Slave ships were normally large cargo ships specially converted for the purpose of transporting slaves, especially newly purchased African slaves to the Americas. The most significant routes of the slave ships led from the north-western and western coasts of Africa to South America and the south-east coast of what is today the United States, and the Caribbean. As many as 20 million Africans were transported by ship. The transportation of slaves from Africa to America was known as the Middle Passage.
The African slave trade was outlawed in 1807, by a law passed jointly in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The applicable UK act was the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act and outlawed slavery throughout the British Empire. After that date, all US and English slave ships leaving Africa were legally pirate vessels subject to capture by the United States Navy or Royal Navy. In 1815, at the Council of Vienna, Spain, Portugal, France, and the Netherlands also agreed to abolish their slave trade. During this time, the slave ships became smaller and more cramped in exchange for improved performance in their new role as smuggling craft and blockade runners.
Brick Negrier, a French ship widely used mainly for the purpose of the slave trade. This ship was specially designed to be able to access & sail upriver where trading took place. This type of ship had diminished capacity but was faster than other previous ships employed in the slave trade. It was favoured by traders at the time when the slave trade was declared illegal in 1815. Nevertheless, the trade continued for half a century in spite of legal prohibitions, harsh sanctions, and a strict control. It is a stark reminder of an unfortunate part of world history.