American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

The Transatlantic Slave Trade

Published January 18, 2011

Fritz Umbach and Kojo Dei, John Jay College, CUNY
“Teaching America and the Slave Trade in Global Perspective”
The Graduate Center, CUNY
February 8, 2008

While most Americans understand slavery solely through the prism of its existence in the Americas, in fact the “peculiar institution” as practiced in the new world makes up only a small part of the global history of slavery. Historian Fritz Umbach and anthropologist Kojo Dei outline the complex history of slavery within African societies, along with Africa’s extensive and long-lasting slave trade with India and the Islamic middle east. A close examination of the transatlantic slave trade reveals that African rulers were far from the victims of European traders; in fact, they held the upper hand.

In Part 1 of this podcast, Professor Dei explains anthropological understandings of slavery in West African societies and Professor Umbach describes the ways that African slave traders exerted dominance over their European trade partners. In Part 2, starting at 29:40, Professor Umbach analyzes the captain’s log from the slave ship Sally for evidence of African strength in the transatlantic slave trade.

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