In the beginning, slavery was a very profitable commodity, but it was no more than that. Slavery was no more about human rights than the sugar trade was. It was categorized in trade with gold, iron, ivory and textiles and dismissed just as easily. However, as time passed, morals and ideals changed and communities shaped within the slave population. A new light was shed on the African-American people, a light that would change the way the world would look at them forever.
The movement of Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas was the largest forced migration in world history. This brutal chapter in American history began with the Portuguese in the fifteenth century and did not end in the US until 1807. It is estimated that in the four centuries of slave trading, slave ships transported upwards of 10 million Africans to the Americas. Slave trade was by no means limited to the Portuguese though. All the nations of Western Europe participated in trade including the Dutch, Holland and even the English. The actual capturing of the slaves was left up to the Africans themselves though. As one African sold into slavery said, “I must own to the shame of my own countrymen.” Most Africans were enslaved though warfare in which armies would take hundreds of prisoners. Another method was smaller raids at nightfall, as well as kidnapping. When plantations expanded to the Americas in the eighteenth century, the demand for slaves increased, and the raids extended deeper into the inner parts of Africa. While the slave trade made Europe and America stronger, it made Africa weaker.
In 1700, slaved accounted for only 11 percent of the colonial population. However, during the eighteenth century slavery expanded, and by 1770 Africans in North America numbered 460,000, around 20 percent of the population. The cause of this sudden jolt in slaves brought to North America is the rising demand for certain crops, especially tobacco.