Sunday, September 10, 2017

How Many Slaves Landed in the U.S.?

Slave Ship
The following comes from an article entitled How Many Slaves Landed in the U.S.?

Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 1: How many Africans were taken to the United States during the entire history of the slave trade?

Perhaps you, like me, were raised essentially to think of the slave experience primarily in terms of our black ancestors here in the United States. In other words, slavery was primarily about us, right, from Crispus Attucks and Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Banneker and Richard Allen, all the way to Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Think of this as an instance of what we might think of as African-American exceptionalism. (In other words, if it's in "the black Experience," it's got to be about black Americans.) Well, think again.

The most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (While the editors are careful to say that all of their figures are estimates, I believe that they are the best estimates that we have, the proverbial "gold standard" in the field of the study of the slave trade.)

Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.

And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That's right: a tiny percentage.

In fact, the overwhelming percentage of the African slaves were shipped directly to the Caribbean and South America; Brazil received 4.86 million Africans alone! Some scholars estimate that another 60,000 to 70,000 Africans ended up in the United States after touching down in the Caribbean first, so that would bring the total to approximately 450,000 Africans who arrived in the United States over the course of the slave trade.

Incredibly, most of the 42 million members of the African-American community descend from this tiny group of less than half a million Africans. And I, for one, find this amazing.

By the way, how did historian Joel A. Rogers — writer of the 1934 book 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof, and to whom this series is an homage—do on this question? Well, incredibly, in his "Amazing Fact #30," Rogers says, "About 12,000,000 Negroes were brought to the New World!" Not even W.E.B. Du Bois got this close to the most accurate count of the number of Africans shipped across the Atlantic in the slave trade.

-- end of article written by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The above article was written for PBS. It was originally posted on The Root, a website created by Professor Gates and others. If Gates name sounds familiar, it should. In 2009, after a problem with the police at his home, the local police detained Gates.

President Obama called the police having to detain Gates, "a stupid act." The incident resulted in what the media called a "Beer Summit" between Gates, the responding police officer, and President Obama. Professor Gates is a personal friend of former president Obama.

While Gates's numbers are correct, there are a few errors regarding dates of what took place. One huge error regarding this article is its title. How Many Slaves Landed in the U.S.?

From 1655 to 1783, slaves were not brought to the United States. Fact is, during that time period, the United States did not exist. The United States only became a sovereign nation when we officially won our independence from England in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris. So in reality, slaves were legally transported to the United States for only a 25 year period. That was from 1783, when we separated from Great Britain, to 1808 when U.S. law made it illegal to import slaves into the United States.

A second error is that slavery officially ended in the United States in 1865 and not 1866. A third error is his reporting that the entire era of the African slave trade took place from 1525 and 1866. We need to make a distinction between the lawful importation of slaves versus the illegal importation of slaves from Africa. And of course, when did it really start.

The African slave trade started with African chiefs selling their own people to whites in 1516. But it should be noted that the first slave ship from Africa did not arrive in North American continent until 1655. And as for the legal importation of slaves to North America, that took place from 1655 to 1808. It was illegal to import slaves to the United States from 1808 to 1865, just as it is today.

Of the 388,000 slaves that were landed in North America between 1655 and 1865, there were 93,185 that were brought to the United States after we declared our independence from England. Those 93,185 were shipped here from 1783 to 1865.

Breaking it down further, we can see that during the 25 years from 1783 to 1808 when President Thomas Jefferson banned the import of slaves to the United States, there were 45,846 slaves brought to the United States legally. From 1808 to 1865 when the slave trade was illegal in the U.S., there were 47,339 slaves smuggled into the United States in violation of Federal law.

One other point, of the 10.7 million slaves who actually survived being shipped west across the Atlantic Ocean, only about 388,000 were off-loaded in North America. Yes, that's less than 5% of the original 12 million slaves brought from Africa to the Americas. As Gates stated in his article, "Only about 388,000. That's right: a tiny percentage." 

These numbers are not mine. I didn't pulled them out of thin air. These numbers come from Professor Gates's source, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.

Basic math tells us that the remaining 10.3 million of those shipped west across the Atlantic Ocean, the 95% rest that didn't land in North America, were actually off-loaded in the Caribbean and South America. This proves that the great majority of African slaves were not brought to the United States of America, or the North American continent. In reality, most all were shipped to South America to sugar colonies in the Caribbean and Brazil.

What may surprised many is that slaves were in huge demand in South America and the Caribbean. In fact, much of the slave trade in the United States had to do with American slavers buying and selling slaves to ship out of the United States -- destined for Brazil and other Latin America countries.
Tom Correa


  1. Where did the rest go? Can you give a source where we can see this for ourselves?

    1. Here is a site that is considered very good as for information. It us the site that the professor used.

    2. From what I've read, the vast majority went to the Caribbean and South America -- especially Brazil.

  2. Replies
    1. From what I've read, the vast majority went to South America and the Caribbean. People forget that the import of slaves was halted by President Thomas Jefferson in 1806. It became a Federal crime to bring slave in. But many don't realize that slaves were in huge demand in South America and the Caribbean, and slaves were bought and shipped out of the U.S. to countries there -- especially Brazil.

  3. Here is a great overview of the exact numbers which were shipped


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