This Animated Timelapse of the Atlantic Slave Trade Is Disturbing

From the beginning of the 16th century to the 19th, slave merchants transported more than 10 million enslaved Africans to the New World. This eye-opening animation condenses over 20,528 voyages down to three agonizing minutes.


This animated timelapse—found here—was put together for Slate by assistant interactives fellow Andrew Kahn using information drawn from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Each dot represents individual slave ships, and its size corresponds to the size of each voyage. You can actually pause the map and click on any dot to learn more, including its origin point, destination, and history in the slave trade. A graph at the bottom accumulates the numbers over time.

Here are a pair of animated gifs to give you a quick taste.


As noted by Slate’s Jamelle Bouie, North America was a “bit player” in the slave trade, bringing in “just” 388,747 Africans, or 4% of the total—a figure “dwarfed by the 1.3 million brought to Spanish Central America, the 4 million brought to British, French, Dutch, and Danish holdings in the Caribbean, and the 4.8 million brought to Brazil.”

Other trends worth noting include the prominent role of Portugal during the entire Atlantic Slave Trade, the wane of Spanish influence over the course of time, and the rise of British, French, Dutch, and American activity from the 1720s to the 1820s. Those 100 years in particular were the most intense, as Europeans, in the words of Bouie, sent “more than 7.2 million people to forced labor, disease, and death in the New World.”

Much more at Slate.

Contact the author at and @dvorsky. Top image by Andrew Kahn/Slate.

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aegisblack’s boggles the mind that one human being would enslave another.