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Henry Louis Gates: “Tiny fraction” of slaves actually ended up in U.S.

How Many Slaves Landed in the U.S.?

The most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (While the editors are careful to say that all of their figures are estimates, I believe that they are the best estimates that we have, the proverbial “gold standard” in the field of the study of the slave trade.) Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.

And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage.

–Henry Louis Gates, Jr. | Executive Producer, Writer, Presenter–Exploring Your Roots

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University. He is the author of Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 (Random House, 2011) and Faces of America (New York University Press, 2010), which expands on interviews he conducted for his critically acclaimed PBS documentary series of the same name.  The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader, ed. Abby Wolf (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2012), a collection of three decades of his work, was published in 2012.  He co-wrote Lincoln on Race and Slavery, with Donald Yacovone (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).

Professor Gates is editor-in-chief of TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine focusing on issues of interest to the African-American community and written from an African-American perspective, and the Oxford African American Studies Center.

Fifty of the 100 Amazing Facts will be published on The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross website. Read all 100 Facts on The Root.