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African-American Studies

The Atlantic Slave Trade

The development of what was known as the Atlantic Slave Trade began to arise in the fifteenth century, as the expansion of Western Europe’s influence began to be felt in other parts of the world. West Africa would serve as the primary source of slave labor for much of the Atlantic Slave trade, though it was not the developments of European expansion that created the existence of a slave trade in Africa. For many centuries before the European need for slave labor in its colonies became a driving force of the expanding slave trade, there already existed a thriving slave trade in West Africa. The eventual slave trade that fed the labor needs of colonies in the Americas was based primarily on race, as Native American Indians and Blacks from Africa were those who were primarily enslaved. Before this time, however, Arab slave traders in West Africa enslaved Europeans, Berbers, and sub-Saharan Africans. The shifting economic conditions in the Americas and other areas would eventually change the slave trade significantly.