The start of the Slave Trade

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NAR: Forever Free: Celebrating Emancipation is the theme of this year's Commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

In this feature, UN Radio looks at the start of the slave trade.

Essel Blankston: The slave trade started not as a trade but as an exploration on the side of the Europeans.

NAR: Essel Blankston, is Educator at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana. Here, he talks about the origins of the slave trade …

Essel Blankston: Europeans have been receiving gold, ivory, spices across the Mediterranean initially from Arabs, but after the Wars of Crusades, Christian Europe decided to come and find a source of their gold that had made the Arabs so rich and powerful, so that they would take the gold trade away from the Arabs and they used the profits to finance their war against them.

NAR: According to Blankston, Portugal took the lead and by 1482, they had put up a structure in Almena which was used as the point for their trading and evangelical activities. But he explained that when the Americas were supposedly discovered and the Europeans moved to the area to work on the plantations and the mines, then they realized that labor was a problem.

Essel Blankston: So then they decided to use Africans whom they were in long contact with, had realized that we are strong and robust. We could also withstand diseases and most importantly, we were professional farmers. So then we were ideal to work on the plantations in the Americas, the Caribbean and the West Indies. And so the trade began.

NAR: It's at this point when the trade began, according to Blankston, the Europeans began shipping Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas, the Caribbean and the West Indies to work on the plantations and the mines.

Essel Blankston: It first began as kidnapping and then it developed into wars – tribal wars – two tribes fighting over natural resources such as water, minerals or even good land for agriculture. ..Tribes fought over such issues and to them the best way of taking over the opponents' property was to sell them off, if they cannot kill them all, the they have to sell the off and they exchanged them for guns and gunpowder which enable the winners also to protect themselves. So it was a survival of the fittest issue.

NAR: Essel Blankston, Educator at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana.

Events Commemorating the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade take place at UN Headquarters from 18-25 March.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 2’33″

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UN Radio Daily News Programme
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