The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 42, Issue 1

Article 4
The African Maafa: The Impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on Western Africa

Alvin O. Thompson


The transatlantic slave trade had a wide-ranging impact on the communities from which the enslaved Africans were drawn, especially the peoples along the Atlantic seaboard, from modern Senegal to modern Angola, and the immediate hinterland. As the trade developed in volume and intensity, it tended to spread further inland. However, it was not only those African communities that participated directly in the trade, either as purveyors or victims, who were affected, but also the whole of Western Africa and, indeed, the whole continent. Historians have debated, and continue to debate, whether the trade had any positive demographic, economic, political or social impact on the region under review. This essay argues that the impact on the region as a whole was quite negative, though in the short term individual groups, and more particularly rulers, might have received some small material advantage from the trade. The scale of human death and suffering was such that the traffic must be regarded as the African Holocaust or Maafa.