The Atlantic Slave Trade: Crash Course World History #24


Hi, my name is John Green, this is Crash Course
World History and today we’re gonna talk about slavery. Slavery is not funny. In fact, it is very
near the top of the list of things that aren’t funny, so today’s episode is gonna be a little
light on the jokes but, I’m gonna help you understand what pre-Civil War Americans often
euphemistically refer to as “the peculiar institution.” [Intro Music] Slavery is as old as civilization itself,
although it is not as old as humanity thanks to our hunting and gathering foremothers,
but the numbers involved in the Atlantic slave trade are truly staggering. From 1500 to 1880CE somewhere between 10 and
12 million African slaves were forcibly moved from Africa to the Americas and about 15%
of those people died during the journey. I know you’re saying that looks like a very
nice ship, I mean my God, its almost as big as South America, yeah, not to scale, and
those who didn’t die became property; bought and sold like any commodity. Where Africans came from and went to changed
over time, but in all 48% of slaves went to the Caribbean, and 41% to Brazil, although
few Americans recognize this, relatively few slaves were imported to the U.S, only about
5% of the total. It’s also worth noting that by the time Europeans
started importing Africans into the Americas, Europe had a long history of trading slaves. The first real European slave trade began
after the 4th Crusade in 1204; the crusade that you will remember as “The Crazy One”.
Italian merchants imported thousands of Armenians, Circassian and Georgian slaves to Italy. Most
of them were women who worked as household servants but many worked processing sugar,
and sugar is of course a crop that African slaves later cultivated in the Caribbean. Camera 2 side note; none of the primary crops
grown by slaves–sugar, tobacco, coffee–is necessary to sustain human life. So in a way,
slavery is a very early by-product of a consumer culture that revolves around the purchase
of goods that bring us pleasure, but not sustenance. You are welcome to draw your own metaphorically
resonant conclusions from this fact. One of the big misconceptions about slavery,
or at least when I was growing up, is that Europeans somehow captured Africans, put them
in chains, stuffed them on boats and then took them to the Americas. The chains and ships bit is true as is the
America part if you define America as America and not as ‘Merica, but Africans were living
in all kinds of conglomerations. From small villages to city-states to empires and they
were much too powerful for the Europeans to just conquer. And in fact, Europeans obtained
African slaves by trading for them. Because trade is a two-way proposition, this
meant that Africans were captured by other Africans and then traded to Europeans in exchange
for goods; usually like metal tools or fine textiles or guns; and for those Africans, slaves
were a form of property, and a very valuable one. In many places, slaves were one of the only
sources of private wealth because land was usually owned by the state. And this gets to a really important point;
if we’re gonna understand the tragedy of slavery, we need to understand the economics of it;
we need to get inside what Mark Twain famously called “a deformed conscience.” We have to
see slaves both as they were, as human beings, and as they were viewed, as an economic commodity. Right, so you probably know about the horrendous
conditions aboard slave ships, which at their largest could hold 400 people. but it’s worth
underscoring that each slave had an average of four square feet of space. That is 4 square
feet. As one eye-witness testified before Parliament in 1791, “They had not so much
room as a man in his coffin.” Once in the Americas, the surviving slaves
were sold in a market very similar to the way cattle would be sold. After purchase,
slave owners would often brand their new possession on the cheeks, again, just as they would do
with cattle. The lives of slaves were dominated by work and terror, but mostly work. Slaves did all types of work, from housework
to skilled crafts work, and some even worked as sailors, but the majority of them worked
as agricultural laborers. In the Caribbean and Brazil, most of them planted, harvested
and processed sugar, working ten months out of the year, dawn until dusk. The worst part of this job, which is saying
something, because there were many bad parts, was fertilizing the sugar cane. This required
slaves to carry 80 pound baskets of manure on their heads up and down hilly terrain. MFTP:”Mr. Green, Mr. Green! …Isn’t there
a poop joke in there somewhere?” John Green: No, me-from-the-past, because
this whole thing is too depressing! When it came time to harvest and process the
cane, speed was incredibly important because once cut, sugar sap can go sour within a day.
This meant that slaves would often work 48 hours straight during harvest time, working
without sleep in the sweltering sugar press houses where the cane would be crushed in
hand rollers and then boiled. Slaves often caught their hands in the rollers, and their
overseers kept a hatchet on hand for amputations. Ugh…..I told you this wasn’t going to be
funny. Given these appalling conditions, it’s little
wonder that the average life expectancy for a Brazilian slave on a sugar plantation in
the late 18th century was 23 years. Things were slightly better in British sugar
colonies like Barbados, and in the U.S., living and working conditions were better still.
So relatively good that, in fact, slave populations began increasing naturally, meaning that more
slaves were born than died. This may sound like a good thing, but it is
of course it’s own kind of evil because it meant that slave owners were calculating that
if they kept their slaves healthy enough, they would reproduce and then the slave owners
could steal and sell their children. Or use them to work their land, either way, blech! Anyway, this explains why even though the
percentage of slaves imported from Africa to the United States was relatively small,
slaves and other people of African descent came to make up a significant portion of the
U.S. population. The brutality of working conditions in Brazil, on the other hand, meant that
slaves were never able to increase their population naturally, hence the continued need to import
slaves into Brazil until slavery ended in the 1880s. So I noted earlier that slavery isn’t new,
it’s also a hard word to define. Like Stalin forced millions to work in the gulags, but
we don’t usually consider those people slaves. On the other hand, many slaves in history
had lives of great power, wealth, and influence. Like remember Zheng He, the world’s greatest
admiral?He was technically a slave, so were many of the most important advisors to Suleiman
the Magnificent. So was Darth Vader! But Atlantic slavery was different and more
horrifying, because it was chattel slavery, a term historians use to indicate that the
slaves were move-able property. Oh, it’s time for the open letter? An open letter to the word slave. But first lets see what’s in the secret compartment
today. Oh. It’s Boba Fett. Noted owner of a ship called Slave One. And apparently a
ballet dancer. (Singing) Do do doloo do do doo… Stan: That’s a fine approximation of ballet
music. (Laughter)
John: Thank you Stan. Alright, dear slave, as a word. You are over
used. Like Britney Spears, I’m a Slave 4 U, no you’re not!
Boba Fett’s ship, Slave One, a ship can’t be a slave! But more importantly slave, you are constantly
used in political rhetoric, and never correctly! There’s nothing new about this,witness for
instance, all the early Americans claiming that paying the stamp tax would make them
slaves. And that was in a time when they knew exactly what slavery looked like! Taxes, as I have mentioned before, can be
very useful. I, for instance like paved roads. But even if you don’t like a tax, it’s not
slavery. Here, I have written for you a list of all the times it is okay to use the word
slave, oh, it is a one item long list! Best Wishes, John Green. So what exactly makes slavery so horrendous?
Well, definitions are slippery, but I’m going to start with the definition of slavery proposed
by sociologist Orlando Patterson. It is “the permanent, violent and personal
domination of natally alienated and generally dishonoured persons.” According to this definition
a slave is removed from the culture, land and society of his or her birth suffers from
what Patterson called “social death”. Ultimately then, what makes slavery slavery
is that slaves are de-humanized. The Latin word that gave us ‘chattel’, also gave us
‘cattle’. In many ways Atlantic slavery drew from previous
models of slavery, and took every that sucked about each of them and combined them into
a big ball so that it would be the biggest possible ball of suck. Stan am I allowed to say suck on this show?
(pause) Nice. Now to understand what I’m talking about we
need to look at some previous models of slavery. Lets go to the Thought Bubble. The Greeks were among the first to consider
otherness a characteristic of slaves. Most Greek slaves were Barbarians and their inability
to speak Greek kept them from talking back to their masters, and also indicated their
slave status. Aristotle, who despite being spectacularly
wrong about almost everything was incredibly influential, believed that some people were
just naturally slaves, saying “It is clear that there are certain people who are free,
and certain people who are slaves by nature, and it is both to their advantage, and just,
for them to be slaves” This idea, despite being totally insane, remained
popular for millennia. The Greeks popularized the idea that slaves should be traded from
far away, but the Romans took it to another level. Slaves probably made up 30% of the total Roman
population, similar to the population of America at slavery’s height. The Romans also invented
the plantation, using mass numbers of slaves to work the land on giant farms called latifundia,
so called because they were not fun. The Judeo-Christian world also contributed
as well, and though we are not going to venture into the incredibly complicated role that
slavery plays in the Bible because I vividly remember the comments section of the Christianity
episode, the Bible was widely used to justify slavery. And in particular the enslavement
of Africans, because of the moment in Genesis when Noah curses Ham, saying “cursed be Canaan,
the lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers”. This encapsulates the two ideas vital to Atlantic
slavery: 1. that slavery can be a hereditary status passed down through generations, and
2. that slavery is the result of human sin. Both ideas serve as powerful justifications for holding
an entire race in bondage. Thanks Thought Bubble. But there were even more contributors to the
ideas that led to Atlantic slavery. For instance, Muslim Arabs were the first to import large
number of Bantu speaking Africans to their territory as slaves. The Muslims called these
Africans Zanj and they were a distinct and despised group, distinguished from other North
Africans by the colour of their skin. The Zanj and territory held by the Abbasid
staged one of the first big slave revolts in 869CE, and it may be that this revolt was
so devastating that it convinced the Abbasid that large scale, plantation-style agriculture
on the Roman model just wasn’t worth it. But by then they’d connected the Aristotelian
idea that some people are just naturally slaves with the appearance of Sub-Saharan Africans.
The Spanish and the Portuguese, you no doubt remember, were the Europeans with the closest
ties to the Muslim world because there were Muslims living on the Iberian Peninsula until
1492. So it makes sense that the Iberians were the first to these racist attitudes towards
blacks. And as the first colonizers of the Americas
and the dominant importers of slaves, the Portuguese and the Spanish helped define the
attitudes that characterized Atlantic slavery, beliefs they’d inherited from a complicated
nexus of all the slave holders who came before them. In short Atlantic slavery was a monstrous
tragedy, but it was a tragedy in which the whole world participated, and it was the culmination
of millennia of imagining the other as inherently lesser. It’s tempting to pin all the blame
for Atlantic slavery on one particular group, but to blame one group is to exonerate all
the others, and by extension ourselves. The truth that we must grapple with is that
a vast array of our ancestors, including those we think of as ours, whoever they may be,
believed it was possible for their fellow human being to be mere property. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan
Muller, our script supervisor is Danica Johnson, this show is written by my High School history
teacher Raoul Meyer and myself, and our graphics team is Thought Bubble. Last weeks Phrase of the Week was “Cinnamon
Challenge”, I hate you for that by the way. If you want to suggest future Phrases of the
Week you can do so in comments, where you can also guess at this week’s Phrase of the
Week or ask questions of our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course, and as we
say in my home town, don’t forget to be awesome.

100 thoughts on “The Atlantic Slave Trade: Crash Course World History #24

  1. This video is awkward and embarrassing. A comedic and light-hearted approach does not work for a topic as horrifying as slavery.

  2. So called Africans selling Hebrews, and also Amerca was the biggest hub for slavery not 5% big lies… You need to be retaught. Anybody that listen and take this as truth are being mislead.

  3. You left out the part where the Black ppl were SHIPPED DOWN INTO ANGOLA, GUINEA, ST. THOMAS, AND OTHER PORTUGUESE COLONIZED LANDS. THEY WERE NOT JUST FOUND AND BOUGHT FROM AFRICANS. NOT TRUE FOR THE PORTUGUESE COLONIES.

  4. Fake news tells that White people in the USA were responsible for slavery. In fact Hispanic Latin America is where 95% of the slaves end up. So much for " Brown Power? "

  5. How come you missed that the slave owners in America, mated with female slaves and enslaved and traded their own children? That is heart breaking.

  6. How to explain slavery to everyone without pissing people off but honestly white people will never understand the feeling.

  7. More attempts to justify slavery. 5%? Yeah right…. already remmber to do your own research and think for yourself.. you could take the same research don’t by an African American and tell it differently.

    At 1:20 the slave looks like President Obama….

    we have to fight for our people. Praise God… our best hope is God at this point I believe

  8. omg zhenghe is not a slave,he is more like a officer in the emperor‘ s household,a butler but more than a butler.

  9. I have an astonishing and appalling. Fist hand account of a Naval sailor in the form of a handwritten journal .The voyages it covers are abourd ships involved in the transport of slaves .its depicts the tmslave traders and the collection ports The numbers of slaves the ships and schooner carry and the portugese slave ships he eencounters..Written in the language of the day .It is both shocking and an important accurate historical source .Sultans and other people of note .please contact me if you are interested in purchasing this historical and social interest manuscript.

  10. Why does nobody talk about who started the slave trade? Why does nobody talk about who sold the slaves to the European nations? Who was in charge of Africa at the time? That's right, it was the Muslims. Check your timeline, you know it be true.

  11. About 600,000 slaves were transported to America, or 5% of the 12 million slaves taken from Africa. Some say more, some say less,which is it? The devil is a liar and can't stand the truth!

  12. Deuteronomy 28:64,68
    [64]And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.
    [68]And the LORD shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.

  13. Deuteronomy 28:32
    [32]Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long: and there shall be no might in thine hand.

  14. Ask the Native Indian, Aboriginal s of Australia, Hawaiian s, Ethiopian s, Nigerian s,Somalians,Iraqis, Indians, Fuzzy wuzzies,Alaskans, Mexican s,Aztecs,Sri Lankans, Phillipinos,,,what do these and other groups have in common? The whiteman thinks,thought he was,is, superior.What did he do? He genocides all of them too..Also the Chinese, Japanese.And others

  15. Hey racist do one on King Leopold genocide in the Kongo,so racist they made a movie about King Kong,read between the lines,,do one about the Racist British aka American s akaRomans on the theft of Zimbabwe by the British

  16. World civilization began in Africa.The Pharaonic civilization of ancient Egypt is the oldest literate civilization. According to historical records, the Egyptian state dates back to about 3300 B.C.

  17. What is he talking about? 8:40
    The Bible doesn't justify slavery!
    I know the verses which he's referring to but you weren't ever allowed to force anyone into slavery;
    the slavery was willful to compensate for the slave's poverty or debt

  18. Thanks for actually acknowledging that African states sold each other into slavery, instead of Europeans just going over there and kidnapping people. I was never taught this in school and I'm glad people are actually talking about the truth behind this evil institution. Also, just a not fun, actually horrifying fact. The last country to outlaw slavery did so in 2007. That country was Mauritania.

  19. we from Africa just love it when whites come and tell us about our history,.. knowing no better and all,
    we know they destroy cultures, by burning books/scriptures/paintings and temples, to change one's identity, so much so that whites believe their forged history, ultimately losing their identity as well,
    lest we forget the horrors of all their wars, including the religious ones, the witch trials, and assassinations,
    it could be that barbarism spilled over from them to our shores, Expedition they called it, Who moves to another's territory then decides their fate? Then quickly moves to make laws against the things that they did, so that no one invades their territory, The guy in the video who doesn't know who to assign blame to, maybe this should help, I mean, they could have brought their factories alongside their bibles and helped, but whatever they did was in their nature,

  20. At the same time, when slave trade could've been on its peak, an African who began his life as a slave became a Sultan in Deccan, India. How?

  21. There were Africans who captured them in exchange for things like their European weapons but, to clarify Europeans were also capturing and chaining up Africans as well

  22. pet ownership in America is against the law. animals can not agree to terms of contract, or sign said contract. brakes determination law.

  23. Not every slave was traded by other Africans there were whites they were powerful enough to colonize Africa…Cecil Rhodes, the Germans that caused the Namibian massacre, King Leopold, the colonization of South Africa…

  24. Not slaves,,but Master builders,the same devils who destroyed us,went back into our mother land and destroyed our civilization s

  25. Man you are dumb. So we'll look at every slave holder and make them America. Slavery lasted 80 years in the country before it was fought over. And it was the deadliest war over slavery the world had ever known.

  26. Seems like Slavery is a joke to you. How can you explain slavery while trying to make some punchlines. You incentive piece of shyt!

  27. Here's how I'm imagining slave owners saw it:
    Slaves are commodities with sass.
    How else can they not break free of their conditioning to see that if they want freedom so badly, maybe they deserve it?
    Today we're already talking about giving AI rights, and debating the ethics of how to treat them. AND THEY DON'T EVEN EXIST YET!
    So how did we screw up with actual human beings this badly?!?

  28. I'm surprised he didn't mention that even though the practice has been legally outlawed internationally there's actually more slaves in the world today then ever before in history.

  29. Racists,, could have slave trade your own..these Romans have enslaved blacks since Rome,and never apologize,,they genocided all dark races

  30. Kjv Bible mentioned;
    Exodus 21 : 16
    The man that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

    Revelation 13 : 10
    He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity : he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

  31. He's using fast talk with a slightly elevated voice, to conflate the fact he lives in a fantasy world. Witness everything he says he knows is wrong he gets all deep and quiet. When he wishes to lie he gets high and harsh.

  32. Ham was not cursed, Canaan, the father of the Canaanites, was cursed. So Ham and all of his other children are not cursed because they never were.

  33. This guys tone is so disrespectful. This is not a joke or a game. You don't make light of slavery. This is a crime against humanity!

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