Africa and the slave trade
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Africa and the Slave Trade. Objectives. Describe the development and cultural characteristics of West Africa in the fifteenth century. Summarize the events that led to contact between Europeans and West Africans. Explore the roots of the system of slavery practiced in the Americas.

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Objectives

  • Describe the development and cultural characteristics of West Africa in the fifteenth century.

  • Summarize the events that led to contact between Europeans and West Africans.

  • Explore the roots of the system of slavery practiced in the Americas.


Terms and People

  • Ghana − prominent kingdom in West Africa, known for its wealth and trade in gold, lasting from A.D. 800 to A.D. 1050

  • Mali − West African empire lasting from 1200 to the 1400s that prospered from the gold trade

  • Mansa Musa − king of Mali in the early 1300s who expanded the kingdom’s domain, increased the role of Islam, and promoted scholarship

  • Songhai − large West African empire lasting from 1460 to the 1600s


What was life like in West Africa before the age of European exploration?

The early civilizations of West Africa grew into great trading empires with rich and varied cultures.

Trade between West Africans and Europeans—including trade in slaves—would shape the future of both peoples for years to come.


West Africa is a land of varied geographic features. exploration?

  • The Sahara is a vast desert that dominates the northern part of West Africa.

  • A broad savanna lies to the south of the desert.

  • A lush region watered by the Niger and Senegal rivers lies to the south of the savanna.

  • Valuable natural resources such as goldand salt are found in West Africa.


A thriving trade in commodities such as gold and salt promoted the growth of trading towns.

  • Ghana

  • Mali

  • Songhai

  • Other, smaller kingdoms

Trading towns eventually grew into great and powerful empires.

These empires dominated trade routes that linked West Africa with North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Asia.


West African Kingdoms, promoted the growth of trading towns.

A.D. 800–A.D. 1600

Trade promoted rich and thriving cultures.


The earliest kingdom, promoted the growth of trading towns.Ghana, supplied much of the gold for the Mediterranean region by the eleventh century.

  • Ghana had large towns, a system of commerce, and a complex political structure.

  • Attacks from outsiders eventually weakened Ghana’s control of trade.

A thriving caravan trade with African peoples across the Sahara to Morocco resulted in extensive Muslim influence in North Africa.


Around 1200, Ghana was supplanted by a new kingdom, known as Mali.

  • Mansa Musa, who reigned in the early 1300s, expanded Mali’s domain.

  • His promotion of Islamic scholarship led to the founding of the famous university at Timbuktu.

  • The kingdom of Mali weakened after Mansa Musa’s death in 1332.

This medieval map shows Mansa Musa on his throne.



Slavery was common in West Africa, and human beings were often used as items of trade.

West African rulers sold about1,000 slaves annually to Arab traders, who took them to the Mediterranean.

The slave trade was an important part of West Africa’s economy.


West African slavery had developed as a system with its own characteristics.

  • It was not based on racial superiority or inferiority.

  • Prisoners of war and criminals often became slaves.

  • Slaves were usually adopted by their owners, and their children usually did not inherit slave status.

  • Slaves could become wealthy, important officials and soldiers.


But African resistance soon characteristics.forced the Portuguese to shift to trading.

Throughout the 1400s, the Portuguese explored farther south along the West African coast.

Initially, they acted as pirates, seizing gold, pepper, and slaves.


In time, the Portuguese established a profitable trade with the West Africans.

The Portuguese exported peppers, ivory, copper, and African slaves.

In this way, Europeans first became involved in the long-standing slave trade of Africa.


The Portuguese greatly expanded the slave trade.

  • Some slaves were shipped to Europe.

  • Most worked on sugar plantations on islands in the East Atlantic.

  • Growing numbers went to new plantations in the Americas.

By 1500, Europeans purchased about 1,800 African slaves a year, nearly doubling the trade between the West Africans and the Arabs.


Over the next centuries, more than one million men and women would be taken from West Africa and sold into slavery in the Americas.


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