Children in the Slave Trade

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From the 16th to the 18th centuries, an estimated 12 million Africans crossed the Atlantic to the Americas in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Used on plantations throughout the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, enslaved Africans were shipped largely from West Africa. With an average life span of five to seven years, demand for slaves from Africa increasingly grew in the 18th century leading traders to take their supply from deep within the interior of the continent. Until recently, slave studies rarely discussed children’s experiences in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It has been estimated that one quarter of the slaves who crossed the Atlantic were children. Yet, a lack of sources and a perceived lack of importance kept their experiences in the shadows and left their voices unheard.

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