Tracking the Slave Trade

Sepia tone image of man examining a slave, probably for a slave trade sale

Tracking the Atlantic Slave Trade

You can now access an interactive map designed and built by Slate’s Andrew Kahn that gives genealogists a fascinating peek into the world of the Atlantic slave trade. The map animates the more than 20,000 slave voyages chronicled in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, and includes a mind-boggling amount of information.

Map of the Atlantic slave trade circa 1620


The dots that you see on the map each represent a single voyage. The animation begins in the 1500s, with relatively few dots crossing the Atlantic. However, once the map reaches the 17000s, the map is awash with dots, speeding to both North and South America.

Learn About Each Voyage in the Slave Trade

While the massive upswing in the number of voyages is almost too hard to comprehend, even more so is the information available on each voyage. Click any dot to learn details about the ship, its country of origin and the number of slaves transported.

Details of a ship involved in the slave trade with a country of origin of the Netherlands

The larger the dot, the larger the human cargo of enslaved Africans.

At the bottom of the ship information you’ll see a MOVE INFO link. Click it to bring up a new page from the Database. Here you’ll find a fact-filled chart with many facts, including

  • where the ship was built
  • name the owners
  • number of slave voyages
  • number of days to complete the journey
  • captain’s name
  • number of crew
  • slave mortality rate during the crossing

Reading these black and white facts is bone-chilling as the charts are just facts, they represent humans being transported into a life of slavery.

As I write this, it is Black History month. Take some time today to look at the interactive map, follow a slave ship to its final destination, and consider how the Atlantic slave trade changed the face of the Americas.



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