Atlantic slave trade

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The Atlantic slave trade, started by the Portuguese, but soon dominated by the English, was the sale and exploitation of African slaves by Europeans that occurred in and around the Atlantic Ocean from the 15th century to the 19th century. Most slaves were transported from West Africa and Central Africa to the New World. While Europeans obtained most slaves through coastal trade with African trading states, some slaves were captured through raids and kidnapping. Some contemporary historians estimate that 12 million Africans arrived in the new world, making it one of the largest forced migrations in human history. However, some estimate that the number is as high as 25 to 40 million . The slave-trade is sometimes called the Maafa by African and African-American scholars, meaning "holocaust" or "great disaster" in Kiswahili. The slaves were 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.

Triangular trade

European colonists practiced Indian slavery, enslaving many of the natives of the New World. For a variety of reasons Africans replaced Indians as the main population of slaves in the Americas. In some cases, such as on some of the Caribbean Islands, disease and warfare eliminated the natives completely. In other cases, such as in South Carolina, Virginia, and New England, the need for alliances with native tribes coupled with the availability of African slaves at affordable prices (beginning in the early 18th century for these colonies) resulted in a shift away from Indian slavery. It is often falsely claimed that Indians made poor slaves compared to Africans, explaining the shift to using Africans. The reasons had more to do with economics and politics.

Research published in 2006 reports the earliest known presence of African slaves in the New World. A burial ground in Campeche, Mexico, suggests slaves had been brought there not long after Hernán Cortés completed the subjugation of Aztec and Mayan Mexico.

The first side of the triangle was the export of goods from Europe to Africa. A number of African kings and merchants took part in the trading of slaves from 1440 to about 1900. For each captive, the African rulers would receive a variety of goods from Europe. Many of them were confronted with the dilemma of trading with Europe or becoming slaves themselves. The second leg of the triangle exported enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to South America, the Carribean islands, and North America. Five times the number of slaves were transported to the Americas compared to those transports to Europe. This is because the slaves were exposed to new diseases and also because of malnutrition. The third and final part of the triangle was the return of goods to Europe from the Americas. The goods were the products of slave-labor plantations and included cotton, sugar, tobacco, molasses and rum.

Labour and slavery


The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade originated as a shortage of labour in the American colonies and later the USA. The first slaves used by European colonizers were Indigenous peoples of the Americas 'Indian' peoples until African slaves were available in quantity at affordable prices. It was also difficult to get Europeans to emigrate to the colonies, despite incentives such as indentured servitude or even distribution of free land (mainly in the English colonies that became the United States). Massive amounts of labour were needed, initially for mining, and soon even more for the plantations in the labour-intensive growing, harvesting and semi-processing of sugar (also for rum and molasses), cotton and other prized tropical crops which could not be grown profitably — in some cases, could not be grown at all — in the colder climate of Europe. It was also cheaper to import these goods from American colonies than from regions within the Ottoman Empire. To meet this demand for labour European traders thus turned to Western Africa (part of which became known as 'the Slave Coast') and later Central Africa as the new source for slaves.

African slave market

Europeans usually bought slaves who were captured in wars between African kingdoms and chiefdoms, or from Africans who had made a business out of capturing Africans and selling them. Europeans provided a large new market for an already-existing trade, and while an African held in slavery in his own region of Africa might escape or be traded back to his own people, a person shipped away was sure never to return. Peoples living around the Niger River were transported from these markets to the coast and sold at European trading ports in exchange for muskets and manufactured goods such as cloth or alcohol.

Europeans rarely entered the interior of Africa, due to fear of disease and moreover fierce African resistance. They would be brought to coastal outposts where they would be traded for goods. Enslavement also became a major by-product of war in Africa as nation states expanded through military conflicts in many cases through deliberate sponsorship of benefiting European nations. During such periods of rapid state formation or expansion ( Asante or Dahomey being good examples), slavery formed an important element of political life which the Europeans exploited: As Queen Sara's plea to the Portuguese courts revealed, the system became "sell to the Europeans or be sold to the Europerans". In Africa, convicted criminals could be punished by enslavement and with European demands for slaves, this punishment became more prevalent. Since most of these nations did not have a prison system, convicts were often sold or used in the scattered local domestic slave market.

The majority of European conquests occurred toward the end or after the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. One exception to this is the conquest of Ndongo in Angola where warriors, citizens and even nobility were taken into slavery after the fall of the state.

African versus European slavery

See also African slave trade

"Slavery", as it is often referred to, in African cultures was generally more like indentured servitude: "slaves" were not made to be chattel of other men, nor enslaved for life. African "slaves" were paid wages and were able to accumulate property. They often bought their own freedom and could then achieve social promotion - just as freedmen in ancient Rome - some even rose to the status of rulers (e.g. Jaja of Opobo and Sunni Ali Ber). Similar arguments were used by western slave owners during the time of abolition, for example by John Wedderburn in Wedderburn v. Knight, the case that ended legal recognition of slavery in Scotland in 1776. Regardless of the legal options open to slave owners, rational cost-earning calculation and/or voluntary adoption of moral restraints often tended to mitigate (except with traders, who preferred to weed out the worthless weak individuals) the actual fate of slaves throughout history.

African kingdoms of the era

There were over 173 city-states and kingdoms in the African regions affected by the slave trade between 1502 and 1853, when Brazil became the last Atlantic import nation to outlaw the slave trade. Of those 173, no fewer than 68 could be deemed "nation states" with political and military infrastructures that enabled them to dominate their neighbors. Nearly every present-day nation had a pre-colonial forbear with which European traders had to barter and eventually battle. Below are 38 nation states by country with populations that correspond to African-Americans:

  • Mali: Bamana Empire, Kenedougou Kingdom and Songhai Empire
  • Burkina Faso: Mossi Kingdoms
  • Senegal: Jolof Empire, Denanke Kingdom, Kingdom of Fouta Tooro, Kingdom of Khasso and Kingdom of Saalum
  • Guinea-Bissau: Kaabu
  • Guinea: Kingdom of Fouta Djallon and Mali Empire
  • Sierra Leone: Koya Temne and Kpaa Mende
  • Cote d'Ivoire: Gyaaman Kingdom and Kong Empire
  • Ghana: Asante Confederacy and Mankessim Kingdom
  • Benin: Kingdom of Dahomey
  • Nigeria: Aro Confederacy, Kingdom of Benin, Igala, Nupe and Oyo
  • Cameroon Kingdoms: Bamun and Mandara kingdom
  • Gabon: Orungu
  • Equatorial Guinea: Otcho
  • Republic of Congo: Anziku and Loango
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Kuba Kingdom, Luba Empire, Lunda Kingdom and Matamba
  • Angola: Kingdom of Kongo and Kingdom of Ndongo

There were eight principal areas used by Europeans to buy and ship slaves to the Western Hemisphere.

The number of slaves sold to the new world varied throughout the slave trade. The minimum and least disputed number is 10 million. As for the distribution of slaves from regions of activity, the Senegambia provided about 5.8%, Sierra Leone 3.4%, Windward Coast 12.1%, Central Africa 14.4%, Bight of Benin 14.5%, Bight of Biafra 23%, Gold Coast 25% and Southeast Africa 1.8%.

Ethnic groups

The different ethnic groups brought to the Americas closely corresponds to the regions of heaviest activity in the slave trade. Over 45 distinct ethnic groups were taken to the Americas during the trade. Of the 45, the ten most prominent according to slave documentation of the era are listed below.

  1. The Gbe speakers of Togo, Ghana and Benin (Adja, Mina, Ewe, Fon)
  2. The Mbundu of Angola (includes Ovimbundu)
  3. The BaKongo of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola
  4. The Igbo of Nigeria
  5. The Yoruba of Nigeria
  6. The Akan of Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire
  7. The Mandé speakers of Upper Guinea
  8. The Wolof of Senegal
  9. The Chamba of Nigeria
  10. The Makua of Mozambique

Human toll

The trans-Atlantic slave trade resulted in a vast loss of life for African captives both in Africa and in America. Around 20 million Africans died during the brutal process, which turned human beings into property. The savage nature of the trade, where most of the slaves were procured during African wars, led to the destruction of individuals and cultures. For every African captive arriving in the New World two died during capture, storage, transport or "seasoning". The exact number of dead may never be known, but records of the period and modern research paint a grim picture. The following figures do not include deaths of African slaves as a result of their actual labor, slave revolts or diseases they caught while living among New World populations.

African conflicts

According to David Stannard's American Holocaust, 50% of African deaths (10 million) occurred in Africa as a result of wars between native kingdoms, which produced the majority of slaves. This includes not only those who died in battles, but also those who died as a result of forced marches from inland areas to slave ports on the various coasts. The practice of enslaving enemy combatants and their villages was widespread throughout Western and West Central Africa, although wars were rarely started to procure slaves. The slave trade was largely a by-product of tribal and state warfare as a way of removing potential dissidents after victory or financing future wars. However, some African groups proved particularly adept and brutal at the practice of enslaving such as Kaabu, Asanteman, Dahomey, the Aro Confederacy and the Imbangala war bands.

Port factories

After being marched to the coast for sale, Africans waited in large forts called factories. The amount of time in factories varied, but Milton Meltzer's Slavery: A World History states this process resulted in 4.5% of deaths during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. In other words, around 900,000 Africans would have died in ports such as Benguela, Elmina and Bonny.

Atlantic shipment

After being captured and held in the factories, slaves entered the infamous Middle Passage. Meltzer's research puts this phase of the slave trade's overall mortality at 12.5%. Around 2.5 million Africans died during these voyages where they were packed into tight, unsanitary spaces on ships for months at time. Measures were taken to stem the onboard mortality rate such as mandatory dancing above deck and the practice of force-feeding any slaves that attempted to starve themselves. The conditions on board also resulted in the spread of fatal diseases. Other fatalities were the result of suicides by jumping over board by slaves who could no longer endure the conditions .

Seasoning camps

Meltzer also states that 33% of Africans would have died in the first year at seasoning camps found throughout the Caribbean. Many slaves shipped directly to North America bypassed this process; however most slaves (destined for island or South American plantations) were likely to be put through this ordeal. The slaves were tortured for the purpose of "breaking" them (like the practice of breaking horses) and conditioning them to their new lot in life. Jamaica held one of the most notorious of these camps. All in all, 6.6 million Africans died in these camps reducing the final number of Africans to about 10 million.

European competition

Reproduction of a handbill advertising a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1769.
Reproduction of a handbill advertising a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1769.

The trade of enslaved Africans in the Atlantic has its origins in the explorations of Portuguese mariners down the coast of West Africa in the 15th century. Before that, contact with African slave markets was made to ransom portuguese that had been captured by the intense North African pirate attacks to the portuguese ships and costal villages, frequently leaving them depopulated. The first Europeans to use African slaves in the New World were the Spaniards who sought auxiliaries for their conquest expeditions and laborers on islands such as Cuba and Hispaniola (mod. Haiti-Dominican Republic) where the alarming decline in the native population had spurred the first royal laws protecting the native population (Laws of Burgos, 1512-1513). After Portugal had succeeded in establishing sugar plantations (engenhos) in northern Brazil ca. 1545, Portuguese merchants on the West African coast began to supply enslaved Africans to the sugar planters there. While at first these planters relied almost exclusively on the native Tupani for slave labor, a titantic shift toward Africans took place after 1570 following a series of epidemics which decimated the already destabilized Tupani communities. By 1630, Africans had replaced the Tupani as the largest contingent of labor on Brazilian sugar plantations, heralding equally the final collapse of the European medieval household tradition of slavery, the rise of Brazil as the largest single destination for enslaved Africans and sugar as the reason that roughly 84% of these Africans were shipped to the New World.

Merchants from various European nations were later involved in the Atlantic Slave trade: Portugal, Spain, France, England, Scotland, Germany, Denmark, Holland. As Britain rose in naval power and settled continental north America and some islands of the West Indies, they became the leading slave traders, mostly operating out of Bristol and Liverpool. By the late 17th century, one out of every four ships that left Liverpool harbour was a slave trading ship. Other British cities also profited from the slave trade. Birmingham, the largest gun producing town in Britain at the time, supplied guns to be traded for slaves. 75% of all sugar produced in the plantations came to London to supply the highly lucrative coffee houses there.

Slavery and Christianity

In general, early Christians, such as Paul, St. Augustine, or St. Thomas Aquinas did not oppose slavery. Pope Nicholas V even encouraged enslaving non-Christian Africans in his Papal Bull Romanus Pontifex of 1454. Since then other popes stated that slavery was against Christian teachings, as is now generally held. Even earlier, in 1435, Pope Eugene IV condemned the enslavement of the inhabitants of the Canary Islands. A list of papal statements against slavery (and also claims that the popes nonetheless owned and bought slaves) is found in the discussion Christianity and Slavery.

Most Christian sects found some way to soothe the consciences of their slaveowning members. One notable exception was the Society of Friends ( Quakers), who advocated the abolition of slavery from earliest times.

New World destinations

African slaves were brought to Europe and the Americas to supply cheap labour. Central America only imported around 200,000. Europe topped this number at 300,000, North America, however, imported 500,000. The Caribbean was the second largest consumer of slave labour at 4 million. South America, with Brazil taking most of the slaves, imported 4.5 million before the end of slavery.

Economics of slavery

Slavery was involved in some of the most profitable industries in history. 70% of the slaves brought to the new world were used to produce sugar, the most labour intensive crop. The rest were employed harvesting coffee, cotton, and tobacco, and in some cases in mining. The West Indian colonies of the European powers were some of their most important possessions, so they went to extremes to protect and retain them. For example, at the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, France agreed to cede the vast territory of New France to the victors in exchange for keeping the minute Antillian island of Guadeloupe.

Slave trade profits have been the object of many fantasies. Returns for the investors were not actually absurdly high (around 6% in France in the eighteenth century), but they were higher than domestic alternatives (in the same century, around 5%). Risks—maritime and commercial—were important for individual voyages. Investors mitigated it by buying small shares of many ships at the same time. In that way, they were able to diversify a large part of the risk away. Between voyages, ship shares could be freely sold and bought. All these made the slave trade a very interesting investment.

By far the most successful West Indian colonies in 1800 belonged to the United Kingdom. After entering the sugar colony business late, British naval supremacy and control over key islands such as Jamaica, Trinidad, and Barbados and the territory of British Guiana gave it an important edge over all competitors; while many British did not make gains, some made enormous fortunes, even by upper class standards. This advantage was reinforced when France lost its most important colony, St. Dominigue (western Hispaniola, now Haiti), to a slave revolt in 1791 and supported revolts against its rival Britain, after the 1793 French revolution in the name of liberty (but in fact opportunistic selectivity). Before 1791, British sugar had to be protected to compete against cheaper French sugar. After 1791, the British islands produced the most sugar, and the British people quickly became the largest consumers of sugar. West Indian sugar became ubiquitous as an additive to Indian tea. Products of American slave labour soon permeated every level of British society with tobacco, coffee, and especially sugar all becoming indispensable elements of daily life for all classes.


Effect on the economy of Africa

Cowrie shells were used as money in the slave trade
Cowrie shells were used as money in the slave trade

No scholars dispute the harm done to the slaves themselves, but the effect of the trade on African societies is much debated due to the apparent influx of capital to Africans. Proponents of the slave trade, such as Archibald Dalzel, argued that African societies were robust and not much affected by the ongoing trade. In the 19th century, European abolitionists, most prominently Dr. David Livingston, took the opposite view arguing that the fragile local economy and societies were being severely harmed by the ongoing trade. This view continued with scholars until the 1960s and 70s such as Basil Davidson, who conceded it might have had some benefits while still acknowledging its largely negative impact on Africa. Historian Walter Rodney estimates that by c.1770, the King of Dahomey was earning an estimated £250,000 per year by selling captive African soldiers and even his own people to the European slave-traders. Most of this money was spent on British-made firearms (of very poor quality) and industrial-grade alcohol.

Effects on Europe’s Economy

Eric Williams has attempted to show the contribution of Africans on the basis of profits from the slave trade and slavery, and the employment of those profits to finance England’s industrialization process. He argues that the enslavement of Africans was an essential element to the Industrial Revolution, and that European wealth is a result of slavery. However, he argued that by the time of its abolition it had lost its profitability and it was in Britain's economic interest to ban it. Most modern scholars disagree with this view. Seymour Dreshcer and Robert Antsey have both presented evidence that the slave trade remained profitable until the end, and that reasons other than economics led to its cessation. Joseph Inikori has shown elsewhere that the British slave trade was more profitable than the critics of Williams would want us to believe. Nevertheless, the profits of the slave trade and of West Indian plantations amounted to less than 5% of the British economy at the time of the Industrial Revolution.


The demographic effects of the slave trade are some of the most controversial and debated issues. Tens of millions of people were removed from Africa via the slave trade, and what effect this had on Africa is an important question. Walter Rodney argued that the export of so many people had been a demographic disaster and had left Africa permanently disadvantaged when compared to other parts of the world, and largely explains that continent's continued poverty. He presents numbers that show that Africa's population stagnated during this period, while that of Europe and Asia grew dramatically. According to Rodney all other areas of the economy were disrupted by the slave trade as the top merchants abandoned traditional industries to pursue slaving and the lower levels of the population were disrupted by the slaving itself.

Others have challenged this view. Joseph E. Inikori argues the history of the region shows that the effects were still quite deleterious. He argues that the African economic model of the period was very different from the European, and could not sustain such population losses. Population reductions in certain areas also led to widespread problems. Inikori also notes that after the suppression of the slave trade Africa's population almost immediately began to rapidly increase, even prior to the introduction of modern medicines. Ideology versus the Tyranny of Paradigm: Historians and the Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on African Societies, by Joseph E. Inikori African Economic History. 1994. Shahadah also states that the trade was not only of demographic significance, in aggregate population losses but also in the profound changes to settlement patterns, epidemiological exposure and reproductive and social development potential..

Legacy of racism

Maulana Karenga states that the effects of slavery where 'the morally monstrous destruction of human possibility involved redefining African humanity to the world, poisoning past, present and future relations with others who only know us through this stereotyping and thus damaging the truly human relations among peoples.' He cites that it constituted the destruction of culture, language, religion and human possibility.

End of the Atlantic slave trade

François-Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture
François-Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture

Virtually every major reform pertaining to the abolition of the slave trade and slavery took place in the immediate aftermath of a major armed rebellion and/or victory by enslaved or formerly enslaved Africans. Although in Britain, the U.S. and in other parts of Europe, moral, economic and political opposition developed against the slave trade, this was largely ineffective unless combined with the political factor of African rebellions. The single most significant event in the history of the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery was the Haitian Revolution, ( 1791- 1804), led by Toussaint L'Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines (later Jacques I). Prior to the Haitian Revolution there were no major reversals in the centuries-old trend of an increasing trade in Africans across the Atlantic. After the Haitian Revolution, there was an immediate, terminal and rapid decline. This is because the Haitian Revolution and other uprisings created such significant military and political fears and costs for the European/American colonial powers that the continued importation of an African population became unsustainable, as the fears and costs outweighed stability and profitability.

In Great Britain, led by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and establishment Evangelicals such as William Wilberforce, the Abolitionist movement was joined by many and began to protest against the trade, but until the Haitian revolution, they were successfully opposed by the owners of the colonial holdings. Denmark, which had been very active in the slave trade, was the first country to ban the trade through legislation in 1792 - one year after the start of the victorious insurrection in Saint-Domingue (modern day Haiti). Denmark's legislation only took effect in 1803, as the Haitian Revolution moved towards its final victory. Britain banned the slave trade in 1807], imposing stiff fines for any slave found aboard a British ship, just three years after the final victory of the slave rebellion in Haiti. The Royal Navy, which then controlled the world's seas, moved to stop other nations from filling Britain's place in the slave trade and declared that slaving was equal to piracy and was punishable by death.


The United States outlawed the importation of slaves on January 1, 1808, the earliest date permitted by the constitution for such a ban.

For the British to end the slave trade, significant obstacles had to be overcome. In the 18th century, the slave trade was an integral part of the Atlantic economy: the economies of the European colonies in the Caribbean, the American colonies, and Brazil required vast amounts of man power to harvest the bountiful agricultural goods. In 1790, the British West Indies islands such as Jamaica and Barbados had a slave population of 524,000 while the French had 643,000 in their West Indian possessions. Other powers such as Spain, the Netherlands, and Denmark had many slaves in their colonies as well.

Despite these high populations more slaves were always required because harsh conditions and demographic imbalances left the slave population with fertility levels well below what was necessary to replenish or increase the labour force. Between 1600 and 1800, the English imported around 1.7 million slaves to their West Indian possessions. That there were well over a million fewer slaves in the British colonies than had been imported to them means that the African population of the British West Indian colonies had, in effect, declined by two-thirds during the slave-trading period. This not only illustrates the conditions which the African labourers endured, it also puts paid to the myth that Africans were somehow 'immune' to ill-treatment in comparison to the exterminated aboriginal population. The continued importation of Africans by the colonial powers was not the result of African 'immunity' to ill-treatment, but rather of the availability of a supply of abduction victims in Africa.

British influence

After the total victory of the Haitian Revolution in 1804, the British realised it was a military necessity to prevent the importation of potential African insurgents into the Caribbean. However, in order to maintain the economic competitiveness of their colonies, they were also compelled to induce other colonial and slave-trading powers to do the same. Therefore, the British campaign against the slave trade by other nations was an unprecedented foreign policy effort. Denmark, a small player in the international slave trade, and the United States (which also had a deep fear of African insurrection) banned the trade during the same period as Great Britain. Other small trading nations that did not have a great deal to give up, such as Sweden, quickly followed suit, as did the Dutch, who were also by then a minor player.

Four nations objected strongly to surrendering their rights to trade slaves: Spain, Portugal, Brazil (after its independence), and France. Britain used every tool at its disposal to try to induce these nations to follow its lead. Portugal and Spain, which were indebted to Britain after the Napoleonic Wars, slowly agreed to accept large cash payments to first reduce and then eliminate the slave trade. By 1853, the British government had paid Portugal over three million pounds and Spain over one million pounds in order to end the slave trade. Portugal had abolished slavery on the February 12, 1761; from this date onwards any slave entering in Portugal would be given freedom. However, the banning of slavery in the Portuguese colonies faced much opposition by the plantation owners who would have their profits reduced, and the law that was being enforced in Portugal did not take effect in the colonies where it faced opposition. Brazil, however, even after its independence, did not agree to stop trading in slaves until Britain took military action against its coastal areas and threatened a permanent blockade of the nation's ports in 1852. Criminals from England, transported to Australia from 1788 as convicts, were used as slaves until they attained freedom at the end of their sentences.

For France, the British first tried to impose a solution during the negotiations at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, but Russia and Austria did not agree. The French people and government had deep misgivings about conceding to Britain's demands. Britain demanded that other nations ban the slave trade and that they had the right to police the ban with units such as the West Africa Squadron. The Royal Navy had to be granted permission to search any suspicious ships and seize any found to be carrying slaves, or equipped for doing so. It is especially these conditions that kept France involved in the slave trade for so long. While France formally agreed to ban the trading of slaves in 1815, they did not allow Britain to police the ban, nor did they do much to enforce it themselves. Thus a large illegal market in slaves continued for many years. While the French people had originally been as opposed to the slave trade as the British, it became a matter of national pride that they not allow their policies to be dictated to them by Britain. Also such a reformist movement was viewed as tainted by the conservative backlash after the French Revolution. The French slave trade thus did not end until 1848.


At the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban South Africa, African nations demanded a clear apology for the slavery from the former slave-trading countries. Some EU nations were ready to express an apology, but the opposition, mainly from the United Kingdom, Spain, Netherlands, Portugal, and the United States blocked attempts to do so. A fear of monetary compensation was one of the reasons for the opposition. Apologies on behalf of African nations, for their role in trading their countrymen into slavery, also remains an open issue, too uncomfortable and politically inconvenient to address.

On November 27th, 2006, Tony Blair made a partial apology for Britain's role in the African slavery trade. However African rights activists denounced it as "empty rhetoric" that failed to address the issue properly. They feel his apology stopped shy to prevent any legal retort.. Mr Blair again said sorry on March 14th, 2007

On February 24, 2007 the Virginia General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution Number 728 acknowledging "with profound regret the involuntary servitude of Africans and the exploitation of Native Americans, and call for reconciliation among all Virginians."

With the passing of this resolution, Virginia becomes the first of the 50 united states to acknowledge through the states governing body their states negative involvement in slavery. The passing of this resolution comes on the heels of the 400th anniversary celebration of the city of Jamestown, Virginia, which was the first permanent English colony in what would become the United States to survive, Jamestown is also recognized as one of the first slave ports of the American colonies.

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