West Africans and the Atlantic, 1550–1800
This chapter shows that while promoting European colonies in the Americas, Atlantic contacts created cultural and economic opportunities for some coastal Africans. Although those in a position to benefit were fewer in number than those shipped into slavery from these shores and made up only a very small percentage of West Africa's population, their lives illuminate two important themes that deserve to be understood apart from the miseries of the slave trade and slavery. In the first place, their lives show that coastal West Africans were eager to participate in the Atlantic economy and succeeded in doing so effectively before, during, and after the transatlantic slave trade. The second theme of these early encounters, Africans's cultural discovery of Europe, also continued and expanded after 1800.
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