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Dunn’s Civics > Black History > Immorality of Markets

Middle Passage

In 1607, English settlers established Jamestown as the first permanent English colony in the New World.

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Describe what is depicted in this seal.


Tobacco became the chief crop of the Jamestown Colony, using indentured servants for labor. 

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For an article on “Origins of Colonial Chesapeake Indentured Servants: American and English Sources”,  Read More >>

To read about “Risk and the Indentured Servitude of Student Loans”,  Read More >>


When this proved inefficient, in 1619 the Colony bought Africans from Dutch traders. 

“It seems probable,” says Charles Beard in The Rise of American Civilization, “that at least half of the immigrants into America before the Revolution, certainly outside New England, were either indentured servants or Negro slaves.”

What is the difference between an indentured servant and a slave? 

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The Dynamics of the Market in African Peoples

Commercial goods from Europe (green) were shipped to Africa (red) for sale and traded for enslaved Africans. 

Africans were in turn brought to the regions depicted in blue, in what became known as the "Middle Passage." 

African slaves were thereafter traded for raw materials, which were returned to Europe to complete the “Triangular Trade.”

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Compare this slave market with slave markets in the modern world.


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The slave deck of the bark Wildfire, brought into Key West, Florida on April 30th, 1860 (from a daguerreotype). Note: a “bark” is a small ship.

“Between the 16th and 18th centuries at least 1.5 milion Africans died in transatlantic slave ships, chained together in stifling, filth-ridden holds... At least 17 million Africans, and perhaps as many as 65 million, died in the slave trade.”

Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of our Nature

 Slave ship model fabricated by National Museum of American History Office of Exhibits Central  model maker, Chris Hollshwander, with figures by Natalie Gallelli.

Slave ship model fabricated by National Museum of American History Office of Exhibits Central  model maker, Chris Hollshwander, with figures by Natalie Gallelli.


A typical paragraph from the June 2nd, 1860 edition of Harper’s Weekly, which included the previous daguerreotypes.  

In two days after the arrival of the bark the Marshal had completed a large, airy building at Whitehead's Point, a little out of the town, for the reception and accommodation of these people; and after getting them clad as well as he could in so short a time, they were all landed on the fort wharf, and carried in cars to their quarters.  On arriving there they all arranged themselves along the sides of the building, as they had been accustomed to do on the decks of the vessel, and squatted down in the same manner.  It took the Marshal and his assistants some little time, and no small efforts to give the Africans to understand that they were free to move about, to go out and come in at will.  They learned this in the course of a few hours, however, and general merriment and hilarity prevailed.  We visited the in the afternoon, and have done so several times since; and we confess that we have been struck, as many others have been, with the expression of intelligence displayed on their faces, the beauty of their physical conformation, and the beauty of their teeth.  We have been accustomed to think that the civilized negroes of our own country were superior, in point of intelligence and physical development, to the native Africans; but judging only by the eye, we think it would be difficult to find, any where in our own country, four hundred finer and handsomer-looking boys and girls than these are.  To be sure you often saw the elongated occiput, the protruded jaws, and the receding forehead; but you also often saw a head as round, with features as regular as any European's, except the universal flat noses.  Little "Jack" has a head as round as an apple.