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GENERAL => Slavery => Topic started by: Africanprince on February 09, 2004, 03:06:35 PM

Title: Slave? What Slave?A Study of the Traditional....
Post by: Africanprince on February 09, 2004, 03:06:35 PM
Slave? What Slave? - Part 1  
A Study of the Traditional Systems of African Servitude  
by Ayanna  
November 02, 2003  

The argument that slavery was a system endemic in Africa, to which the Atlantic Slave Trade was simply incidental, was one that was used by anti- abolitionists, slave traders and later Eurocentric historians in an attempt to justify chattel slavery in the Americas and downplay the damage done to the African continent and its indigenous societies by European capitalist intervention. Similar sentiments expressed by these interest groups also stated that not only was slavery widespread and an entrenched element of African societies before and during European intervention, but that the European trade simply shifted the location and not the character of slavery, giving the impression that slaves were abundant and simply awaiting purchase by Europeans from their African masters. It was even stated that greater good was done by exporting Africans to the Americas where they would be under the " civilizing" influence of Europeans (Inikori, 156) . As we examine the question of the existence of slavery in African society before the 1400's and attempt to determine the nature and extent of such a system, the supporting views stated above must be taken as extensions of the 'conventional view' of African slavery in order for us to put it in its proper context. The creators of this view, in dictating that their slave trade was legitimate because it already existed among the people they intended to enslave, assumed a uniform definition of slavery and attempted to equate a uniquely European term and system with a very different system in Africa. Upon closer examination of the nature of the indigenous African systems of servitude in comparison with European and Arab chattel slavery, we will see that the word " slavery" in this context is not at all applicable and creates a distorted view of the complex systems of dependency that existed on the African continent for centuries. While it will be shown that varying states of 'unfreedom' did exist as part of complex, kinship-based traditional African societies, not only were the systems incomparable to European and Arab chattel slavery, but they existed on a relatively small domestic scale until the intervention of European interests. It was only when European interests became more deeply entrenched in the societies by the 17th and 18th century, that we see the increased external demand for labour and the resulting exploitation of African power structures, significantly altering the nature of the systems and causing them to resemble the chattel slavery of the Europeans.  

A critical examination of the complex nature of African systems of servitude raises several questions. What have we defined as slavery? Is this definition uniform in time and space? And indeed if such slavery was endemic in Africa before the Atlantic Slave Trade, what were its defining characteristics? If these characteristics were found to be more dynamic then static, what were the influences that altered its character? The word "slave" is said to have originated in Europe when Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe were seized and exploited for their labour in conditions that resembled that of European chattel slavery in the Americas. It can be said that this was not just linguistic commonality but that the term 'slavery' was then synonymous with that particular system of chattel slavery. If one examines the nature of systems of so-called slavery throughout history, we will observe well-ordered, complex systems of servitude that did not involve the severe dislocation, inhumanity, and the creation of a continued underclass, as did that of the Atlantic Slave Trade.  

It is critical that a working definition of slavery be sought. J.D Fage asserted that, "a slave was a man or woman who was owned by another person, whose labour was regarded as having economic value, and whose person had a commercial value" (Fage, 156). Others see the term slavery as applying strictly to chattel slavery, where the rights of the individual are completely absent. While the common link between almost all the definitions of slavery has been the ownership of the individual by another and this may seem to be a perfectly logical definition, the complexities and differences in the states of such people, the conditions of such ownership and the preservation of inalienable human rights varied so widely from country to country that it is difficult to develop a static idea of what constitutes slavery. In African societies, servitude was akin to an arranged marriage, whereas Chattel slavery was a state organized Economic institution. While there were persons who did exist in various states of bondage and sometimes purely as commodities, many of them possessed and effectively retained the inalienable human rights of free men and women. In traditional African systems of kinship, the members of lineage groups " owned" their members who then constituted lineage wealth. Everyone in the community is dependent upon or bound to another to some extent, whether slave or free. To say that a slave is simply the property or another does not adequately describe the condition of bonded dependents in an African context.  

It is clear that European explorers, merchants and slavers who observed systems of what they termed 'slavery' operating in African societies had a poor understanding of the communal nature of the African ethos and the nature of family and kinship ties. Mbaye Gueye makes an astute observation: "The African ideal is that of a community existence based on powerful family ties with a view to a well ordered secure life. People only count as far as they are part of a harmonious, homogenous entity" (Gueye) What we see is a focus on community over individuality; persons' individual rights only exist as far as it benefits the community. As observed among the Fulani and the Bu Kerebe tribes, children who were abandoned by their own people were taken under servitude, in which case the child would then owe his saviors lifelong service. Also, adults and children could be bartered for grain in times of famine to save the rest of the group. To complicate the issue even further, the nature of these dependencies varied decidedly from state to state, in terms of acquisition, the factors that would allow someone to legally become 'enslaved', and the condition of these bonded individuals. Unredeemed hostages taken in times of war could end up in servitude, and in compensation for homicide a child of the offending clan could be taken into servitude by the clan of the victim. This particular circumstance was immortalized in the novel based on Igbo culture, Things Fall Apart (Achebe), where a child of the offending clan was sent to serve the family of one of the leading clansmen of the wronged clan. This was a sort of peace offering to prevent the clans going to war. What is to be noted in this example is that, for the most part, the child was incorporated into the family and was seen as a son. The servants/dependents did not form a separate class of labourers for the clan. The dependent could play as minor or as major a role in the clan as the elders saw fit. Some provided extra wives and children to expand a kin group, were labour to till the fields, soldiers for warfare, or they served as trading agents and officials at court.  

In what was probably the most comprehensive of all the studies on the nature of African systems of servitude and dependence, authors Igor Kopytoff and Suzanne Miers in their seminal work, African Slavery as an Institution of Marginality, explore this unique systemin contrast to the European concept of enslavement. It is important to note that the African slave in the West was first and foremost a commodity. His rights as a human being were completely denied and he was granted no disability privileges, His reason for being was the extraction of his physical labour in the service of his master. His enslavement was a divinely-sanctioned condition, the result of his inferior race, culture and undeniable spiritual paucity. While his labour began as simply the meeting of a demand for much needed human resources, the racism and inhumanity that swept the western world as a result of the European slave trade and slave systems were unique to that system. The African slave in the Americas was a class apart. His progeny inherited his status, without exception. He had no means of becoming free, and no control over his destiny. His enslavement was life-long, and he could be killed and mistreated with impunity.  

In the hierarchical and complex social organization of African states, the concepts of freedom and slavery were often difficult to disentangle. The Kopytoff– Miers' work borrows an anthropological term, 'rights-in-persons' which describes the strictly organized right of each person within the context of his or her social environment (Kopytoff-Miers) An excellent example of this is the tradition of the 'bride price' in patriarchal societies and the complete right of husband over the bodies of his wives and children and other members of his household. In matrilineal societies, the right to claim the children of the offspring is in the hands of the mother's line and is not transferred to the father. This shows the intrinsic dependency of each person in the society on another. While the wife is bound to her husband who can demand her labour, loyalty and sexual fidelity in exchange for protection and shelter, she cannot be called a 'slave' in the European sense of the word. Thus we see that persons are bound along a continuum of disabilities and are bound or restricted to a greater or lesser degree. (Uchendu). It is this basic premise that forms the foundation of the social organization of most African societies and what Europeans observed and erroneously termed African slavery.  

What marks the dependent's condition in African contexts is the versatility and multiplicity of his status. Slaves were used to support, build and assist at all levels of the society, and thus in many societies that were still pre-currency, the human resource was the most powerful determinant of wealth, and ensured the effective survival of the clan. This is a world apart from the circumstances and conditions of African slavery in the Americas. There, slaves served the sole purpose of provision of labour, and would forever remain in an exploited underclass. There was no mobility or prospect of freedom and the reasons for acquisition were uniform. Slaves in the Americas were not human beings; they were merchandise. Thus when European slavers, anti-abolitionists and historians stated that the slave condition was already present in African societies and all they did was shift the location of the labour, they were not only wrong, but engaging in a mischievous distortion of the facts. While many Africans did exist in various states of bondage, it is there that the comparison with European-American slavery ends. African servitude cannot be fully understood simply within the triad of land, labour demands and capital (Miers & Kopytoff) While in the Americas slaves were an exploited underclass that propped up the economic and social fabric of the society, African dependents were part and parcel of the fabric of society.  

While we have explored the nature of the indigenous African systems of servitude and distinguished them clearly from the slavery that existed in the Americas, attention must be paid to the prevalence of this type of servitude. Just how widespread and deeply entrenched were these systems of servitude in African societies before the 15th and 16th centuries? The answer is not so easy to determine and scholars vary in their conclusions. Walter Rodney is one of the historians most strident in his claim that there is little to no evidence that supports the existence of large groups of slaves or indentured servitude systems before European intervention. Early European slave traders who provided the fodder for the so-called 'conventional' view in question would have us believe that African rulers already had large stocks of slaves that were peripheral to their societies and available for 'fair trade' with Europeans, that "many Negroes transported to the Americas had been slaves in Africa before captivity" (Rodney 62) Rodney however was struck by the absence of literature from the period of European first contact that speaks of this widespread slaving phenomenon on the Upper Guinea Coast. Wherever the few references to 'slaves' did exist, upon investigation we find that they refer to small groups of "potential clients in the households of chiefs or refer to the subjects of absolute chiefs" (Rodney 63) and other domestic servants bound to the households.  

Portuguese chroniclers were some of the earliest Europeans to explore the African coast and were notably scrupulous record-takers with respect to matters of trade. Yet in detailing all the products and commodities traded up and down the Guinea Coast, no mention is made of large numbers of slaves involved in this commerce. While Rodney asserts that non-mention in such circumstances us presumptive of non existence," others like William Phillips counter this view by stating that Muslim traders for whom these systems of slavery were a normal part of life did not record them because the slavery systems were so commonplace (Williams 114) The truth is probably somewhere between these two extremes. What these differing views do indicate however is that while small groups of domestics did exist in various complex systems of 'unfreedom', they certainly did not exist in large quantities and certainly did not form an instrumental, widespread part of African commerce with Europeans before the 15th century. While the broad continuum between slavery and freedom had probably existed in Africa from earliest times, the widespread exploitative trade in black bodies was of 'recent' invention and directly tied to external economic forces.  

The role of Islamic traders on the African continent is one that is crucial in bridging the gap between indigenous servitude systems and the genocidal European-generate slave trade. According to Kwaku Parson Lynn, when Arabs arrived in Africa in earnest in the name of spreading Islam, this brought a whole new dimension to the African systems of servitude. To understand the profound effect Islam had on the nature of slavery in Africa, one must understand the Islamic ideology of slavery. All who were non-Muslim were seen as kufr, or infidels. While a Muslim could not enslave a fellow Muslim, all others were acceptable. While in traditional African servitude systems the dependents retained certain rights and privileges and were not seen as outsiders in the clan, in the Islamic world-view all slaves by virtue of their non-belief were outside of the strict lines of lineage and genealogy and were "without honour and praise and identity – moved by savage and irrational instincts; swayed by animal propensities; indeed... outside civilized life if not outside humanity itself" (Willis 4) Probably one of the best indicators of the conditions of slaves under this Islamic code was that of the Zanj. Runoko Rashidi tells of Zanj slave revolts in Baghdad:  

"Here were gathered tens of thousands of East African slave laborers called Zanj. These Blacks worked in the humid salt marshes in conditions of extreme misery. Conscious of their large numbers and oppressive working conditions the Zanj rebelled on at least three occasions between the seventh and ninth centuries... The rebels themselves, hardened by years of brutal treatment, repaid their former masters in kind, and are said to have been responsible for great slaughters in the areas that came under their sway". (Rashidi)

Title: Re: Slave? What Slave?A Study of the Traditional..
Post by: Africanprince on February 09, 2004, 03:07:13 PM
Slave? What Slave? - Part 2
A Study of the Traditional Systems of African Servitude
by Ayanna
November 02, 2003

"Here were gathered tens of thousands of East African slave laborers called Zanj. These Blacks worked in the humid salt marshes in conditions of extreme misery. Conscious of their large numbers and oppressive working conditions the Zanj rebelled on at least three occasions between the seventh and ninth centuries... The rebels themselves, hardened by years of brutal treatment, repaid their former masters in kind, and are said to have been responsible for great slaughters in the areas that came under their sway". (Rashidi)

The conditions described in this extract seem to resemble the chattel slavery of Europeans that Africans would be subject to in the Americas. It is important to mention as well the prevalent view that many Arab traders had of African people. While several scholars and humanitarians wrote tracts and treatises defending Africans, they could not stem the tide of the negative attitudes that many Muslim elites had towards Africans and other minorities. The strong influence of Jewish tradition on Islamic society can be partially blamed for this, given the exegetical works of the Jewish/ Babylonian Talmud that concur that black people were cursed with blackness by God as punishment for their ancestor Ham, son of Noah. (Willis 66) While extensive scholarship has not been able to fully determine the extent of this negative attitude, one can surmise that the combination of non-belief in Islam and the blackness of Africans did not auger well for future relations.

While in the 15th century the prized commodity traded between Arab and African traders was gold, by the jihads of the 18th century, slaves soon eclipsed gold as the primary commodity. Nehemia Levtzion details the swift change in the mode of the slave trade as well as the social and political relationship between states. Islam not only created divisions between the converted and the kufr, but it also introduced a different element, that of the superiority of some tribes over others." The Islamization of the people of Bagirmi southeast of the Lake Chad made them consider themselves superior to their neighbors; proud of their supposed preeminence and eager for the profits of the slave trade they raided their own neighbors" (Levtzion 183) Islam, as a military and political force to be reckoned with by this time, forced many tribes to appear Islamic or to convert to Islam to benefit from the protection of their forces against other tribes who also were eager to share in the spoils of the slave trade. What we observe here is a dramatic shift in the indigenous African systems of servitude, which operated on a much smaller scale, to a widespread raiding and trading spree. Large portions of the population, instead of being circulated to build and serve in African tribes, were shipped off the continent to labour on plantations in the West and the Far East. This period of Islamization altered the shape of African society, and paved the way for the European entrance.

By the time of increased western European intervention in Africa, the way had already been cleared for a major shakeup in the nature of indigenous African servitude systems. " It was the steadily increasing demand for slaves as a result of foreign intervention in the affairs of the continent which brought about a fairly substantial increase in the volume of the trade, hitherto restricted to transactions on a narrow local scale. The material advantages to be gained by trading in slaves were an incentive to some of the clans to intensify their raids on neighbouring tribes..." (Gueye 150) Contrary to the assertions of early European slavers, the domestic servitude systems did not fuel the Atlantic Slave Trade. To meet the increasing demand for labour by external forces, raiding between tribes increased tremendously during this period. The collapse of Songhai and the breaking up of the land into smaller principalities favoured bitter (often European-fueled) tribal wars in which the capture of slaves became the chief push factor. Traditional laws that governed who could be enslaved, the period of time, and for what offences, were significantly altered to meet the growing demand for slave labour. Petty offenses that would have resulted in fines could now be punishable by life enslavement and debtors, who enslaved themselves and would have been freed upon the settlement of their debt, could find themselves auctioned away from their societies and shipped to the Americas. A society that once treated its dependents with respect, sometimes with even more respect than freed men, now treated them as slaves, mere commodities, and shipped them in large numbers to European-run slave ports. The traditional trade routes were now pathways for gruesome slave trains made up of long lines of " haggard, emaciated men, worn out by lack of food, dazed by the blows they were dealt, doubled over with the weight of their loads; crippled spindled-legged women covered in hideous wounds..." (Gueye 154)

The term 'slavery' cannot be uniformly applied to the systems of servitude that existed in indigenous African societies before the increased intervention of Arab and European economic interests. While people did exist in varying states of 'unfreedom' and were often bound to households, clans, kinship groups or compounds at one time or another, the distinction between a bonded servant and a free man was often so precarious that one could not be told from the other. The level of humanity, rights and privileges, and the possibility of manumission that existed in the African servitude systems were completely absent in the chattel slavery systems of the Americas. Any attempt to equate this distinctly European slave system with the African systems of servitude is not only erroneous, but when taken in the context of the various elements of this 'conventional view,' seems an attempt at willful distortion. It has been shown that the increased involvement of foreign powers significantly altered the nature of these systems and it is then that they began to take on the character of what the West understood as 'slavery'. The Atlantic Slave Trade and its outgrowths defied and altered all other traditional concepts of servitude within a community setting. What existed before in Africa was not comparable. The widespread effects of European chattel slavery ushered in a new and monstrous period of African history.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua, Things Fall Apart, London, Heinemann Educational, 1971.

Akomolafe, Femi, On Slavery, 1994

Inikori, J. E, Forced Migration: the Impact of the Export Slave Trade on African Societies (ed) Hutchinson University Library for Africa 1982

Gueye, Mbaye, "The Slave Trade Within the African Continent", The African Slave Trade from the 15th to the 19th Century, Reports and Papers of the meeting of experts organized by Unesco at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 31 January to 4 February, 1978

Miers, Suzanna, Kopytoff, Igor, Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives - University of Wisconsin Press; July 1977

Parson-Lynn, Kwaku, Christianity, Islam and Slavery, Published: June 7, 1999

Parson-Lynn, Kwaku, Afrikan Involvement in the Atlantic Slave Trade

Rashidi, Runoko, The Zanj Revolt, The Largest African Slave Rebellions

Willis, John Ralph, "The ideology of Enslavement in Islam" Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa, Volume I Islam and the Ideology of Slavery, ed John Ralph Willis, Frank Cass & Co. Ltd 1985

Title: You may like this also....
Post by: Oshun_Auset on February 09, 2004, 04:36:10 PM
Did We Sell Each Other Into Slavery?

A Commentary by Oscar L. Beard, Consultant in African Studies
24 May 1999

The single most effective White propaganda assertion that continues to make it very difficult for us to reconstruct the African social systems of mutual trust broken down by U.S. Slavery is the statement, unqualified, that, "We sold each other into slavery." Most of us have accepted this statement as true at its face value. It implies that parents sold their children into slavery to Whites, husbands sold their wives, even brothers and sisters selling each other to the Whites. It continues to perpetuate a particularly sinister effluvium of Black character. But deep down in the Black gut, somewhere beneath all the barbecue ribs, gin and whitewashed religions, we know that we are not like this.

This singular short tart claim, that "We sold each other into slavery", has maintained in a state of continual flux our historical basis for Black-on-Black self love and mutual cooperation at the level of Class. Even if it is true (without further clarification) that we sold each other into slavery, this should not absolve Whites of their responsibility in our subjugation. We will deal with Africa if need be.

The period from the beginning of the TransAtlantic African Slave so-called Trade (1500) to the demarcation of Africa into colonies in the late 1800s is one of the most documented periods in World History. Yet, with the exception of the renegade African slave raider Tippu Tip of the Congo (Muslim name, Hamed bin Muhammad bin Juna al-Marjebi) who was collaborating with the White Arabs (also called Red Arabs) there is little documentation of independent African slave raiding. By independent is meant that there were no credible threats, intoxicants or use of force by Whites to force or deceive the African into slave raiding or slave trading and that the raider himself was not enslaved to Whites at the time of slave raiding or "trading". Trade implies human-to-human mutuality without force. This was certainly not the general scenario for the TransAtlantic so-called Trade in African slaves. Indeed, it was the Portuguese who initiated the European phase of slave raiding in Africa by attacking a sleeping village in 1444 and carting away the survivors to work for free in Europe.

Even the case of Tippu Tip may well fall into a category that we might call the consequences of forced cultural assimilation via White (or Red) Arab Conquest over Africa. Tippu Tip s father was a White (or Red) Arab slave raider, his mother an unmixed African slave. Tip was born out of violence, the rape of an African woman. It is said that Tip, a "mulatto", was merciless to Africans.

The first act against Africa by Whites was an unilateral act of war, announced or unannounced. There were no African Kings or Queens in any of the European countries nor in the U.S. when ships set sail for Africa to capture slaves for profit. Whites had already decided to raid for slaves. They didn't need our agreement on that. Hence, there was no mutuality in the original act. The African so-called slave "trade" was a demand-driven market out of Europe and America, not a supply-driven market out of Africa. We did not seek to sell captives to the Whites as an original act. Hollywood s favorite is showing Blacks capturing Blacks into slavery, as if this was the only way capture occurred. There are a number of ways in which capture occurred. Let s dig a little deeper into this issue.

Chancellor Williams, in his classic work, The Destruction of Black Civilization, explains that after the over land passage of African trade had been cut off at the Nile Delta by the White Arabs in about 1675 B.C. (the Hyksos), the Egyptian/African economy was thrown into a recession. There is even indication of "pre-historic" aggression upon Africa by White nomadic tribes (the Palermo Stone). As recession set in the African Government began selling African prisoners of war and criminals on death row to the White Arabs. This culminated as an unfortunate trade, in that, when the White Arabs attacked, they had the benefit of the knowledge and strength of Africans on their side, as their slaves. This is a significantly different picture than the propaganda that we sold our immediate family members into slavery to the Whites.

In reality, slavery is an human institution. Every ethnic group has sold members of the same ethnic group into slavery. It becomes a kind of racism; that, while all ethnic groups have sold its own ethnic group into slavery, Blacks can't do it. When Eastern Europeans fight each other it is not called tribalism. Ethnic cleansing is intended to make what is happening to sound more sanitary. What it really is, is White Tribalism pure and simple.

The fact of African resistance to European Imperialism and Colonialism is not well known, though it is well documented. Read, for instance, Michael Crowder (ed.), West African Resistance, Africana Publishing Corporation, New York, 1971. Europeans entered Africa in the mid 1400 s and early 1500 s during a time of socio-political transition. Europeans chose a favorite side to win between African nations at a war and supplied that side with guns, a superior war instrument. In its victory, the African side with guns rounded up captives of war who were sold to the Europeans in exchange for more guns or other barter. Whites used these captives in their own slave raids. These captives often held pre-existing grudges against groups they were ordered to raid, having formerly been sold into slavery themselves by these same groups as captives in inter-African territorial wars. In investigating our history and capture, a much more completed picture emerges than simply that we sold each other into slavery.

The Ashanti, who resisted British Imperialism in a Hundred Years War, sold their African captives of war and criminals to other Europeans, the Portuguese, Spanish, French, in order to buy guns to maintain their military resistance against British Imperialism (Michael Crowder, ed., West African Resistance).

Eric A. Walker, in A History of Southern Africa, Longmans, London, 1724, chronicles the manner in which the Dutch entered South Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Van Riebeeck anchored at the Cape with his ships in 1652 during a time that the indigenous Khoi Khoi or Khoisan (derogatorily called Hottentots) were away hunting. The fact of their absence is the basis of the White "claim" to the land. But there had been a previous encounter with the Khoi Khoi at the Cape in 1510 with the Portuguese Ship Almeida. States Eric A. Walker, "Affonso de Albuquerque was a conscious imperialist whose aim was to found self-sufficing colonies and extend Portuguese authority in the East&He landed in Table Bay, and as it is always the character of the Portuguese to endeavor to rob the poor natives of the country, a quarrel arose with the Hottentots, who slew him and many of his companions as they struggled towards their boats through the heavy sand of Salt River beach." (Ibid. p. 17). Bartholomew Diaz had experienced similar difficulties with the indigenous Xhosa of South Africa in 1487, on his way to "discovering" a "new" trade route to the East. The conflict ensued over a Xhosa disagreement over the price Diaz wanted to pay for their cattle. The Xhosa had initially come out meet the Whites, playing their flutes and performing traditional dance.

In 1652, knowing that the indigenous South Africans were no pushovers, Van Riebeeck didn't waste any time. As soon as the Khoi Khoi returned from hunting, Van Riebeeck accused them of stealing Dutch cattle. Simply over that assertion, war broke out, and the superior arms of the Dutch won. South African Historian J. Congress Mbata best explains this dynamic in his lectures, available at the Cornell University Africana Studies Department. Mbata provides three steps: 1) provocation by the Whites, 2) warfare and, 3) the success of a superior war machinery.

There are several instances in which Cecil Rhodes, towards the end of the 19th Century, simply demonstrated the superiority of the Maxim Machine Gun by mowing down a corn field in a matter of minutes. Upon such demonstrations the King and Queen of the village, after consulting the elders, signed over their land to the Whites. These scenarios are quite different from the Hollywood version, and well documented.

It has been important to present the matters above to dispel the notion of an African slave trade that involved mutuality as a generalized dynamic on the part of Africans. If we can accept the documented facts of our history above and beyond propaganda, we can begin to heal. We can begin to love one another again and go on to regain our liberties on Earth.


Oscar L. Beard, B.A., RPCV
Consultant in African Studies
P.O. Box 5208
Atlanta, Georgia 31107

Title: Re: Slave? What Slave?A Study of the Traditional..
Post by: Bantu_Kelani on February 09, 2004, 08:16:29 PM
Indeed, let's have a critical look at the Afican "slavery"  before the transatlantic slavery...
By 1768, the English slave trade had a figure of 53,000 slaves a year being shipped to the North American continent. Other slave traders included the French at 23,000, the Dutch at 11,000, and the Portuguese at 8,700 slaves being transported yearly from Africa. Estimates of up to 10 million slaves took the Middle Passage Voyage to reach the Americas.

Supposedly the Europeans obtained slaves from goon squads sent by African kings who sold their war captives or trade them for petty commodities like cloth, mirrors and other items especially guns...
The slave trade began in 1500 and ended in 1865. By 1768, the British, French, Portuguese and Dutch slave trade had a figure of up to 10 million slaves took the Middle Passage voyage to reach the North America, West Indies and South America soil. If we do the math: 10 million slaves divided by 268 years, is about 37,313 slaves a year. If we divide 37,313 slaves a year by 268 days a year, that's 139 slave per day!! How many wars did these people wage on each other considering the population of Africa was not that large back in those days. Records we have at hands prove conclusively that Black Africans were not known to indulge in large-scale warfare such as was known in Europe. There must have been some other systematic way that these Black Africans were enslaved. I find it hard to believe that they were able to round up about 139 slaves a day!

I have learnt from good sense and experience western history was shaped to make people think in narrow views. No black African should evaluate or accuse another black African. It is the Europeans we have to accuse who came and destroyed our natural way of life and continue to do what the Arabs continue today in Sudan and Mauritania both Islamic States with Sharia Law.  

Bong'oa (respect) [smiley=afro.gif]
These articles are full of great info. Thanks.

Bantu Kelani

Title: Re: Slave? What Slave?A Study of the Traditional..
Post by: Africanprince on February 09, 2004, 10:08:54 PM
Africans selling Africans to the whiteman is flat out wrong. When the slave trade was happenings Africans didn't view each others as Africans. There were a bunch of tribes that coexisted with each other. When war popped off they were enemy's, so when one tribe beat the other and probably sold the other tribe into slavery they didn't see the other tribe as one of them.

Title: Re: Slave? What Slave?A Study of the Traditional..
Post by: Yann on February 10, 2004, 09:34:55 AM
There are several elements here that we can consider. One of my personal interests has been the Muslim involvement in slavery and the inherent racism in the nature of their involvement. The book, Islam and the Ideology of Slavery by John Ralph Willis is very helpful in looking at this. Discerning readers can then look at additional information and get a clearer picture.

Did We Sell Each Other Into Slavery?
Even the case of Tippu Tip may well fall into a category that we might call the consequences of forced cultural assimilation via White (or Red) Arab Conquest over Africa. Tippu Tip s father was a White (or Red) Arab slave raider, his mother an unmixed African slave. Tip was born out of violence, the rape of an African woman. It is said that Tip, a "mulatto", was merciless to Africans.

The story of Tippu Tip who is one of the most widely known slave traders has always posed a problem for historians, especially Afrocentric historians in the Diaspora trying to find some way to reconcile themselves to the idea of an ‘African slave trader’. The fact that Tippu Tip was not only Muslim, but ‘mulatto’ is vital.  The common ideology of Judaism and Islam where African are concerned is certainly no secret. While in some Islamic writings we see an almost mystical reverence for Africans, especially an over sexualized concept of Ethiopian women who were the preferred concubines of many wealthy Arab traders and Kings, in others there is distinct racism. Add to this the religious fervor of the Muslim invaders, their non-acceptance or regard for traditional African religions, and the obvious economic and political desires for which religion was used as a tool, and we get an excellent but little spoken of picture of Islam in Africa.

Historians also did not often record or think of the ethnicity of these ‘Africans’ who sold their brother and sisters into slavery. As part of our distorted historical legacy, we too in the Diaspora buy the idea that all Africans were uniform and ‘brothers’, but the true picture, especially at this time was not so. Centuries of contact with Europe, Asia, North Africa produced not only several colour / class gradients in the continent, divisions fostered by the foreigners. This may have been especially prominent in urban and economic centres. Colourism is indeed of ancient vintage. If we look at the situation in Ethiopia with the age old oppression of the Oromo peoples, the indigenous Cushitic stock  and the original Ethiopians, by the more Arabized Amhara we se a good example of how this takes place.

Another interesting element of colourism and racism working in African slavery is the ‘type’ of Africans who were enslaved. The biggest victims of slavery were undoubtedly the darkest Africans of what was called the “Negroid” type. If you look at old maps and documents by early European explorers you can note that the parts of the continent that they explored was divided by their crude definitions of what they say as different African ethnicities. The region of west and central Africa was seen as the place of the “Negroes” which was distinct from Ethiopian Africans and even more so the lighter, more Arabized North Africans. We cannot say that NO Africans we taken from the north, but by and large most slaves that came to the West Indies, Americas etc were of the type mentioned above.

Did We Sell Each Other Into Slavery?
In reality, slavery is an human institution. Every ethnic group has sold members of the same ethnic group into slavery. It becomes a kind of racism; that, while all ethnic groups have sold its own ethnic group into slavery, Blacks can't do it. When Eastern Europeans fight each other it is not called tribalism. Ethnic cleansing is intended to make what is happening to sound more sanitary. What it really is, is White Tribalism pure and simple.

Another thing I think it is important to note when looking at this institution of ‘slavery’ is that it is and never was a uniform institution. When people speak of slavery they immediately think of chattel slavery as practiced as a result of the Atlantic Slave Trade and as I said before apply this definition to indigenous African servitude systems. It is kind of misleading to say, “Every ethnic group has sold members of the same ethnic group into slavery. It becomes a kind of racism; that, while all ethnic groups have sold its own ethnic group into slavery, Blacks can't do it” as it denies the complexities of that particular colonial, chattel slavery situation that existed between Africans and  Europeans. The fact is that servitude that existed in African cannot be compared to racist  slave systems in the Western world and to this day we attempt to try to see  this slavery in the context as servitude systems worldwide and  throughout history. People bring up accounts of biblical slavery, of serfdom in Europe and yes, of servitude in Africa and attempt to paint all these systems with the same brush. However NO OTHER SLAVE SYSTEM has created the never-ending damaging cycle as the Atlantic Slave Trade and unless we look at it in its OWN context we will not escape its legacy.


Title: The Forgotten Holocaust: The Eastern Slave Trade
Post by: Ayinde on February 10, 2004, 10:28:48 AM

The Arab Slave Trade is the longest yet least discussed of the two major trades. It begins in the 7th century AD as Arabs and other Asians poured into Northern and Eastern Africa under the banner of Islam, either converting or subjugating the African societies they came upon. In the beginning there was some level of mutual respect between the Blacks and the more Caucasian-Semitic Arabs. Mihdja, a Black man, is said to be the first Muslim killed in battle while another, Bilal, is regarded as a "third of the faith." Dhu'l-Nun al-Misri, born in Upper Egypt near Sudan, is regarded as the founder of Sufism. Today Sufism's greatest stronghold is in Southern Egypt and Sudan. Islamic prosperity was based upon Black as well as Arabic genius.

The children of a stinking Nubian black---God put no light in their complexion! - Arab Poet, late 600AD,

But as Islamic prosperity grew, so did an air of hostility towards many Blacks, Muslims or otherwise. Some Arabs complained about having to work next to Blacks in high positions. After the Prophet's death, even the descendants of Bilal received negative treatment. Arabic writings became laced with anti-Black sentiment. This reaction of Blacks at the time to this can be seen in the writings of a contemporary 9th Century Black scholar in residence at Baghdad by the name of Abu 'Uthman' Amr Ibn Bahr Al-Jahiz. Al-Jahiz, to confront a growing tide of anti-black sentiment in the Muslim world, published a highly controversial work at the time titled, Kitab Fakhr As-Sudan 'Ala Al-Bidan, "The Book of Glory of the Blacks over the Whites." Al-Jahiz in his work contended that even the Prophet Mohammad's father may have been of African lineage.

These new attitudes towards Blacks by Arabs marked the beginning of African enslavement. Though not based solely on race, the Arab Slave Trade did focus heavily upon Africans whom Arabs now saw as inferior to themselves. At first these Arabs raided African villages themselves seeking humans for sale. This not being always successful, they soon enlisted the aid of fellow African Muslims or recently converted Blacks. Wrapping themselves within Islam, these converts rationalized the slavery of their non Muslim brethren as the selling of "unbelievers." At other times the Arabs would demand tribute in the form of human bodies from Africans weary of the fight against Arabic-Islamic incursions.

The Arabs took advantage of regional wars in Africa to buy captives from the victor. They also used the old divide-and-conquer technique. They worked one group against the other and took or killed the best and strongest. - S.E. Anderson, The Black Holocaust for Beginners

Slave Raids and Markets

The Arab slavers raided at nightfall, during the dinner time. Africans who resisted or tried to run were shot and killed. Most adult men were killed as the Arabs favored women and children for sale. The captives then endured a long and torturous march through the African countryside as the slavers searched and gathered more captives. Young men, women, and children were bound by hand and by neck throughout this journey, enduring beatings and rapes along the way. Those who fell sick or dead were left behind. Others remained bound to living captives.

After surviving the torturous ride aboard the Arab slave ships, Africans were taken to the slave markets. Here Muslim men would inspect their intended purchases. Women and young girls were degradingly probed by these men in public or private stalls to test their sexual worth. Those that did not survive their time in these markets were left out to rot. It is said that that hyenas, very numerous in the region, "gorged themselves on human flesh..." Pictured here is a slave market in East Africa.

Concubines and Eunuchs

Pictured here is an African trader (possibly an Egyptian)with two Sudanese slave girls for sale. The African is a Muslim while the girls are not. The Eastern Slave Trade dealt primarily with African women: a ratio of two women for each man. These women and young girls were used by Arabs and other Asians as concubines. Filling the harems of wealthy Arabs, they often bore them a host of children. This sexual abuse of African women would continue for nearly 1200 years.

The Eastern Slave Trade also dealt in the sale of castrated male slaves: Aghas or eunuchs. Used as guards and tutors, these slaves were central to familial peace, protection and order in many wealthy Muslim households. Eunuchs were created by completely amputating the scrotum and penis of 8-to-12-year-old African boys. Hundreds of thousands of young boys may have been subjected to this genital mutilation. Many bled to death during the gory procedure. The survival rate of this process ranged from 1 in 10 to 1 in 30.

Holocaust: The Numbers

Due to the enormous length of the Arab Slave Trade, from 700 to 1911AD, it is impossible to be certain of the numbers of Africans sold in this system. Estimates place the numbers somewhere around 14 million: at least 9.6 million African women and 4.4 African men.

It has been estimated that in all, at least 14 to 20 MILLION African men, women and children died throughout this trade.

(Photos and Information courtesy of The Black Holocaust for Beginners by SE Anderson, A Pictorial History of the Slave Trade, Slave Trade of Eastern Africa by Beachy, Slavery in the Arab World by Gordon Murray and Africa in History by Basil Davidson)