in her speech. According to a nonprofit television network based in the United States, the Public Broadcasting Service, it has been reported that in Africa, over 42% of girls are married before to reaching the age of 18.

The International Center for Research on Women, a nonprofit organization based in the United States that assists women in developing nations, has further data illustrating severe circumstances in numerous African countries. In Niger, the prevalence of early marriage among girls is 77%, but in Chad, the corresponding rate is 71%.

The link between slavery and Africa’s lack of progress

Africa’s underdevelopment is often associated with the transatlantic slave trade by numerous experts. In his working paper titled “The Long-Term Effects of Africa’s Slave Trades,” Mr. Nunn asserts that the regions of Africa currently experiencing the highest levels of poverty are also the locations from which the greatest number of enslaved individuals were historically transported.

Warren C. Whatley and Rob Gillezeau from Michigan University in the US agree with Mr. Nunn’s perspective in their study article titled “The Fundamental Impact of the Slave Trade on African Economies.” According to their argument, resources were redirected from agriculture and industrial activities to the slave trade.

Furthermore, proponents argue that the slave trade not only resulted in depopulation but also hindered Africa’s sustained progress, exacerbated ethnic and social differences, and cultivated a climate of violence.

Twenty-First Century Minority

In contemporary culture, the term “twenty-first century minority” commonly denotes groups that encounter social, economic, or political disadvantages. The aforementioned categories encompass racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with impairments, and various other marginalized groups. In order to foster equality and inclusion, it is imperative to acknowledge and confront the distinct challenges and obstacles encountered by these particular groups.

Anniversaries galore

Despite the passage of almost two centuries after the initiation of emancipation, the transatlantic slave trade continues to be a deeply sensitive topic. Ali Al’amin Mazrui, a deceased Kenyan scholar, advocated for reparations to support Africans both in Africa and in the diaspora, with the aim of addressing poverty and promoting good governance.

According to Mr. Mazrui, skills transfer could play a significant role in reparations because black individuals globally have been harmed, marginalized, and rendered unable to function owing to a prolonged history of victimization and exploitation.

“We consider reparations to be a significant matter for individuals of African descent…” According to Epsy Campbell Barr, a former Vice President of Costa Rica and current chair of the UN-established Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, it is imperative to address the persistent consequences of historical events, since they continue to significantly influence the well-being of numerous individuals.

The United Nations, together with intellectuals such as Mr. Mazrui and numerous others, view 25 March as a chance to commemorate and redirect efforts towards eradicating all manifestations of contemporary slavery.

One thought on “Examining the heinous Transatlantic Slave Trade

  • March 30, 2024 at 6:21 am

    The term “twenty-first century minority” is often used in current culture to refer to groups that are subjected to social, economic, or political disadvantages. The categories that have been the subject of discussion are people who are members of racial and ethnic minorities, people who have disabilities, and a variety of other oppressed groups. In order to promote equality and inclusion, it is essential to recognize and make an effort to overcome the unique difficulties and impediments that are faced by these specific groups.


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