The Atlantic slave trade was a period from approximately 1526 to 1866, during which 12.5 million enslaved African people were transported to the New World on slave ships. The vast majority of the enslaved were from West Africa or Central Africa, and most of them were sold into slavery by African rulers at European coastal slave forts; very few of them were directly captured by the European slavers. Portugal was the first nation involved in the slave trade, completing the first transatlantic slave voyage to Brazil in 1526. The slaves were regarded as cargo and treated inhumanely, and 1.8 million slaves died on the voyage to the Americas. Upon arrival in the New World, the slaves were auctioned off (typically to members of the wealthy elite) to work on coffee, tobacco, cocoa, sugar, and cotton plantations, gold and silver mines, rice fields, the construction industry, cutting timber for ships, in skilled labor, and as domestic servants. In 1803, Denmark was the first country to ban the slave trade, followed by Britain in 1807 and the United States in 1808. After 1808, most slave ships went to Brazil or to the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. In 1831, Brazil was the last country to ban the Atlantic slave trade, but a vibrant illegal trade into Brazil and Cuba continued until the 1860s, when British enforcement and further diplomacy finally ended the slave trade. In 1888, Brazil was also the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery.
The Atlantic slave trade left a profound mark on history. It created an African diaspora community in several countries in both the Americas and Europe, with over half of Brazilians having at least partial African ancestry, and 12.7% of Americans claiming African ancestry. As a result of slavery and its subsequent abolition and the reintegration of Africans into society, many members of the African diaspora suffered from social inequality, racial discrimination, and economic and political marginalization.