Black History: Less Than 10 Percent Of Slaves Actually Came To North America, Transatlantic Slave Trade — Where Did They All Go?

Freed Slave Ship by Granger in Fine Art America

Did you know that less than 10 percent of all African slaves actually came to North America? So what was the percentage that came and why so few? Where did the rest go?

It’s common to think that all black slaves came to what is now the United States. Since you’re probably from here, and have been subject to the traditional school system, you may not have been taught otherwise. It’s easy to get turned around by “word of mouth.” However, black history facts indicate differently.

To help you understand better about the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the diaspora of Africans to unknown parts of the world, these black families were often taken from Angolan regions — West Africa — and separated during Middle Passage. Having been sold into slavery by other Africans, history states that the majority of these who were on the journey were taken to South America and the West Indies.

African Slave Trade Routes
Credits: Google
During the African diaspora, black history was dispersed throughout the world.

Over the course of three centuries, African slaves in South America amassed over 90 percent of those taken from their homelands. To put that in a numerical perspective, it’s recorded that approximately 10.5 out of the recorded 12.5 million taken actually made it across the Atlantic Ocean without dying.

As is reported by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, six percent of these black slaves were taken to North America. Only six percent. Why is that? Moreover, why do African-Americans (North Americans) not hear of famous things South American black people do?

Well, unlike black slaves who worked on various tobacco, cotton, and rice plantations in the Virginia Colonies of the now-U.S., black slaves in the southern hemisphere worked sugar and coffee plantations. Sugar plantations were especially heinous. It’s recorded that the first sugar plantation was built in 1516 in Santo Domingo. According to documentation on New York University‘s official website, it states as follows.

“Sugar planting and harvesting was tiring, hot and dangerous work… the average life expectancy of an imported slave was only seven years…

… It was not unusual for slaves to be injured or crushed when trapped and pulled into the rollers as they fed stalks into the mill.”

Sugar Plantation Slavery In South America
Credits: Carnegie Mellon University
Slaves lived under such harsh conditions on sugar plantations that their own natural population growth could not keep up with losses to disease, hard labor, and malnutrition. Their ranks had to be constantly replenished with frequent importations from Africa.

If the life expectancy was so short, only seven years after having left Africa, they would have needed to be “replaced” far more frequently than those in North America — even though they may have made great strides during their times alive. And though there were sugar plantations in Louisiana, that wasn’t until further along the black history timeline — unlike those of South America. But as aforementioned, why have black Americans not heard of them as much?

Well, to paraphrase a former history instructor at Arizona State University, the reason you may not hear of these endeavors and accomplishments is likewise because of the aforementioned hazardous and treacherous conditions. Many didn’t survive long enough. Also, if anything was written or passed along, it was either in Portuguese or Spanish.

In the same way people in black history had to learn the accustomed language of the North American region, they also had to learn the same in the South American and West Indies regions. Of course, neither were their mother tongues. However, in order to communicate with those in charge over them — as well as with one another — they had to learn the languages.

And since many African-Americans from the United States and Canada don’t know Portuguese, they’re unable to read the possible, available literature. But that’s understandable with any culture, right? Not all literature has been translated into English.

So, what do you think about this information? Do you have a greater understanding of the African diaspora? What are your thoughts on these black history facts?

[Featured Image via Fine Art America]