African Immigrants to the New World

By: Isaias Torres

How different were African societies in the Old World compared to the New World?

Finding: African American communities were able to keep some elements of their original societies, but other aspects were lost.

West African Societies

  • Tropical forests and Savannah grasslands
  • Heavily influenced by Islamic culture of the Mediterranean because of trade routes
  • Decentralized political and social authority in the region
  • Labor divided by gender (shared agriculture duties, but men hunted and women cared for children and prepared food)
  • Men and women held leadership positions in villages and religious groups
  • Source: A People and a Nation (7th Edition)

Slavery in Africa (Specifically Guinea)

  • Africans exchanged ivory, gold, and slaves to northern merchants for salt, dates, silk, and cotton cloth
  • Slaves essential to the economy as a source of labor
  • Could be enslaved for life for punishment of a crime
  • More often they were enemies captured
  • Some voluntarily offered themselves or their children as slaves to pay a debt
  • Degree of treatment varied greatly
  • Source: A People and a Nation (7th Edition) Image Source: PBS.com


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Traded from Africa to New World

  • Experience with plantation system in the Canaries and Madeiras off the African coasts
  • Portuguese sent African slaves to European manufacturers throughout 1400s
  • Recreated system in Caribbean and Brazil
  • Source: A People and a Nation (7th Edition) Image Source: UNESCO