The Impact Gender Roles had on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Though the two hardly seem related, the slave trade originating in Africa was impacted by gender roles. Even in as something as horrifying as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, men and women were thought to be capable of different things. It was this reason that females weren’t taken initially through the slave trade. When they were taken it wasn’t to do any sort of hard labor (Hallam). As seen in the image below from 1797 (image A), females were mostly considered for housework. These initial trepidation against using female slave labor were quickly struck down when male slaves were used for more skilled labor, creating a shortage in farm labor. Due to female slaves being cheaper, the ships traveling with at least 1% female slaves grew exponentially when farmers figured this out as seen in the map below. Though men and women were still being sold in equal amount (see image B), the market for female slaves had become bigger. By 1820, four out of five females that crossed the Atlantic were from Africa. Now female slaves were considered just as able in farm labor as male slaves.

Image A


Image B




Primarily taken from first Europe then Africa for the slave trade, male slaves underwent different but equal treatment than female slaves. As seen in the Voyant, male slaves were the default and the most profitable. The word Boon in Voyant used to mean something along the lines of reward or profit. “Nearly four Africans for every one European crossed the Atlantic” (Facts about the Slave Trade) with almost 3500 ships carried at least 1% of male slaves. Males were almost always used for farm labor though some were pulled for skilled labor such as blacksmith or carpentry (Hallam). Male slaves had to be strong to perform the rigorous tasks associated with their occupation. Though the gender roles for male slaves didn’t change much, their part in the slave trade reinforced ideals of men constantly having to be strong and resilient.


There isn’t quite a silver lining in the story of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade but there are a few things were slaves were treated equal regardless of gender. Punishments were normally very similar, the only thing that would change would be who was in control of the punishments. For the males it was typically the overseer of the plantation and for females it would be the head of the household. Ware says that “violent punishments such as whipping and poor living conditions were shared by both males and females”. There was also an equal market for both genders as seen in image B again, equal amounts of both were sold. There is also the sad fact that none of the slaves that were brought across the Atlantic chose to come to the Americas. Some of them might have bought their freedom at a later point, they still experienced the misfortune of having to be a slave. These gender roles were around before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and are still around today but evidence shows that the slave trade may have been impacted by these gender roles.

Works Cited

Time:  1797 Advertisement. Digital image. Digital Public Library of America. DPLA, n.d. Web.


Image: “Slave Auction Ad.” THE BRITISH LIBRARY. The British Library, n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2016

Maps: “The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database Has Information on Almost 36,000 Slaving Voyages.” Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Emory University, n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Word: Falconbridge, Alexander. “An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa.” An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag.An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa – North Carolina Digital History. Learn NC. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Numbers: “Facts about the Slave Trade and Slavery.” Facts about the Slave Trade and Slavery | The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Social Media: Ware, Laura. “Traditional Gender Roles and Slavery.” Colonialism Slavery and Race. WordPress, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.

Extra: Hallam, Jennifer. “The Slave Experience: Men, Women & Gender.” Slavery and the Making of America. PBS, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.



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