Ship that transported enslaved Africans to the Americas. Photo Credit: © New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Caribbean – First Documented Slave Voyages To The Americas

In August 1518, King Charles I authorized Spain to ship enslaved Black people directly from Africa to the Americas. This authorization marked a new phase in which the numbers of enslaved Black people brought from Africa directly to the Americas significantly increased.

The transatlantic slave trade didn’t start in 1518, but it did increase after King Charles authorized direct Africa-to-Caribbean trips that year. In the 1510s and 1520s, ships sailing from Spain to the Caribbean settlements of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola might contain as few as one or two enslaved people, or as many as thirty to forty.


  • De Sousa, G. Soares., & Varnhagen, A.F. 2010. Tratado Descritivo do Brasil em 1587. Nabu Press.
  • Sweet, H. James. 2003. “Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770.” Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. Print.
  • Little, B. 2020. “Details of Brutal First Slave Voyages Discovered.” History.


  • Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Slave ship.New York Public Library Digital Collections.