Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

Sugar and slavery

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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.

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