MapMaker: Transatlantic and Intra-Americas Slave Trade

MapMaker: Transatlantic and Intra-Americas Slave Trade

The transatlantic slave trade forced 12.5 million African people into slavery and set up a gruesome triangle of the trade from Europe to Africa to the Americas built on human trafficking. The story deepens when one explores the forced migration of individuals within the Americas. This map is composed of data from SlaveVoyages and represents enslaved people transported to and from different ports around the world from 1514 to 1866.


5 - 12+


Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Human Geography, Social Studies, Civics, U.S. History, World History, Storytelling

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An estimated 12.5 million African people were kidnapped from their homes, forced onto ships, trafficked to the Americas, and enslaved. Most were forced onto labor camps, also called plantations. This gruesome event in global history is commonly referred to as the transatlantic slave trade. Colonial powers built a triangle of the trade from Europe to Africa to the Americas and back to Europe moving textiles, wheat, sugar, tobacco, coffee, and humans, as though humans can be commoditized. Europe provided manufactured goods, Africa an enslaved labor force, and the Americas food and raw materials.

The most brutal segment of the route was the Middle Passage, which transported chained African people packed tightly below the decks of purpose-built slave ships in unsanitary conditions for approximately 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles). This trip could last weeks or months depending on conditions and the trafficked people were subjected to abuse, dangerously high heat, inadequate food and water, and low-oxygen environments. Approximately 1.8 million African people are thought to have died on the voyage.

However, for many enslaved Africans trafficked across the Atlantic the first port they were taken to from Africa was not their final destination. From there they were forced onto other ships by the enslavers to other countries or regions in the Americas. This was the intra-American slave trade.

This data set is the culmination of decades of archival research compiled by The Slave Voyages Consortium. This data represents the trafficking of enslaved Africans from 1514 to 1866. All mapmakers must make choices when presenting data. One of ours, in agreement with the consortium, is that this map layer represents individuals experts can definitively place at a given location on one of at least 36,000 transatlantic and at least 10,000 intra-American slave voyages. However, this means the enslaved people for whom records cannot place their embarkment or disembarkment with certainty do not appear in this map (approximately 170,985 people). This map, therefore, is part of the story, and not a complete accounting. You can learn more about the methodology of this data collection here.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
GIS Specialist
Zoë Lieb, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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