The Atlantic Slave Trade: Crash Course World History #24

Hi, my name is John Green, this is Crash Course
World History and today we’re gonna talk about slavery. Slavery is not funny. In fact, it is very
near the top of the list of things that aren’t funny, so today’s episode is gonna be a little
light on the jokes but, I’m gonna help you understand what pre-Civil War Americans often
euphemistically refer to as “the peculiar institution.” [Intro Music] Slavery is as old as civilization itself,
although it is not as old as humanity thanks to our hunting and gathering foremothers,
but the numbers involved in the Atlantic slave trade are truly staggering. From 1500 to 1880CE somewhere between 10 and
12 million African slaves were forcibly moved from Africa to the Americas and about 15%
of those people died during the journey. I know you’re saying that looks like a very
nice ship, I mean my God, its almost as big as South America, yeah, not to scale, and
those who didn’t die became property; bought and sold like any commodity. Where Africans came from and went to changed
over time, but in all 48% of slaves went to the Caribbean, and 41% to Brazil, although
few Americans recognize this, relatively few slaves were imported to the U.S, only about
5% of the total. It’s also worth noting that by the time Europeans
started importing Africans into the Americas, Europe had a long history of trading slaves. The first real European slave trade began
after the 4th Crusade in 1204; the crusade that you will remember as “The Crazy One”.
Italian merchants imported thousands of Armenians, Circassian and Georgian slaves to Italy. Most
of them were women who worked as household servants but many worked processing sugar,
and sugar is of course a crop that African slaves later cultivated in the Caribbean. Camera 2 side note; none of the primary crops
grown by slaves–sugar, tobacco, coffee–is necessary to sustain human life. So in a way,
slavery is a very early by-product of a consumer culture that revolves around the purchase
of goods that bring us pleasure, but not sustenance. You are welcome to draw your own metaphorically
resonant conclusions from this fact. One of the big misconceptions about slavery,
or at least when I was growing up, is that Europeans somehow captured Africans, put them
in chains, stuffed them on boats and then took them to the Americas. The chains and ships bit is true as is the
America part if you define America as America and not as ‘Merica, but Africans were living
in all kinds of conglomerations. From small villages to city-states to empires and they
were much too powerful for the Europeans to just conquer. And in fact, Europeans obtained
African slaves by trading for them. Because trade is a two-way proposition, this
meant that Africans were captured by other Africans and then traded to Europeans in exchange
for goods; usually like metal tools or fine textiles or guns; and for those Africans, slaves
were a form of property, and a very valuable one. In many places, slaves were one of the only
sources of private wealth because land was usually owned by the state. And this gets to a really important point;
if we’re gonna understand the tragedy of slavery, we need to understand the economics of it;
we need to get inside what Mark Twain famously called “a deformed conscience.” We have to
see slaves both as they were, as human beings, and as they were viewed, as an economic commodity. Right, so you probably know about the horrendous
conditions aboard slave ships, which at their largest could hold 400 people. but it’s worth
underscoring that each slave had an average of four square feet of space. That is 4 square
feet. As one eye-witness testified before Parliament in 1791, “They had not so much
room as a man in his coffin.” Once in the Americas, the surviving slaves
were sold in a market very similar to the way cattle would be sold. After purchase,
slave owners would often brand their new possession on the cheeks, again, just as they would do
with cattle. The lives of slaves were dominated by work and terror, but mostly work. Slaves did all types of work, from housework
to skilled crafts work, and some even worked as sailors, but the majority of them worked
as agricultural laborers. In the Caribbean and Brazil, most of them planted, harvested
and processed sugar, working ten months out of the year, dawn until dusk. The worst part of this job, which is saying
something, because there were many bad parts, was fertilizing the sugar cane. This required
slaves to carry 80 pound baskets of manure on their heads up and down hilly terrain. MFTP:”Mr. Green, Mr. Green! …Isn’t there
a poop joke in there somewhere?” John Green: No, me-from-the-past, because
this whole thing is too depressing! When it came time to harvest and process the
cane, speed was incredibly important because once cut, sugar sap can go sour within a day.
This meant that slaves would often work 48 hours straight during harvest time, working
without sleep in the sweltering sugar press houses where the cane would be crushed in
hand rollers and then boiled. Slaves often caught their hands in the rollers, and their
overseers kept a hatchet on hand for amputations. Ugh…..I told you this wasn’t going to be
funny. Given these appalling conditions, it’s little
wonder that the average life expectancy for a Brazilian slave on a sugar plantation in
the late 18th century was 23 years. Things were slightly better in British sugar
colonies like Barbados, and in the U.S., living and working conditions were better still.
So relatively good that, in fact, slave populations began increasing naturally, meaning that more
slaves were born than died. This may sound like a good thing, but it is
of course it’s own kind of evil because it meant that slave owners were calculating that
if they kept their slaves healthy enough, they would reproduce and then the slave owners
could steal and sell their children. Or use them to work their land, either way, blech! Anyway, this explains why even though the
percentage of slaves imported from Africa to the United States was relatively small,
slaves and other people of African descent came to make up a significant portion of the
U.S. population. The brutality of working conditions in Brazil, on the other hand, meant that
slaves were never able to increase their population naturally, hence the continued need to import
slaves into Brazil until slavery ended in the 1880s. So I noted earlier that slavery isn’t new,
it’s also a hard word to define. Like Stalin forced millions to work in the gulags, but
we don’t usually consider those people slaves. On the other hand, many slaves in history
had lives of great power, wealth, and influence. Like remember Zheng He, the world’s greatest
admiral?He was technically a slave, so were many of the most important advisors to Suleiman
the Magnificent. So was Darth Vader! But Atlantic slavery was different and more
horrifying, because it was chattel slavery, a term historians use to indicate that the
slaves were move-able property. Oh, it’s time for the open letter? An open letter to the word slave. But first lets see what’s in the secret compartment
today. Oh. It’s Boba Fett. Noted owner of a ship called Slave One. And apparently a
ballet dancer. (Singing) Do do doloo do do doo… Stan: That’s a fine approximation of ballet
music. (Laughter)
John: Thank you Stan. Alright, dear slave, as a word. You are over
used. Like Britney Spears, I’m a Slave 4 U, no you’re not!
Boba Fett’s ship, Slave One, a ship can’t be a slave! But more importantly slave, you are constantly
used in political rhetoric, and never correctly! There’s nothing new about this,witness for
instance, all the early Americans claiming that paying the stamp tax would make them
slaves. And that was in a time when they knew exactly what slavery looked like! Taxes, as I have mentioned before, can be
very useful. I, for instance like paved roads. But even if you don’t like a tax, it’s not
slavery. Here, I have written for you a list of all the times it is okay to use the word
slave, oh, it is a one item long list! Best Wishes, John Green. So what exactly makes slavery so horrendous?
Well, definitions are slippery, but I’m going to start with the definition of slavery proposed
by sociologist Orlando Patterson. It is “the permanent, violent and personal
domination of natally alienated and generally dishonoured persons.” According to this definition
a slave is removed from the culture, land and society of his or her birth suffers from
what Patterson called “social death”. Ultimately then, what makes slavery slavery
is that slaves are de-humanized. The Latin word that gave us ‘chattel’, also gave us
‘cattle’. In many ways Atlantic slavery drew from previous
models of slavery, and took every that sucked about each of them and combined them into
a big ball so that it would be the biggest possible ball of suck. Stan am I allowed to say suck on this show?
(pause) Nice. Now to understand what I’m talking about we
need to look at some previous models of slavery. Lets go to the Thought Bubble. The Greeks were among the first to consider
otherness a characteristic of slaves. Most Greek slaves were Barbarians and their inability
to speak Greek kept them from talking back to their masters, and also indicated their
slave status. Aristotle, who despite being spectacularly
wrong about almost everything was incredibly influential, believed that some people were
just naturally slaves, saying “It is clear that there are certain people who are free,
and certain people who are slaves by nature, and it is both to their advantage, and just,
for them to be slaves” This idea, despite being totally insane, remained
popular for millennia. The Greeks popularized the idea that slaves should be traded from
far away, but the Romans took it to another level. Slaves probably made up 30% of the total Roman
population, similar to the population of America at slavery’s height. The Romans also invented
the plantation, using mass numbers of slaves to work the land on giant farms called latifundia,
so called because they were not fun. The Judeo-Christian world also contributed
as well, and though we are not going to venture into the incredibly complicated role that
slavery plays in the Bible because I vividly remember the comments section of the Christianity
episode, the Bible was widely used to justify slavery. And in particular the enslavement
of Africans, because of the moment in Genesis when Noah curses Ham, saying “cursed be Canaan,
the lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers”. This encapsulates the two ideas vital to Atlantic
slavery: 1. that slavery can be a hereditary status passed down through generations, and
2. that slavery is the result of human sin. Both ideas serve as powerful justifications for holding
an entire race in bondage. Thanks Thought Bubble. But there were even more contributors to the
ideas that led to Atlantic slavery. For instance, Muslim Arabs were the first to import large
number of Bantu speaking Africans to their territory as slaves. The Muslims called these
Africans Zanj and they were a distinct and despised group, distinguished from other North
Africans by the colour of their skin. The Zanj and territory held by the Abbasid
staged one of the first big slave revolts in 869CE, and it may be that this revolt was
so devastating that it convinced the Abbasid that large scale, plantation-style agriculture
on the Roman model just wasn’t worth it. But by then they’d connected the Aristotelian
idea that some people are just naturally slaves with the appearance of Sub-Saharan Africans.
The Spanish and the Portuguese, you no doubt remember, were the Europeans with the closest
ties to the Muslim world because there were Muslims living on the Iberian Peninsula until
1492. So it makes sense that the Iberians were the first to these racist attitudes towards
blacks. And as the first colonizers of the Americas
and the dominant importers of slaves, the Portuguese and the Spanish helped define the
attitudes that characterized Atlantic slavery, beliefs they’d inherited from a complicated
nexus of all the slave holders who came before them. In short Atlantic slavery was a monstrous
tragedy, but it was a tragedy in which the whole world participated, and it was the culmination
of millennia of imagining the other as inherently lesser. It’s tempting to pin all the blame
for Atlantic slavery on one particular group, but to blame one group is to exonerate all
the others, and by extension ourselves. The truth that we must grapple with is that
a vast array of our ancestors, including those we think of as ours, whoever they may be,
believed it was possible for their fellow human being to be mere property. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan
Muller, our script supervisor is Danica Johnson, this show is written by my High School history
teacher Raoul Meyer and myself, and our graphics team is Thought Bubble. Last weeks Phrase of the Week was “Cinnamon
Challenge”, I hate you for that by the way. If you want to suggest future Phrases of the
Week you can do so in comments, where you can also guess at this week’s Phrase of the
Week or ask questions of our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course, and as we
say in my home town, don’t forget to be awesome.

100 thoughts on “The Atlantic Slave Trade: Crash Course World History #24

  1. The Vikings too were big scale slave traders and "acquirers" πŸ˜’ it is the reason why Slavic people are called Slavic apologies

  2. 6.41 That's propably the least specific definition of anything ever

  3. We are the people the bible talk about because our forefather did not follow the commandments. God kick us out of the promise land Israel Land of Ham, the black men. We moved to Africa because of persecution in our land. Now, the red dragon aka Europe came took us to America.

  4. Race is not a biological reality, it is a social construct designed as a means to legally oppress, enslave and marginalize groups of people. Thomas Jefferson, when asked by the French how he could write in the DOI (Declaration of independence) that all men are created equal, yet still hold slaves, constructed the myth that blacks were inferior and therefore not included in the application of American law. This despite the fact that we now know that the source of all human DNA is the continent of Africa. Mitochondrial Eve….

  5. John Green, your understanding of slavery in the bible is incorrect. God doesn't and has never endorsed slavery. The verses that you used to prove your point about "Ham" being cursed is incorrect as well. When communicating a message you must be careful not misrepresent things. Where did you get your information about slavery in the bible from? Who taught you? I would really love to discuss this with you.

  6. "what was God doing at this time in history?"…..a question most have openly or secretly pondered…. "why God, Why?"

  7. Black lives matter…said no African tribal chief trading his own people. Don’t show this to Colin kapernick, he will claim it’s all lies

  8. He's lying,any African will tell u European s invaded with cannons,knifes,raped their women,,,,forced them to sell their me

  9. Blackmen u are the original man,,u are a Master builder,, trust me,I'm one,,,,,

  10. I hope he does one in how Europeans, carved up the continent,ala Berlin Conference,,,,,,and stole treasures

  11. This devil still racist,,he will die before he calls African s , African s,,look what whites did to Mexican, Native, Japanese, Koreans, Phillipines, Australian s,, genocided

  12. what race controls all the world banks. there you'll find the evil doers. spoiler alert: it's not white people.

  13. They genocided all people of color,and stole their lands,same as was done in Alaska, Nigeria,Hawaii, Mexico,USA,Native Indian,, Phillipines, Elsalvadore,and world wide,they conquered Africa for over 400 years,is what they tell me,India by the British for over 200 years,Mexico by the Spaniards,,they genocided Nigerian s too,,(whites) trust me,,,they genociding our black brothers in Britain and world wide,, trust me,,,,,,,

  14. Slavery was horrible and brutal and until modern Americans, in some generation, realize that it can't be whitewashed, we will never overcome it's still existing effects.

  15. Thanx whitie
    God bless the Americas

  16. Still racist,divide,and conquer,this caveman makes negative videos, because he has power,whites hate blacks,in over 400 years there has never been a positive picture

  17. Blackmen u are the Master Builder,"the stone the builders rejected cause our color,,,yourube "Robin Walker before the slave trade

  18. Every where this caveman goes,he destroys civilization s,and genocide people,,,am I lying

  19. This caveman did it all the over the world,,, blackmen the white man is your enemy,,he's a beast in human form

  20. Slave trade crash course,, debunked,Blackman,u are the father of civilization,,YouTube Sera Suten Seti, Megaliths of Africa,,25 shocking wonders of Africa,,Kemet nu

  21. He won't do one on the "Berlin Conference,,King Leopold genocide in Africa,,nor the theft of N.Americs,S, America,, Mexico,and stealing treasures world wide by the British

  22. Look at the evil whites did in Phillipines, Vietnam,,he killed , robbed them made them so poor,they ask for money on Facebook,,,am I lying

  23. The white race arrogated itself the right to be ruled and obeyed by the none white,and blacks should be in the bottom,,not me I'm a rebel,not Christian,not Muslim,,I believe in my ancestors

  24. He alone thinks he has the right to life, liberty,and the pursuit of happiness,,,,,,,, separation is the answer

  25. It wasn't slavery,,it was the extrrmination of a whole race,,,,,,,do u see any Native Indian s walking around

  26. Thank you for acknowledging that slavery was a result of many different people groups over time, and African people also had a part to play….

  27. Nah, genocide,slavery is just a cover up name,or codename for genocide,,they did it to all people of color

  28. I hope he does one on how the USA government killed over 1,000,000 Philippino s!!!!!!!!!

  29. "30% of the U.S. population were slaves" I find THAT hard to believe. I'd like to know how/where he got THAT "statistic".

  30. IF the U.S.A. was made 'Great' by African slaves, as the left likes to loudly proclaim, & SOUTH America owned FAR more slaves than North America (the U.S.A.) then why is it that SOUTH America, the Caribean etc. don't have great infrastructure etc. as NORTH America does?
    That's just one more FACT that shows how illogical & insane the views of the left are (including the guy who made this video) as evidenced by the sticker on his computer.

  31. YouTube Sera Suten Seti, Ancient Megaliths of Africa,also 25 wonders of Afrika,the shocking line up,,,black you are the Master Builder

  32. Nah,we are the original Master builder s,,,,Dioric, Corinthians s,Ionic are the building blocks for architecture,,,that's why they enslaved us,,,,,Hiram Abiff is a fake,to deny the fact that the black man is the Master Builder

  33. The Shriners know who the Master Builder is,it's you Blackman,,that's why they were a Egyptian emblem on the caps,,am I lying,,,the plumbob,, carpenter s square,Chisels, Carpenter tools,,higher mathematics Masonary started with the African,,they know

  34. Blackmen u are the builder that the builders rejected,you shall know the truth and the truth will set u free

  35. Nah Master builders,that's why they put pornography in our face to distract us!!!!!!!!!

  36. Blackmen,u were not a slave,but Pyramid Builder s,Church's,,Our Ethiopian brothers were so smart ,they build Church's from the ground up!!!!!!!

  37. If blackmen were slaves,,why are all our treasures in the British museum? Our ancient texts on how to do high mathematics???????

  38. Nah blackmen our people built the first dams, Hospitals,Church's, Temples,,, doctors,,same as the (eye of Heru)πŸ‘€, symbol which doctors use all over the world

  39. Blackmen your kemetic ancestors started civilization, Karate, wrestling,8-5 ,work day, Construction Building projects,,,,am I lying? Ok watch the documentary on Egypt by RoboCop,,he said himself civilization started in Egypt (notArabs) before Rome had built their first mud hut!!!

  40. Blackmen u had high civilization than any one on the planet,,,check out the civilization of Annuki in Africa,,,,,,it will shock you! Adams calendar and all!!!

  41. Hey narrator,do one on how the British robbed Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt,Ghana,the Golden stool by the British! Nah I guarantee he won't do that,it's always negative

  42. Hey Crash course do a video on how the French(white supremacists) Dutch, German s,and others Participate in carving up Africa,aka Berlin Conference,and how President Kennedy/ Belgium killed oUr brother Patrice Lamumba

  43. Blackmen they stole everything from you,and you,,go see the Patheon in Rome,those Marble Corinthian Columns made from Marble was imported from our ancient civilization, Egypt,,,,,,Hadrian took it from from Egypt to extend his power,,,am I lying?? YouTube The Patheon,they admit they got and stole your science for Building

  44. I hope he adds, economic slavery, jobless slavery,300 years of slavery and no pay,,,,,,,, they kill people,ask the Mexican s,killed them too,they tell me for over 500 years,lynched them, burned them

  45. They killed the Indigenous Indian and Mexican,,YouTube Mexica Movement,,,,,,,the Vikings killed the indigenous in Canada,,am I lying?

  46. Whites are dehumanized Racist,it's 2019 they still call blacks slaves,they look at your color and dehumanize you,and all people of color world wide

  47. It's been known whites can go no where and cause peace,he has always tried to rule the darker races,,,look at all the head coach,,white supremacisy mean s I will always tell u what to do..NWO

  48. Yes,but African s didn't enslave us,,,,stop making excuse,,we wouldn't have gotten enslave if whites hadn't showed up…

  49. But they try to call "blacks" lazy,,,the Jews made up the Hamitic myth, saying we were cursed black,ugly,big penises,to slaves to everyone

  50. All beings are in dept (except nobility) therefore not free.
    A being in debt is not free. They are indentured by definition and are bankrupt,and as bankrupt
    has no standing. Without standing you have no status and cannot state a claim. Without the ability
    to state a claim you cannot claim a free hold on allodial soil, substance and land of our country,
    and therefore, by all definitions in law and historical constructs in this world, you are therefore
    nothing but a landless peasant, a serf that will toil the rest of your life for your master who
    will hold all the equity, the substance and the capacity to do with such as he will,for his own
    account and for no one else –

  51. My ancestors became extremely wealthy from the slave trade, and that wealth has passed on throughout our generations. Because of this, I will never shed one single tear for it, nor will I pay one solid dime in reparations, ever.
    Their slavery made it so my grandchildren's grandchildren will never have to work or be without, and for that, I'd sacrifice over a million worthless africans for it gladly. A very good trade off, if you ask me. The only problem is, the africans are still here in our world, causing crime. We must put an end to this, violently if need be. If they aren't still bringing benefit to humanity, then why does humanity continue to foolishly allow them to exist?

  52. Your speaking all lies!
    Those slave were not from Africa, they were and still are the American Indians!
    Colonizers enslaved the Indians not Africans in America.

  53. Ham is the father of the dark races except the negros, We arent the children of ham, negros are the Israelites children of shem our curse isn't from Noah cursing ham, we are cursed from not following Yahwehs laws read Deuteronomy 28.
    Tell the truth for once!

  54. Very well done! I respect listening to your well researched educational videos (even if I don't always agree on some ideas fully). This was good.

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