Biographies of key figures in the history of the transatlantic slave trade

There were many figures in Britain, West Africa and the Caribbean who played a key part in supporting and abolishing the transatlantic slave trade. Each biography is listed below.

Afonso I (c.1456 - c.1545)
Afonso (often spelt Affonso) was the ruler of the Kongo-Kingdom (present day Angola and Congo) from 1506. He was the son of a Christian convert and he protested to King Manuel of Portugal over the activities of the Portuguese trading in copper, ivory and slaves. He unsuccessfully tried to limit the number of slaves the Portuguese could take: the Portuguese in return attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate him. He proved insufficiently powerful to expel the Portuguese who continued their trade.


Yaa Asantewaa (1840 - 1921)
Yaa Asantewwa witnessed her brother, the King Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese, trying to expand the Asante group of states into an empire as great as that of the Ghana empire or that of the Europeans. He declared war on the Fante and Ga people and formed alliances with the Dutch and then with the British. Driven by the desire to obtain guns, the King sold his own people as slaves, and used slaves to build his palace, resulting in many deaths during his reign.
Yaa Asantewwa rebelled against her brother, in her role as Queen Mother, and when he died in 1894 she nominated her own grandson as King of Edweso (an Asante state). He was quickly deported by the British, and Yaa Asantewaa made herself Queen in 1896 and personally led a war of resistance in 1900 confronting the injustice and the colonialism of the British. She used tactics and developed a military strategy rather than fighting herself. She was an inspirational leader, visiting her soldiers in battle to give advice and gunpowder.
Yaa Asantewaa


Jean Barbot (1655 - 1713)
Jean Barbot was born on the Ile de R


Thomas Buxton (1786 - 1845)
Thomas Fowell Buxton became the anti-slavery leader in Parliament following William Wilberforce


Joseph Cinquez (c.1811 - 1879)
Joseph Cinquez was from the West African Mendi people. He was captured by other Africans, the Ley people, and sold to a Spanish slave trader. In 1839 Cinquez led the rebellion on board the slave ship Amistad, sailing from Cuba. He tried to force the crew to return to Africa, but the ship was taken into custody by the Americans and Cinquez and others were charged with piracy. He was freed in 1841, after learning some English and being exposed to Christianity. He returned to Africa to find his village destroyed and his family missing. He lived with missionaries and requested a Christian burial.