Slavery had long existed in Europe and Africa, but the history of the Atlantic slave trade begins in the 1440s with Portuguese exploration of West Africa. ‘The Atlantic slave trade’ charts the increased demand for slave labor in Portugal and the Christian justification of African enslavement. In the 1490s, the journeys of Christopher Columbus to the Caribbean and North and South America opened up mineral-rich and fertile lands on which European countries planted their flags and the Christian cross. More than 12 million Africans boarded the ships, but nearly 2 million died during the Middle Passage. Of those who survived, only about 5 percent went to North America, with most going to South America and the Caribbean.