Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade

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Indigenous African Slavery

Indigenous African Slavery
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: "Journey of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile" by John Hanning Speke, New York 1869


This gallery of Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade includes pictures of indigenous and European slave trade, capture, transportation to the coast, slave pens, inspection by European merchants and ship's captains, slaving ships, and scenes from the Middle Passage.

Indigenous slavery in West Africa, known as pawnship, differed somewhat from the chattel slavery of the trans-Atlantic trade, since pawns would live amongst a similar culture. Pawns would, however, still be restrained against escape.

02
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A Slaver's Canoe

A Slaver's Canoe
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: "Boy Travelers on the Congo" by Thomas W Knox, New York 1871

Slavers were often transported considerable distances down river (in this case the Congo) to be sold to Europeans.

03
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African Captives Being Sent Into Slavery

African Captives Being Sent Into Slavery
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: Library of Congress (cph 3a29129)

This engraving entitled Tipo [sic] Tib's Fresh Captives Being Sent Into Bondage – Witnessed by Stanley records part of Henry Morton Stanley's journeys through Africa. Stanley also hired porters from Tippu Tib, a man considered the king of Zanzibar Slave Traders.

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Indigenous African Slavers Traveling From the Interior

Indigenous African Slavers Traveling From the Interior
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: "Voyage à la Côte Occidentale d'Afrique" by Louis Degrandpré, Paris 1801

Indigenous African slavers from coastal regions would travel far into the interior to obtain slaves. They were generally better armed, having obtained guns from European merchants in trade for slaves.

Slaves are yoked with a forked branch and fixed in place with an iron pin across the back of their necks. The slightest tug on the branch could choke the prisoner.

05
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Cape Coast Castle, Gold Coast

Cape Coast Castle, Gold Coast
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: "Thirty Different Drafts of Guinea" by William Smith, London 1749

The Europeans built several castles and forts, along the coast of West Africa – Elmina, Cape Coast, etc.. These fortresses, otherwise known as 'factories', were the first permanent trading stations built by Europeans in Africa.

06
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A Slave Barracoon

A Slave Barracoon
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: "Boy Travelers on the Congo" by Thomas W Knox, New York 1871

Prisoners could be held in slave sheds, or barracoons, for several months whilst awaiting the arrival of European merchants.

Slaves are shown hobbled to roughly hewn logs (on left) or in stocks (on right). Slaves would be fastened to the roof supports by rope, attached around their necks or interweaved into their hair.

07
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Female East African Slave

Female East African Slave
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: "Africa and its Explorations as told by its Explorers" by Mungo Park et al., London 1907.

A regularly reproduced image, now regarded as that of a female East African slave. Married women of the Babuckur would pierce the edges of their ears and around their lips, insetting short sections of dried grass.

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Young African Boys Captured for Slave Trade

Young African Boys Captured for Slave Trade
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: Harpers Weekly, 2 June 1860.

Young boys were the favorite cargo of trans-Atlantic slave ship captains.

09
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Inspection of an African Slave

Inspection of an African Slave
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: "Captain Canot: Twenty Years of an African Slaver" by Brantz Mayer (ed.), New York 1854

This engraving, entitled An African man being inspected for sale into slavery while a white man talks with African slave traders, appeared in the detailed account of a former slave ship captain, Theodore Canot - Captain Canot: Twenty Years of an African Slaver, edited by Brantz Mayer and published in New York in 1854.

10
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Testing an African Slave For Sickness

Testing an African Slave For Sickness
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: "Le commerce de l'Amerique par Marseille", engraving by Serge Daget, Paris 1725

From an engraving entitled An Englishman Tastes the Sweat of an African, numbered from right to left the image shows Africans displayed for sale in a public market, an African being examined before purchase, an Englishman licking sweat from the African's chin to test whether he is sick with a tropical disease (a sick slave would quickly infect the rest of the 'human cargo' on a tightly packed slave ship), and an African slave wearing an iron slave marker.

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Diagram of the Slave Ship Brookes

Diagram of the Slave Ship Brookes
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: Library of Congress (cph 3a44236)

Illustration showing deck plans and cross sections of British slave ship Brookes.

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Plans of Slave Decks, Slave Ship Brookes

Plans of Slave Decks, Slave Ship Brookes
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: Library of Congress

A detailed drawing of the slave ship Brookes, showing how 482 people were to be packed onto the decks. The detailed plans and cross sectional drawing of the slave ship Brookes was distributed by the Abolitionist Society in England as part of their campaign against the slave trade, and dates from 1789.

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Slave Decks on the Slave Bark Wildfire

Slave Decks on the Slave Bark Wildfire
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: Library of Congress (cph 3a42003) also Harper's Weekly, 2 June 1860

From an engraving entitled The Africans of the slave bark "Wildfire" brought into Key West on April 30, 1860 which appeared in Harpers Weekly on 2 June 1860. The picture shows a separation of sexes: African men crowded onto a lower deck, African women on an upper deck at the back.

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Exercising Slaves on a Trans-Atlantic Slave Ship

Exercising Slaves on a Trans-Atlantic Slave Ship
Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade. Source: "La France Maritime" by Amédée Gréhan (ed.), Paris 1837

To preserve the human cargo on a slave ship, individuals were occasionally allowed up on deck for exercise (and to provide entertainment for the crew). Note that they are being 'encouraged' by sailors holding whips.