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What's New
  • Slavery Image Collections  The description of Harriet Tubman, beneath the image of her, has been updated.

  • Maps    A map of Sierra Leone has been added to the collection.

  • Sources and Selected Links  Added a link to the Voyages database, with information on 35,000 slave expeditions between 1514 and 1886.



Cape Coast Castle, Inner Courtyard, Ghana, 1986 (1)

Slaves were imprisoned here in appalling dungeons prior to departure. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction along with nearby Elmina Castle and the Maison des Esclaves (slave house) at Gorée Island, Senegal. (click image for enlarged view and more information)


Cape Coast Castle, Door of No Return (2)

This was the door leading to the slave ships. When a slave walked through this door he was leaving his African homeland forever. (click image for enlarged view and more information)



Welcome to www.slaverysite.com. I have created this website to serve as a resource for information about the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in America. It contains many references and links to primary sources of information, a list that I hope will grow to become one of the most complete that can be found anywhere. The website, however, is intended to be more than a list of sources. I have included information about a number of slavery-related topics of interest, for those who want a basic understanding of the subject. For a deeper understanding, and access to a wealth of images, maps, and accounts of historical events available on the internet and in textbooks, I invite you to consult the sources listed in the Sources and Selected Links section of this website.


    Dr. Neil A. Frankel

The Atlantic Slave Trade

The Portuguese established trading forts on the west coast of sub-Sahara Africa in the 15th century, trading European goods including beads, cloth, guns, ammunition, horses, and rum for gold, ivory, and slaves. Later, the Dutch, French and English became active in the trade. A triangular trading scheme emerged once the Europeans established holdings in the New World. In the first part of the triangle, the ships would leave Europe loaded with goods for barter in Africa. In the second part, also known as the Middle Passage because it was the middle of a three-part trading sequence, the ships would cross the Atlantic and head for the New World with a cargo of slaves to sell, and to purchase sugar, molasses, tobacco and other local crops. In the third part of the voyage, the ships would return to Europe to sell the New World products and begin the triangle once again.

Slavery in America

African slaves were first brought to North America in the 17th century, to work in the tobacco fields. Later, slaves were needed to grow sugar cane, rice and cotton. Charleston, South Carolina was the largest slave port in the years leading up to the passage of a law prohibiting the importation of slaves, in 1808. The law was passed at the urging of Thomas Jefferson, and coincided with similar legislation in England (Slave Trade Act of 1807). The new American law stated, in part,  "Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, it shall not be lawful to import or bring into the United States or the territories thereof from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, with intent to hold, sell, or dispose of such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, as a slave, or to be held to service or labour." Sadly, slavery in some states continued to be legal until the Civil War. By 1804, every northern state had passed abolition laws, the last being New Jersey. Pennsylvania passed a gradual abolition law in 1780 that did not free existing slaves. New York state followed with a similar gradual abolition law in 1799, finally abolishing slavery in the state on July 4, 1827. Slavery in Massachusetts was, in effect, abolished in 1780, resulting from a new bill of rights in the state constitution that declared "all men are born free and equal, and have ... the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberty." A series of court decisions that year, the last of which was the "Commonwealth v. Jennison" case, had the effect of abolishing slavery in the state (19). The Emancipation Proclamation issued January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln declared that slaves were to be freed in the 'rebellious' states. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." Given that the Civil war was still in progress, many slaves continued their life in bondage until the Union Army advanced to their location. Some fled across the Union lines to gain freedom, where they were known as 'contrabands.'

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Last updated:  April 15, 2009      © 2007, 2008 Neil A. Frankel Contact: webmaster