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Navio Negreiro = Slave ship
The most significant routes of the slave ships led from the north-western and western coasts of Africa to South America and the south-east coast of what is today the USA, and the Caribbean. As many as 20 million Africans were transported by ship. The transportation of slaves from Africa to America was known as the Middle Passage.
The African slave trade was outlawed in 1807, by a law passed jointly in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The applicable UK act was the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act and outlawed slavery throughout the British Empire. The US law took effect on January 1, 1808.
After that date all US and English slave ships leaving Africa were legally pirate vessels subject to capture by the United States Navy or Royal Navy. In 1815, at the Council of Vienna, Spain, Portugal, France, and the Netherlands also agreed to abolish their slave trade. During this time, the slave ships became smaller and more cramped in exchange for improved performance in their new role as smuggling craft and blockade runners.
Only a few decades after the discovery of America by Europeans, demand for cheap labour to work plantations made slave-trading a profitable business. The peak time of slave ships to the Atlantic passage was between the 17th and 18th century when large plantations developed in the British colonies of North America.
In order to achieve profit, the owners of the ships divided their hulls into holds with little headroom, so they could transport as many slaves as possible. Unhygienic conditions, dehydration, dysentery and scurvy led to a high mortality rate, on average 15% and up to a third of captives. Only the most resilient survived the transport. Often the ships, also known as Guineamen, transported hundreds of slaves, who were chained tightly to plank beds. For example, the slave ship Henrietta Marie carried about 200 slaves on the long Middle Passage. They were confined to cargo holds with each slave chained with little room to move.