Artifacts of the slave trade |


Roughly between the years 1640 and 1807, at least 12 million African people were enslaved and taken to the Americas, and at least a third of them were taken in British ships. It is estimated that Britain transported 3.1 million Africans to the British colonies in the Caribbean, North and South America and to other countries.  [1]

Wilberforce persisted for decades to have the Slave Trade banned, eventually succeeding. He met fierce opposition, but would not back off.

The Slave Trade made great profits for those who sold and exchanged enslaved people, apparently unaware of how unjust and inhumane the practice was.

The emergence of colonies in the Americas meant that labourers were needed and they turned to Africa to find them, some Christians arguing that it would enable Africans to come in contact with Christianity and ‘civilization.’ Religion was a driving force. Ironically, although evangelization was often the justification for enslaving Africans, little missionary work was actually done during the early years. [2]

British enslavers sailed from Britain to West Africa, where they exchanged trade goods such as brandy and guns for enslaved Africans. They were then taken via the ‘Middle Passage,’ across the Atlantic to be sold in the West Indies and North America. As many as 2 million slaves died during this journey due to the terrible conditions onboard. Then they brought back cargoes of rum, sugar, and other goods back to England to sell. It is thought that altogether 8.5 million enslaved Africans were taken to the Americas.

Enslaved Africans were marched to the coast in chained lines, where they were held in prisons, which were often castle-style buildings built by the Europeans. They were kept in dark rooms and basements for weeks or months until ships were ready to sail.

Journeys across the ‘Middle Passage’ took from 6 weeks to several months. The ships were often too small for the hundreds of slaves that were carried aboard. They were tightly packed into cramped spaces below deck with one person’s right leg chained to the left leg of another person. As many a 2 million died during this journey from diseases such as smallpox, scurvy and measles.[3]

Reading about the Slave Trade and how human beings treated other human beings—something that is still happening in other parts of the world—fills me with disgust. It must be one of the most extreme examples of dehumanizing individuals. People who have hearts and souls. People who have families they love. People who deserve to live free, just like we do. How can the profits earned on the backs of such enslaved individuals be justified?

The main thrust of Christian abolitionism came from the evangelical revival of the 18th century. Among others, dynamic Christians with well-defined beliefs on morality and sin approached slavery from this standpoint. William Wilberforce was one of these. His determination to never let go of the battle, eventually woke up the British Parliament and persuaded it to abolish the Slave Trade on February 23, 1807.[4]


[2] Atlantic Slave Trade and Abolition by Richard Reddie, 2007-01-29


Slavery and its abolition.

[4] Richard Reddie, Atlantic Slave Trade and Abolition, 2007-01-29


This has been Part 8 of the series A LIFE WORTH LIVING. Read Part 9 – Voice of the Abolition Movement