The African slave trade has been around for centuries. While most of us associate slavery with 18th and 19th century America, the truth is that the African slave trade started long before America became involved. It is still around today in certain parts of the African continent.
The slave trade inside Africa itself was common in Ghana and Nigeria in the 18th century, where the countries' economies depended largely on the selling of hand labor to neighboring estates. Slavery inside Africa was often not for life. Slaves had the option of buying their liberty, and were normally paid enough that they could do it after a certain number of years.
In the rest of the world, the African slave trade became common in Europe first, starting with Portugal, who took slaves to Brazil to mine the mountains. The Caribbean soon followed, and then other countries of South and Central America. The US-African slave trade was far smaller than that managed by other countries. Of all slaves to reach America, only 4.4 percent ended up in North American territory.
The earliest records of the slave trade in America date back to the beginning of the 17th century, when racial slavery was a punishment for servants who broke the law. In the 18th and 18th century, slaves were mostly used in the South to work on plantations and farms, especially by rich landowners who could afford the extra expense in order to maximize their profits. By the start of the Civil War in 1860, there were approximately 4 million slaves of African origin in the US.
The African slave trade was abolished around the world at different times. Britain stopped slavery in 1807, although slaves were not officially declared free until 1833, when the Slavery Abolition Act was passed. The rest of Europe followed close behind, with certain African countries forbidding slavery early in the 20th century. The African slave trade remains alive in certain parts of Africa, however. Nigeria, especially, is notable for selling sex slaves to certain European countries, and for trafficking children inside African boundaries.