What were the key consequences of the Atlantic slave trade?

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While the impact of the transatlantic slave trade is too great to fully expound upon in one response, the most important consequence is the effect of this egregious practice on human lives. Between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, 12.5 million people were kidnapped and shipped from Africa to the New...

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World. Only 10.7 million people survived the journey, which indicates that 1.8 million lives were senselessly extinguished with absolutely no benefit to slave traders. On the trip overseas, victims were subject to terrible conditions aboard crowded ships, as well as forced labor coupled with squalid living conditions once in the Americas. In addition to these immediate effects, cultural and familial traditions were extinguished, health conditions were poor, and the infant mortality rate among slaves was high. Families were regularly broken up, and acts of rape and sexual abuse were common and condoned.

Despite the abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865, descendants of slaves are affected by the history of this practice even in modern times. Although freed slaves were granted certain rights following the Civil War, including the rights to marry and to own property, no compensation for enslavement was offered to those who had spent lifetimes working in substandard conditions for no pay. Jim Crow laws enforcing racial segregation ensured that black Americans were denied the fundamental liberties afforded to white Americans, which deprived black Americans of quality education, ensured a legacy of perpetual poverty for many families, and sanctioned violence with little consequence for white perpetrators inflicting violence on black victims. Although the Civil Rights Act abolished Jim Crow laws in 1964, African Americans are even now subject to discrimination in areas of housing, education, and criminal justice, which can perpetuate a cycle of poverty and can break up families.

Lives on the African continent have also been impacted greatly by the slave trade. Due to a legacy of European intervention and colonization, conflicts were created and political instability increased. European traders purchased African slaves kidnapped by rival tribes in many cases, introducing firearms to the continent as currency for trade. The slave trade impacted local economies and harmed both nuclear families and society as a whole by forcibly removing millions of people from the continent.

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There were several significant consequences of the Atlantic slave trade. One consequence was the impact it had on African families and African countries. Slave traders would raid African villages and capture African men and women who would be sold into slavery. This broke up many African families and led to constant conflict in African countries, especially those in West Africa. Slave traders were not willing to give up their profits, and they were willing to fight to protect them. While slave traders benefited economically from the trading of slaves, there is evidence that Africa’s economy as a whole did not benefit from this activity. It appears Africa’s economy stagnated during the time when slaves were being traded from about 1500 until the 1800s. African slaves also suffered significantly as they were being transported from Africa to Europe and the Americas. Conditions on the ships carrying the slaves were very poor. Some slaves died from disease and from starvation.

Both Europe and the Americas initially benefited from the slave trade. The slave trade provided cheap labor, which would help the economies grow throughout these continents. Eventually, the issue of having slaves became a very divisive issue, as more people began to oppose slavery on moral and religious grounds. Some countries banned slavery, and the United States fought a civil war over the slavery issue between 1861–1865.

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The Atlantic slave trade had considerable impacts on both the Americas and Africa.  Some of these impacts were felt in the short term while others were more long-term.  The long-term effects can be said to stretch as far as Europe.

Of course, Africa was badly damaged by the slave trade.  It was African people, mostly in the prime of life, who were taken away as slaves.  This, of course, devastated the societies from which they were taken. 

The Americas were, at least at first, helped by the slave trade.  This trade did a tremendous amount to build the colonial economies.  The independent United States was also helped by slavery as it grew to be more wealthy in the early 1800s.  However, in the longer term, there were negative impacts on the United States and other countries of the New World.  In the US, slavery helped to cause the Civil War.  It has also, in the US and other countries, helped to create societies that have serious racial tensions. 

Europe was impacted in much the same way as the Americas, but to a lesser degree.  Slave labor in the Americas helped to enrich the European colonial powers.  Later, migrations of people of African descent from colonies and ex-colonies to Europe has also helped to cause racial tensions in those societies.

Thus, the Atlantic slave trade has had short-term and long-term effects on many parts of the world.

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