“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Richmond, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Crossing the Atlantic

Richmond Slave Trail

Crossing the Atlantic Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, April 16, 2011
1. Crossing the Atlantic Marker
Inscription. Spanning nearly 350 years, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade displaced over 12 million Africans from their native lands to foreign soils. European traders eager to fill the labor vacuum in the New World participated in the capture and sale of African men, women and children. The victims experienced unimaginably inhumane, horrific circumstances as they crossed the Atlantic Ocean, a journey known as the Middle Passage. Their destination: the New World, primarily Brazil and the Caribbean. Roughly 4 percent-more than 480,000 –of Africans who had been torn from their homeland stepped on to the North American seaboard. Although the early Chesapeake colonists of Maryland and Virginia initially relied on the indentured servitude of young white Europeans to fulfill their labor needs, the personal gain of a few wealthy land owners determined the fate of thousands. By the dawn of the 18th century, Virginia was wholly committed to the practice of slavery.

The first African captives to arrive in Virginia were most likely transported by English traders and sold to Virginians in the early 1600s. Many worked as indentured servants and tilled the fields side by side with whites of the same status. In the early years of colonization, a personís race did not automatically determine their legal status. Indentured servants of African descent
View of Rocketts [Landing] and south side of James River from Libby Hill image. Click for full size.
2. View of Rocketts [Landing] and south side of James River from Libby Hill
Albumen photographic print 1865. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographic Division. Civil War Photograph Collection, LC-USZ62-133092
often received the same treatment as those who were white, fulfilling their labor obligations and achieving freedom. Once free, some purchased land and enslaved people, carried out business transactions with whites, and prospered as fully recognized members of this new Anglo-American society.

By 1665, Europeís increasing demand for tobacco combined with a scarcity of English immigrants caused the owners of Virginiaís larger tobacco plantations to seek another source of labor. They wanted a plentiful supply of cheap workers from a reliable source and initially looked to the plantations in Barbados for their solution. Although established twenty years after the first North American colonies, these plantations operated under the system that would one day define American plantation-style slavery, including an essential reliance on imported African labor. Virginia plantation owners knew that the cost of an enslaved African was far less than that of an English servant, and that they could take advantage of the established trade routes between Africa and the New World. In addition, Africans came from a highly organized agricultural society and were known to be disciplined workers who were often very skilled in the crafts of metalwork and textile production. By 1670, the first direct shipments of African captives began arriving at the Virginia colony to labor on large tobacco
Crossing the Atlantic Marker (south bank of James River) image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, April 16, 2011
3. Crossing the Atlantic Marker (south bank of James River)

The journey between the coast of Africa and ports of the New World required several months on the open seas and often claimed the lives of one in eight of the captured Africans on board. Bound beneath the shipís deck, this cargo of men, women and children were routinely deprived of adequate food and water and subjected to savage treatment as the slave ships hurled and lurched towards an unknown fate. Upon reaching the Chesapeake, ships would sometimes travel up rivers and sell African captives directly to the plantation owners. When Richmond became an active point of transfer in the early 1800s, enslaved Africans transported within Virginia would arrive on smaller boats at Rockettís Landing on the north side of the river or here, at Manchester Docks.

Sources: David Brion Davis; Inhuman Bondage and Slaves in the Colonial Chesapeake; Hugh Thomas; The Slave Trade: The story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870; Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave trade database

About the Trail

Designed as a walking path, the Richmond Slave Trail chronicles the history of the trade in enslaved Africans from their homeland to Virginia until 1778, and away from Virginia, especially Richmond, to other locations in the Americas until 1865. The trail begins at the Manchester Docks, which, alongside Rocketts Landing on the north side of the river, operated as a major port in the massive downriver slave trade, making Richmond the largest source of enslaved blacks on the east coast of America from 1830 to 1860. While many of the slaves were shipped on to New Orleans and to other Deep South ports, the trail follows the footsteps of those who remained here and crossed the James River, often chained together in a coffle. Once reaching the northern riverbank, the trail then follows a route through the slave markets and auction houses of Richmond, beside the Reconciliation Statue commemorating the international triangular slave trade and on to the site of the notorious Lumpkinís Slave Jail and leading on to Richmondís African Burial Ground, once called the Burial Ground for Negroes, and the First African Baptist Church, a center of African American life in pre-Civil War Richmond. - Richmond Slave Trail Commission – 2011 –
Title image: “After the Sale: Slaves Going South”, 1853, Painted from live by Eyre Crowe, courtesy the Chicago History Museum
Erected 2011 by Richmond Slave Trail Commission. (Marker Number 1.)
Location. 37° 31.279′ N, 77° 25.142′ W. Marker is in Richmond, Virginia. Marker can be reached from Brander Street half a mile east of Maury Street. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Richmond VA 23224, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. People-Technology-Commerce-Warfare (a few steps from this marker); Mechanics of Slavery (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Despair of Slavery (about 400 feet away); Rocketts Landing (about 700 feet away); The Navy Yard of the Confederate States (approx. 0.2 miles away); Union Army Enters Richmond (approx. ľ mile away); Creole Revolt (approx. ľ mile away); City Locks River Gauge (approx. 0.3 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Richmond.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
Also see . . .
1. Richmond City Council Slave Trail Commission. (Submitted on April 19, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
2. Old Marker at this Location. This marker replaced an older one at this location titled “Manchester Slave Docks” (Submitted on April 19, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 
Categories. Abolition & Underground RRAfrican Americans
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 767 times since then and 164 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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