The effects of the trans-Atlantic slave trade were immediate and brutal. Millions of people were uprooted from their homes, separated from family, and forced to work in deadly conditions. But the shockwaves created by the trade didn’t stop when it was abolished. This article explores how the impact of the slave trade can still be felt today in three locations.


The catastrophic loss of population, particularly in West Africa, severely undermined the growth of many African nations. A 2008 study by economist, Nathan Nunn, found a clear negative relationship between the number of enslaved people transported from African countries and their subsequent economic development.

Underpopulation led to political challenges which, in turn, exacerbated wars between nations – all fuelled by the triangular trade of firearms. And, although many states strongly resisted slavery, the power of a quickly industrialising Europe was impossible to overcome.

Today, the impact of the slave trade on West Africa puts its people at a huge disadvantage compared with those European nations who promoted and profited from the trade. For decades, there have been calls for reparations for the enslavement and colonisation of African people.

The United States of America

Slavery was abolished in the USA in 1865. However, with racial segregation imposed in many Southern states, African-Americans were treated as second-class citizens within the law for another century. In fact, the legacy of slavery continues to run deep despite these laws having been overthrown by the American Civil Rights movement, which was spearheaded by Black political leaders. Racial prejudice creates a vicious circle which makes it harder for Black individuals to access good education, jobs, and healthcare.

In the face of inequality, the African-American community has established a strong cultural identity – spanning music, art, cuisine, politics, and beyond – which has influenced generations across the entire world. Nevertheless, the murder of George Floyd in 2020 shone a global spotlight on police brutality in America and gave momentum to the Black Lives Matter movement, which seeks to defund the police and invest in Black neighbourhoods instead.

The United Kingdom

Trans-Atlantic slavery intensified racist ideologies in Britain, which profited massively from the trade. This money in part fuelled the expansion of the British Empire, including in the Caribbean, where descendants of enslaved Africans soon made up the majority of the population. When the UK called for help after WWII, around 500,000 people (known as the Windrush generation) emigrated from the Caribbean to Britain. Many faced racial prejudice and discrimination upon arrival.

Similarly, to the USA, racial inequality permeates education, employment, and healthcare in the UK today. In a 2023 study, around half of the participants from the ‘Black Caribbean’, ‘Any Other Black’, and ‘White and Black Caribbean’ groups reported having experienced racist abuse while in public spaces.

At the root of these attacks is a nation-wide ignorance, and a historical narrative in the UK which has largely erased the experience of Black people in the country over the centuries. At MōSaF, we want to correct this.

It’s vital to recognise Britain’s full history – including its involvement in the slave trade and the global impact that’s had – in order to understand present-day racism. While we must acknowledge and learn from the terrors of the past, it’s equally important that we recognise and celebrate the immense contribution and achievements of Black individuals and communities in the UK in the past and present.


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