What was the first sovereign state to abolish the slave trade?
May 16, 1792 – Today, Denmark (under Crown Prince Fredrik VI’s ruling) declared the slave trade to be illegal for humanitarian and economic reasons. This made Denmark the first country to prohibit slave trade under the law — but not slavery. Vermont abolished slavery in 1777.
Despite the ban, the slave trade didn’t come to an end until 1803. In the 10-year interim the number of slaves in Denmark grew from 28,000 to 36,000.
From the 1650s on, Denmark participated in the transatlantic slave trade. Nearly 120,000 enslaved Africans were transported from Africa to the West Indies on ships flying the flag of Denmark. The slave trade was part of the country’s 250 years as a colonial power in the West Indies.
In 1916, Denmark sold the Danish West Indies to the United States for US $25 million in gold, and that land is now called the United States Virgin Islands.
Image: virgin-islands-history.org The image above is the cargo plan for the slave ship Brookes. By using space to the utmost on this not particularly large ship, 452 slaves could be taken on board. Each adult man was only allotted 71 inches by 16 inches to lie on and only 31.5 inches up to the next layer of people. The slaves lay here for months on the journey to the West Indies, according to Thomas Clarkson, in his book, “The History of the African Slave-Trade,” vol. 2, 1808.
Words of Wisdom
Racism, xenophobia and unfair discrimination have spawned slavery, when human beings have bought and sold and owned and branded fellow human beings as if they were so many beasts of burden.