What role did African slavery play in the development of north and South America and the Caribbean in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The want and need for slave labor to work sugar cane, cotton, and tobacco plantations prevalent in the Americas set up the Triangular Trade route in the 16th and 17th centuries. From England, Spain, and other countries like Portugal, slave traders would make the voyage to Africa to pick up slaves as the first leg of the route. The second leg of the trade route started in Africa with the capturing and enslavement of Africans where they were taken onboard ships and transferred to islands in the Caribbean and to countries in South America.  This is historically called the Middle Passage in the trade route.  From there, slaves were sold and forced to work in sugar cane plantations (and later cotton plantations) to make rum and other goods to be shipped to England and other European countries (the 3rd leg of the Triangular Trade route).

As slave trade continued in the 1600’s, it wasn’t long before the demand for slave labor included the newly settled North American continent.  Tobacco and cotton soon became the “cash crops” that demanded slaves to cultivate them. Unable to enslave Native Americans, the United States quickly turned to the slave trade to fill its plantations with free labor.  The majority of slaves brought to the United States originated from the Caribbean Islands and the Middle Passage in the Triangular Trade route. 

The slave trade developed many countries of today into the economical powers they are.  The statement that many countries were built on the backs of slaves rings true.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial