The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the transatlantic slave trade, was the trading, primarily of African people, to the colonies of the New World that occurred in and around the Atlantic Ocean. It lasted from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Most enslaved people were shipped from West Africa and Central Africa and taken to North and South America to work as unpaid labor on sugar, coffee, cocoa and cotton plantations, in gold and silver mines, in rice fields, or in houses to work as servants. The shippers were, in order of scale, the Portuguese (and Brazilians), the English, the French, the Spanish, the Dutch, and the North Americans. Enslaved people were generally obtained through coastal trading with Africans, though some were captured by European slave traders through raids and kidnapping. Most contemporary historians estimate that between 9.4 and 12 million Africans arrived in the New World, although the number of people taken from their homestead is considerably higher.
The slave-trade is sometimes called the Maafa by African and African-American scholars, meaning "holocaust" or "great disaster" in Swahili. Slavery was one element of a three-part economic cycle—the Triangular Trade and its Middle Passage—which ultimately involved four continents, four centuries and millions of people.
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