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History of the Slave Trade

Between the 10 th -14 th centuries, African captives were sold in the Middle East, Spain, Portugal and in other countries as servants. In 1492, Columbus landed in the “New World.” This event marked the beginning of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade as Columbus’ journey sparked as era of exploration and conquest. In the process of searching for gold, silver and other treasures, Spanish conquistadors enslaved Native Americans. However, due to cruelty, disease, and malnutrition, the Native population dwindled and the Spanish had to seek a new source of labor.

Around 1520 the first African American slaves were imported, thus beginning the Triangle Trade Route:

  • Europeans brought slaves from Africa to the Americas where they were used to harvest sugar, cotton, rum, tobacco and coffee.
  • The Americas traded these raw materials with Europe, which had factories to turn them into manufactured goods.
  • Europeans would then trade those supplies with Africa in exchange for slaves, starting the process over again.

It is this lucrative trade that fuelled the “peculiar institution” of slavery into which Venture Smith was sold.


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