Historian Eltis describes stark details of slave trade

Writing for CNN Opinion (Jan. 5, 2010), David Eltis (Robert W. Woodruff Professor of History) and David Richardson (director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull, England) reveal some of the stark numbers and stories around the transatlantic slave trade.

“In the 3¼ centuries between 1492 and about 1820, four enslaved Africans left the Old World for every European.”

“Samuel Adjai Crowther, liberated from a slave ship as a child in 1821, became the first Anglican African bishop and was largely responsible for creating the first written version of the Yoruba language. Remarkably, he married Asano, whom he had first met as a girl on the slave ship from which they were both rescued.”

Their Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade draws on five decades of research in archives around the north and south Atlantic to provide 189 detailed maps that answer many questions about the horrors of the Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas.

Media Resources

Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Dec. 2010)

The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database (March 2009)

Atlas Details Dark History of Slave Trade

Historian David Eltis of Emory University and co-author David Richardson of the University of Hull, England, have published a new book, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, that focuses on where slave ships began their voyages, where the ships went in Africa, and where the ships landed in the Americas.

The atlas derives from an online database (http://www.slavevoyages.org) that launched from Emory in 2008 to much acclaim from historians and researchers worldwide.

“What you get from this book is a sense of the direct links in the slave trade,” says Eltis. “It totally overturns the idea that the vessel sets out for slaves, goes down a thousand miles of coastline, eventually gets a full cargo, then turns and crosses the Atlantic and sells essentially a group of people who perhaps can’t communicate with each other.” Historians had long painted such a picture.

“We’re showing that particular ports in Africa had strong connections with particular ports and therefore areas in the Americas,” says Eltis. “And it’s very easy to see those connections the way the data is presented in the form of maps.” Eltis calls the technique used to demonstrate those connections “pathographics,” or sweeping arrows showing the movement and numbers of people from specific place to specific place.

Read the full news release

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