Discover the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the 13th Amendment

Explore the journey of enslaved people from the Transatlantic Slave Trade starting in 1500 to the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865

By National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Gang of Captives met at Mbame's on their way to Tette (1865-01-01) by Josiah Wood WhymperNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

The Transatlantic Slave Trade (1500-1886)

The Transatlantic Slave Trade was the largest forced migration of people across international oceanic borders which brought millions of Africans to the Americans. 

The Slave Trade (1840-01-01) by Auguste Francois-BairdNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

The Slave Trade by Auguste-Francois Baird

This painting depicts a scene on the African coast where captives are being bought and sold. The painting also serves as a protest against slavery during a time when it was still legal in the French colonies in the Americas, especially in the Caribbean islands. 

Brookes slave ship (1787-01-01) by James PhillipsNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Brookes Slave Ship

This plan was a detailed description of the ship, information about its trading history, and how men, women and children were transported. 

Chain-style shackles (2022-01-06)National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Chain-style Shackles

Iron chain-style shackles like these were not only used in the transportation of enslaved people from African nations during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, but they were also used as punishment and humiliation of enslaved person who tried to seek freedom.

Slave Tag (2022-01-06)National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Slave Tag

A slave tag like this one was used to identify enslaved people who were available to hire out for servant work.  Issued between the late 18th century until 1865, the tag consisted information such as a registered badge number, the enslaved person's line of work and the year. 

Bill of Sale (2022-01-06)National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Slave Bill of Sale

A slave bill of sale was a contract between a slave owner and a potential buyer that contained details in the sale of an enslaved person. 

Bill of Sale back (2022-01-06)National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Slave Bill of Sale (continued)

The document included the following: location of the slave owner, the name/location of the buyer, the amount of the enslaved person was sold for, and the gender/name/age of the enslaved person.

Internal Movement (2022-01-22) by Sara DonatoNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

The Internal Movement

This map illustrates the routes that were most used to move 1 million enslaved African Americans south and west from Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina to Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and elsewhere.   

Overland Trails (2022-01-19) by Sara DonatoNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Overland Trails - Route 68 to the Natchez Road

This route is where slave owners transported enslaved people on foot from the slave pen, a holding structure served as temporary housing for enslaved people who were in transition after arriving in America before being auctioned to slave owners in the South.  

Freedom Seekers (1857-01-01) by The Suppressed Book of SlaveryNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Road to Freedom

Route 68 was also the road to freedom for freedom seekers and their allies in the Underground Railroad. 

Find Help Along The Way (2022-01-18) by Sara DonatoNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Find Help Along the Way

This map shows the directions where the enslaved moved to find freedom.  

View of Cincinnati (1841-01-01) by Klauprech & MenzelNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

View of Cincinnati

This picture reflects the view of Cincinnati from Kentucky that was separated by approximately 175 yards of water that made the difference between slavery and freedom. 

Tom Feelings painting (2003-08-25) by Tom Feelings/Tyrone GeterNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Interstate Slave Trade by Tom Feelings (1933-2003)

This painting by Feelings depicts images of the interstate slave trade which includes the confinement of an individual in the Mason County Slave Pen, the arrival in America and a slave auction.

SojournerTruth (1800-01-01) by UnknownNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Prominent Black Abolitionists

Sojourner Truth was among the few of many enslaved individuals who became important black abolitionists. Born into slavery in New York, Truth escaped to freedom and became an advocate in fair treatment for African Americans and African American women.

Harriet Tubman (1876-01-01) by Harvey LindsleyNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Black Abolitionist Harriet Tubman

Born into slavery, she escaped and managed to complete missions to rescue about 70 enslaved people with the assistance of antislavery activists and safe houses which were part of the Underground Railroad.

Henry Box Brown (1850-01-01) by Published by A. DonnellyNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Black Abolitionist Henry Box Brown

Disappointed by the betrayal of his master to not sell his wife and children, Brown mailed himself in a wooden crate in 1849 at the age of 33 from Virginia to Philadelphia to seek freedom. He spent the rest of his life fighting against slavery. 

Effects of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850-01-01) by Hoff and BloedeNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

This law was an attempt of keeping the institution of slavery intact while abolitionist leaders were fighting hard against the inhumane treatment of African Americans in the 19th century.

Anthony Burns trial pamphlet (1854-01-01) by Fetridge and CompanyNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Anthony Burns (1834-1862)

Burns, an enslaved person who worked as a preacher, escaped to Boston. But he was captured under The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and his trial in Boston attracted national awareness from anti-slavery activists.

Celebration of the Abolition of Slavery in DC (1866-05-12) by Harper's WeeklyNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center

13th Amendment Ended Slavery

This image from Harper’s Weekly magazine illustrated Frederick Dielman’s (1847-1935) vision of African Americans in Washington, DC celebrating the end of slavery after the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865, which abolished slavery as an institution.

Reflection: While the 13th Amendment was monumental in providing social justice for African Americans, the fight still continues through the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matters movements. How does this journey starting with the transatlantic slave trade in the 16th century to the passage of the 13th amendment about 300 years later make you think about the plight of African Americans today?

Francis Miller, 1963-08, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
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"Where Brooklyn At?!?!", Shawn Pridgen, 2020-06-05/2020-06-05, From the collection of: What We Seee
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