Slavery in Jamaica, Many slaves arrived in Jamaica via the Atlantic slave trade during the early seventeenth century, the same period when the first enslaved Africans arrived in North America. The island sugar plantations were highly dependent on slave labour, based on Africans who initially were captured, kidnapped, and sold into slavery from peoples of West and Central Africa. By the eighteenth century, sugarcane became the most important export of the island. By the early nineteenth century, people of African descent greatly outnumbered ethnic Europeans Due to the harshness of the conditions, there were many racial tensions. Jamaica had one of the highest number of slave uprisings of any Caribbean island.