One of the most tragic parts of the history of North and South America is the period of African slavery. For hundreds of years, many people were taken from Africa, by force, to work in the fields of many different countries in North and South America. When Europeans first came to the Americas, some of them realized that they might make money by growing crops and selling them in Europe. However, in order to make money, they would need a cheap source of labor. Few Europeans would come to the Americas to work for low wages, so instead, the landowners looked for slaves. In the areas of the great farms, or plantations, there were few Indians, so they used another source of slaves, Africa. The plantation owners usually obtained slaves by buying them from local kings in western Africa. This led to many wars between rival kings within Africa, who tried to capture each other's people in order to sell them as slaves. A few kings tried to avoid the slave trade, but this was very difficult. During a period of several hundred years, from the 1500s to the 1800s, about 12 million people were taken from western Africa to the Americas. Many more people died as slaves before leaving Africa, and many more died on the ships that took them to the Americas. This was because the conditions on the ships were extremely unhealthy! the ships were far too crowded, and there was little food and water. When the African slaves arrived in the Americas, the plantation owners made them work on farms that produced goods such as cotton and sugar. In many places, the work was very hard, and many of the slaves died from overwork. They were then replaced by other slaves who arrived from Africa. However, many slaves survived despite the brutal conditions. In some places, the African slaves were able to revolt against the plantation owners. However, this was difficult because the slaves who had recently arrived spoke many different languages. Some slaves escaped into wilderness areas and were able to remain free from the plantation owners. As time went by, many people in Europe and in the Americas realized that slavery was wrong. By the 1830s, slavery had been ended, or abolished, in islands owned by the British, and in parts of the United States. In the southern United States, slavery was ended in the 1860s, during the Civil War. In some countries, such as Brazil and Cuba, slavery only ended in the 1880s. Today, many millions of people in North and South America are the descendants of slaves who were brought from Africa. The effects of slavery have lasted for many generations, and there was much racial prejudice against African people when slavery ended. However, some have achieved success despite these disadvantages Today, the people of African background in North and South America are a very important part of the population in many countries.