Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend
Sugar and slavery
As various counties established colonies in the West Indies and on the mainland Americas, sugar cane became a staple crop. By the mid-1500s, there were thousands of sugar mills. These mills helped to drive the trans-Atlantic slave trade, with a demand for labor to work in the fields and the mills. The trade accelerated and there were upward of 20,000 slaves being brought across the Atlantic each year by the late 1700s. The trade formed a triangle across the ocean where slaves would be picked up off the African coast and brought to the Caribbean to be traded for sugar, among other goods. The sugar would then be transported to New England, where it would be refined into other commodities and then transported to Europe for sale. The value of sugar at the time was still high, and it became the most valuable import to Europe and remained so into the 1800s as demand continued to increase.