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Jun 6, 2024 - Black Slaveowners, Slavery in Africa, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on The Capture of a Slaver

The Capture of a Slaver

Published in 1900 by Col. John Taylor Wood, “The Capture of a Slaver” provides a first-hand account of the pre-Civil War efforts to suppress the ongoing slave trade to Brazil, Cuba, and the rest of the Spanish West Indies. Though many slavers were built in England, and also New England. As late as 1860, New York City, Portuguese “blackbirders” bribed customs officials to arrange false identifications for ship bound for Cuba to be outfitted as slave ships. They then sailed for Africa to purchase slaves, then to Cuba and Brazil with their human cargoes.

The abbreviated account below is dated in the late-1840’s when Wood was a junior officer aboard the USS Porpoise, a 224-ton brigantine assigned to hunt slavers on the coast of Africa. After capturing a Spanish slaver and taking its human cargo to Liberia to experience “freedom,” he learned a valuable lesson about the Dark Continent.

The Capture of a Slaver

“We had been cruising off the coast of Liberia when we were ordered to the Gulf of Guinea to watch the Bonny and Cameroon mouths of the great Niger river. We could gather information from the natives through our Krooman interpreter. [Fishermen from the Kroo tribe in Sotta Krou in Liberia]. At Little Bonny we heard that two slaving vessels were some miles upriver and ready to sail, waiting only until the coast was clear.

After a long chase of one departing slaver, it was caught by luck and our cannon shearing the topgallant yard and it was finally boarded. The Spaniard captain spoke English and was violently denouncing the outrage done to his flag; his government would demand satisfaction for firing on a legitimate trader on the high seas. Without a doubt if he had reached his cabin, he would have blown up the vessel, for in a locker over the transom were two open kegs of powder. Asked what his cargo consisted of, he replied: “About four hundred blacks bound for Brazil.”

From the time we boarded we had heard moans, cries and rumblings coming from below. Once the hatches were removed there arose a hot blast from below, sickening and overpowering. In the hold were three or four hundred human beings, gasping and struggling for breath, dying, their bodies, limbs, faces, all expressing terrible suffering. After an hour of work lifting and helping the poor creatures on deck, they were laid out in rows with a little water and whiskey stimulant reviving most of them. Some, however, were too far gone to be resuscitated.

I was anxious to hear their story and our Krooman interpreter assisted in translation. Most were from a long distance and brought to coast after being sold by their kings or parents to Arab traders for firearms or rum. Once at the depots near the coast they were sold to the slaver captains for up to fifty dollars a head. In Brazil or the West Indies, they were worth two to five hundred dollars each. This wide margin of course attracted unscrupulous adventurers, who, if successful in running a few cargoes, would greatly enrich themselves.

On the fourteenth day we reached Monrovia, Liberia, a part of the African coast selected by the US government as the home of emancipated slaves; for prior to the abolition excitement which culminated in war, numbers of slaves in the South had been manumitted by their masters with the understanding that they should be sent to Liberia. The passages of the Negroes was paid, each family given a tract of land and sufficient means to build a house. Many intermarried with the natives, lost the English tongue, and had even gone back to the life and customs of their ancestors, sans clothing, sans habitations, and worship of a fetich.

After much negotiation with the colony king and promising cloth and buttons for his wives), he grunted his approval and asked that he might chose a few of the captives for his own use. Certainly not,” I answered, “neither on board or on shore as these are free men and women.”

When the cargo of liberated Africans was called up from the hold and ordered into the boats to go onshore, not one of them moved. They evidently divined what had been going on and dreaded leaving the safety of the vessel. They could only understand that they were changing master’s and preferred the present ones. By noon the men were all onshore, and then began with the girls. They were more demonstrative than the men, and with looks and gestures begged not to be taken out of the vessel.

I instructed the mate to have a gig manned to go ashore and obtain a receipt from the Governor for my late cargo. After landing, we approached a thick grove of palms surrounded by three or four hundred chattering savages of all ages, headed by the king. With the exception of him and a few of his head men, the clothing of the group would not have covered a rag baby. They were no doubt discussing the appearance of the strangers and making their selections. The king then gave me a receipt for the blacks landed, but said it was impossible for him to prevent the natives from taking and enslaving them.

Then bidding the king good-bye I returned on board, sad and weary after as one feels after being relieved of a great burden. At the same time, I wondered whether the fate of these people would have been any worse if the captain of the Spanish slaver had succeeded in landing them in Brazil or the West Indies.”

(The Capture of a Slaver. John Taylor Wood; Paula Benitez, editor. Create Space Independent Publishing, 2017, excerpts pp. 4-30)

 

New England’s Black Ivory

The American South could not have become the destination for Africans enslaved by their own people without the ships of the Portuguese, Spaniards, French, British – and New Englanders. The latter had become a notorious smuggling center by 1750 as it surpassed Liverpool in the outfitting of slave ships in the infamous rum triangle.

It can be accurately stated that Britain’s Navigation Acts after the Seven Years’ War were aimed directly at New England smugglers and their African-West Indian trade, which helped bring on the American Revolution.

New England’s Black Ivory

Well-before the American Revolution, New England had engaged in smuggling goods to the other colonies and West Indies in violation of British law. This traffic left little for British merchants to import into the colonies and led Parliament to keep a watchful eye on its New England colonies. Author Reese Wolfe in his 1953 “”Yankee Ships” wrote:

“Shipbuilding, especially for New England’s triangular trade for African slaves, was sufficiently profitable for the shipbuilders of the Thames district to meet in London in the winter of 1724-1725 and formally complain to the Lords of Trade: “. . . the New England trade, by the tender of extraordinary inducements, has drawn over so many working shipwrights that there are not enough left to carry on [our] work.”

Linked inseparably with New England’s ventures south to the West Indies was its brisk trade in rum and what they were in the habit of calling black ivory. For the West Indies trade was a three-cornered affair hinging on rum, slaves and molasses.

Like so many momentous occasions in history, the start of the slave trade had been an offhand sort of occurrence. A Dutch privateer found itself with twenty Negroes taken from a Spanish ship and, not knowing what to do with them, dropped anchor in the river at Jamestown in 1619, a year before Plymouth Rock. The Negroes were offered cheap as laborers, and the Virginia settlers decided to trade tobacco for them. The swap was made and the Dutch sailed away, leaving behind them a cancerous growth that was to bring the parent body close to death before the disease was arrested.

Meanwhile, the Virginians did not call them slaves; as late as 1660 Virgnia court records still referred to Negroes as indentured servants. The New Englanders had Indian slaves as early as 1637, and a more or less formal business developed, with traders nabbing Indians along the banks of the Kennebec River in Maine and selling them into slavery up and down the coast. It was the black ivory from Africa, however, that turned the trick in New England’s West Indies trade and established Southern slavery on a solid and enduring footing.

The mechanics of the all-important trade worked like this: molasses was brought to New England and made into rum; the rum, highly-prized among the native Negroes on the west coast of Africa, brought its own price among the drinkers, a price that included any of their relatives or friends who might have the bad judgement to be lying about, and the resultant human cargoes were disposed of profitably in Boston, Newport and on south. Or most of the way south. Foreign ships for the most part maintained the supply in the deep South.

Not all the West Indies rum was drunk by Negroes. A flourishing local trade in fur was conducted with the Indians by the extremely profitable exchange of a few bottles of cheap rum or whisky for the entire season’s catch of its drunken owner. New England rum, it is generally agreed, had more to do with the destruction of the Indian tribes on the eastern seaboard than all the wars in which they were engaged put together.”

(Yankee Ships: An Informal History of the American Merchant Marine, Reese Wolfe, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1953, pp. 42-44)

 

An Aristocracy of Color

Antebellum North Carolina was home to an aristocracy of industrious free-black merchants, craftsmen and farmers, such as barber John Caruthers, “Barber Jack” Stanly of New Bern.  Stanly invested his profits into plantations and town property, making him one of Craven County’s most prosperous citizens with over $40,000 in personal wealth. Free-black brick mason Donom Mumford of the same community owned ten slaves.  Also, Virginia-born, free-black Thomas Day of Milton, North Carolina, owned fourteen slaves and was an acclaimed master cabinetmaker in the 1850’s with an extensive clientele.  See: The Free Negro in North Carolina, John Hope Franklin, UNC Press, 1943.

An Aristocracy of Color

“The diary which William Tiler Johnson kept from 1835 to his death in 1851 reveals the remarkable life of this exceptional free Negro in a Southern community.

In the 1830s William made profits of $15 to $20 a day from his barber shop and eventually accumulated an estate worth $25,000. He invested capital in two stores which he rented out, made loans to white residents and owned a farm, which he named “Hardscrabble.”

To work his farm William owned fifteen slaves and employed a white overseer to direct their daily work. A gun owner, he hunted regularly, enjoyed the theater where he sat in the colored gallery among friends, attended horse races, and subscribed to five or six newspapers. He took a keen interest in city affairs, politics, criminal court, militia musters as well as fireman’s parades.

Maintaining terms of friendship with several of his barber patrons, William respected the community standards of the day against dining or drinking with white people. He belonged to the aristocracy of the free people of color, avoiding “darky dances and parties.”

(The Growth of Southern Civilization: 1790-1860, Clement Eaton, Harper & Row, 1961, pg. 92-93)

Satisfying the Philanthropists

Augustus Charles Hobart-Hampden was a British naval officer who served in the suppression of the slave trade prior to the American Civil War, and then became a blockade runner under the pseudonym “Captain Roberts,” running the blockade successfully twenty-seven times. He authored the postwar book, “Never Caught.”

Hobart-Hampden wrote of delivering the human cargo of a captured slaver to British authorities, who would feed and clothe the Africans, and then serve seven years as apprentices – which he compared to a form of slavery itself – and after which they were free. He added: “I fear they generally used their freedom in a way that made them a public nuisance wherever they were. However, they were free, and that satisfied the philanthropists.”

Satisfying the Philanthropists

It was at the time when philanthropists of Europe were crying aloud for the abolition of the African slave trade, never taking for a moment into consideration the fact that the state of the savage African black population was infinitely bettered by their being conveyed out of the misery and barbarism of their own country, introduced to civilization, given opportunities of embracing religion, and taught that to kill and eat each other was not to be considered as the principal pastime among human beings.

At the period I allude to (from 1841 to 1845) the slave trade was carried out on a large scale between the coast of Africa and South America; and a most lucrative trade it was, if the poor devils of Negroes could be safely conveyed alive from one coast to another.

I say if, because the risk of capture was so great that the poor wretches, men, women and children, were packed like herrings in the holds of the fast little sailing vessels employed, and to such a fearful extent was this packing carried on that, even if the vessels were not captured, more than half the number of blacks embarked died from suffocation or disease before arriving at their destination, yet that half was sufficient to pay handsomely those engaged in the trade.

On this point I propose giving examples and proofs hereafter, merely remarking, en passant, that had the Negroes been brought over in vessels that were not liable to be chased and captured, the owners of such vessels would naturally, considering the great value of their cargo, have taken precautions against overcrowding and disease.

Now, let us inquire as to the origin of these poor wretched Africans becoming slaves, and of their being sold to the white man. It was, briefly speaking, in this wise.

On a war taking place between two tribes in Africa, a thing of daily occurrence, naturally many prisoners were made on both sides. Of these prisoners those who were not tender enough to be made into ragout were taken down to the sea coast and sold to the slave dealers, who had wooden barracks established ready for their reception.

Into these barracks, men, women and children, most of whom were kept in irons to prevent escape, were bundled like cattle, there to await embarkation on board the vessels that would convey them across the sea.

Perhaps while on their way [to Brazil the loaded slaver] was chased by an English cruiser, in which case, so it has often been known to happen, a part of the living cargo would be thrown overboard, trusting that the horror of leaving human beings to be drowned would compel the officers of the English cruiser to slacken their speed while picking the poor wretches up, and thus giving the slaver a better chance of escape.”  

(Hobart Pasha; Blockade-Running, Slaver-Hunting, and War and Sport in Turkey, Augustus Charles Hobart-Hampden, Horace Kephart, editor, Outing Publishing, 1915, excerpts pp. 60-68)

A National Institution

The author of the 1928 source below notes that as of that date, “Liberia, the country of free Negroes, there are over two hundred thousand slaves. In Sierra Leone, the other freemen’s colony, slavery was abolished on January 1 of this year, by decree of the Legislative Council.”

A National Institution

“It would be a task of many pages if I attempted to give a full account of the origin and causes of slavery in Africa. As a national institution, it seems to have existed always. Africans have been bondsmen everywhere: and the oldest monuments bear their images linked with menial toils and absolute servitude.

England to-day, with all her philanthropy, sends, under the Cross of St. George, to convenient magazines of lawful commerce on the [African] coast, Birmingham muskets, Manchester cottons, and Liverpool lead, all of which are righteously swapped at Sierra Leone, Acra, and on the Gold Coast, for Spanish or Brazilian bills on London.

Yet what British merchant does not know the traffic on which those bills are founded, and for whose support his wares are purchased?  France . . . dispatches her Rouen cottons, Marseille brandies, flimsy taffetas, and indescribable variety of tinsel geegaws. Germany demands a slice for her looking-glasses and beads; while multitudes of our own worthy [Boston] traders, who would hang a slaver as a pirate when caught, do not hesitate to supply him indirectly with tobacco, powder, cotton, Yankee rum, and New England notions, in order to bait the trap in which he may be caught. It is the temptation of these things, I repeat, which feeds the slave-making wars of Africa, and forms the human basis of those admirable bills of exchange.

Such may be said to be the predominating influence that supports the African slave trade; yet, if commerce of all kinds were forbidden with that continent, the customs and laws of the natives would still encourage slavery as a domestic affair, though of course in a very modified degree.

A slave is a note of hand that may be discounted or pawned; he is still a bill of exchange that carries him to his destination and pays the debt bodily . . . Thus, slavery is not likely to be surrendered by the Negroes themselves as a national institution.”

(Adventures of a Slave Trader: Being an Account of the Life of Captain Theodore Canot, Trader in Gold, Ivory &Slaves on the Coast of Guinea: His Own Story as Told in the Year 1854 to Brantz Mayer, Garden City Publishing, 1928, excerpts pp. 126-128)

Plantations of the Old World

When Christopher Columbus set sail “on his first expedition across the Atlantic, accumulated imports of Negro slaves into the Old World were probably in excess of twenty-five thousand,” and many white slaves worked the Mediterranean sugar plantations with them.

By the last half of the sixteenth century the center of sugar production shifted across the Atlantic, and by 1600, Brazil had become Europe’s leading sugar supplier. Portuguese ships brought needed labor for Brazilian plantations, slaves readily purchased from the tribes of West Africa.

Plantations of the Old World

“Slavery is not only the most ancient but also one of the most long-lived forms of economic and social organization. It came into being at the dawn of civilization, when mankind passed from hunting and nomadic pastoral life into primitive agriculture. And although legally sanctioned slavery was outlawed in its last bastion – the Arabian peninsula – in 1962, slavery is still practiced covertly in parts of Asia, Africa and South America.

One high-water mark was reached during the first two centuries of the Roman Empire when, according to some estimates, three out of every four residents of the Italian peninsula – twenty- one million people – lived in bondage. Eventually Roman slavery was transformed into serfdom, a form of servitude that mitigated some of the harsher features of the old system.

The Italians were quite active in importing slaves from the area of the Black Sea during the thirteenth century. And the Moors captured during the interminable religious wars were enslaved on the Iberian peninsula, along with Slavs and captives from the Levant [eastern Mediterranean].

Black slaves were imported into Europe during the Middle Ages through the Moslem countries of North Africa. Beginning about the middle of the fifteenth century, the Portuguese established trading posts along the west coast of Africa below the Sahara with the aim of capturing or making relatively large purchases of black slaves. Although Negroes continued to be imported into the Old World until the beginning of the eighteenth century, it was the New World that became the great market for slaves.

It was Europe’s sweet tooth, rather than its addiction to tobacco or its infatuation with cotton cloth that determined the extent of the Atlantic slave trade. Sugar was the greatest of the slave crops. Between 60 and 70 percent of all the Africans who survived the Atlantic voyages ended up in one or the other of Europe’s sugar colonies.

Sugar was introduced into the Levant [eastern Mediterranean] in the seventh century by the Arabs. From the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries [Mediterranean] colonies shipped sugar to all parts of Europe. Moreover, the sugar produced there was grown on plantations which utilized slave labor. While the slaves were primarily white, it was in these islands that Europeans developed the institutional apparatus that was eventually applied to blacks.”

(Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery, W. Fogel and S. Engerman, W.W. Norton, 1974, excerpts pp. 13-17)

Jun 15, 2019 - Black Slaveowners, Historical Accuracy, Slavery in Africa    Comments Off on “Each Side Knew Human Bondage”

“Each Side Knew Human Bondage”

At the time of Columbus’s exploration in 1492, slavery in West Africa was common. The dominant Songhay, Ghana and Mali empires waged war against each other, enslaved those captured, and exacted slave tributes from their weaker neighbors. When the first Europeans ventured down Africa’s western coast, they found these tribes of substantial military power who were not to be threatened.

Each Side Knew Human Bondage

“The Africans, like other people throughout the world, had practiced slavery since prehistoric times. They took prisoners of war and forced them into domestic service, as they did to their criminals. A Dutchman describing Guinea in the sixteenth century wrote:

“The Kings of the Townes have many Slaves, which they buy and sell, and get much by them; and to be briefe, in those Countries there are men to be hired to worke or goe of any errand for money, but such as are Slaves and Captives, which are to spend their days in Slaverie.”

In Dahomey, one of the kingdoms, the ruler owned plantations run by overseers, who were expected to derive the maximum return from the estates. The slave laborers were inhumanly driven . . . a group of people known as the Nupe conquered and enslaved the more primitive tribes of northern Nigeria and set them to agricultural labor. The Ashanti used slaves in systematic agriculture and imposed a tribute of 2,000 slaves annually on one defeated tribe.

In Africa’s medieval states people conquered in wartime were treated as the feudal vassals had been. Historian Basil Davidson points out: “In the Songhay region of the fifteenth century along the Middle Niger, “slaves” from the non-Muslim peoples of the forest verge were extensively used in agriculture . . . “

A follower of the great Songhay ruler Askia Muhammud, [African scholar Mahmud] Kati wrote that when the emperor took the throne in 1493, he inherited 24 tribes of vassals. As time passed, the difference in status between the free man and the “slave” became less clear . . . [with] the decisive factor [being] the widening gap between the nobility and the rest of the people. All were subjected to the rulers to feudal arrangements by mutual duties and obligations. It was a system that varied from place to place . . . but it was essentially a tribal feudalism, and in some parts of Africa it still persists.

From their coastal forts . . . the Europeans conducted peaceful trade with the Africans. Each side had goods that the other wanted. Each side knew human bondage. The medieval Europeans sold slaves even of their own faith or nation, as did the Africans. Neither continent was a stranger to the slave trade. Both sides had long accepted it, and both sides joined in practicing it.”

(Slavery, A World History, Milton Meltzer, Da Capo Press, 1993, excerpts Slavery II, pp. 17-23)

The Greatest Slave Carriers of America

New England rum and Yankee notions were exchanged for African slaves as Boston and Newport rivaled each other for slave trade prominence in the early 1700s. Annually, about 1800 hogsheads of rum were traded to African tribes for their slaves, and this left little for consumption in the colony.

From this profitable trade in human merchandise, “an opulent and aristocratic society” developed in Newport; Col. Thomas Hazard of Narragansett and Mr. Downs of Bristol “were names that loomed large in the commercial and social registers of that day. Their fortunes were accumulated from the slave trade.”

It is worth noting that had there been no transatlantic slave trade carried on by the British and New Englanders, the American South would have had no peculiar institution.

Greatest Slave Carriers of America

“The growth of Negro slavery in New England was slow during the seventeenth century. In 1680, there were only 20 slaves in Connecticut, two of whom had been christened. In 1676, Massachusetts had 200 slaves . . . in 1700 Governor Dudley placed the number at 550, four hundred of whom were in Boston.

In 1730, New Hampshire boasted of but thirty slaves. The Eighteenth Century, however, saw the rise of the New England colonies as the greatest slave-carriers of America. Quick to see the unprofitableness of the Negro slaves as a laborer in such an environment, when the price of a slave was greater than the labor returned, the ingenious Yankee soon found a market in the West Indies for slaves, exchanged for rum, sugar and molasses on the Guinea Coast.

Massachusetts early assumed a commanding position in this trade. The ports of Boston and Salem prospered especially. Their merchants carried on a “brisk trade to Guinea” for many years, marketing most of their slaves in the West Indies.

Peter Faneuil, whose “whole lineage in held in peculiar honor” in Boston, was typical of the many comfortable fortunes amassed from the profits of this traffic. The name Jolley Bachelor, which was carried by one of his ships engaged in the slave trade, typifies the spirit of the time in regard to this profitable business.

As opulence increased, the number of slaves grew proportionately. In 1735, there were 2,600 Negroes in Massachusetts; in 1764 the number had increased to 5,779. In 1742, Boston alone had 1,514 slaves and free Negroes, the number having almost quadrupled in about forty years.

[In 1696] the brigantine Sunflower arrived at Newport with forty-five slaves. Most of them were sold there at thirty to thirty-five pounds a head; the rest were taken to Boston for disposal.

Subsequently, however, the slave trade of Rhode Island outstripped that of Massachusetts. Governor Wood, early in the Eighteenth Century, reported that the colony had one hundred and twenty vessels employed in the trade. Newport rivaled Boston as New England’s premier seaport. It had twenty or thirty stills going full blast to supply rum for the African trade.”

(Slave-Holding in New England and Its Awakening, Lorenzo J. Greene; Journal of Negro History, Vol. XIII, Number 4, October 1928, Carter G. Woodson, editor, excerpts pp. 495-497)

Inheritors of Britain’s Colonial Labor System

After the British themselves, New Englanders were responsible for populating the colonies with slaves purchased from African tribes, and the invention of Massachusetts tinkerer Eli Whitney in 1793 sent demand for slaves and cotton soaring.

With the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800, New England Federalists unhappy with the new political supremacy of Virginia called upon the North “to combine to protect the commercial interests against the vicious slave-holding democrats of the South.” Thus began the descent into war between the sections.

Inheritors of Britain’s Colonial Labor System

“Slavery was disappearing from the North. The rector of the Swedish churches in America told the American Philosophical Society that the introduction of “mechanism” in the Southern States would eliminate the need of slaves; but the invention of the cotton gin led to the opposite result.

Defenders of slavery declared it was a necessary evil that would eventually cure itself. The slaveholder could not be held guilty of crime because slavery as a very common thing is due to the state of society, for which the slaveholder is not responsible. Slavery in America is preferable to liberty in Africa because the slave gets better care and acquires the Christian religion.

In fact, the underlying reasons for importing slaves is to further the Christian religion. Respectably opponents, generally in New England, questioned the argument that slavery is a curse of society, not of the individual. It is no more valid, they said, than the notion of drunkenness and adultery are not delinquencies of the individual. The greatest evil is that the slaves will eventually outnumber the whites, and this must lead either to the most horrible event, intermarriage, or the destruction of the whites.

For the most part, the critics looked for remedies in the abolition of the slave trade, the growth of voluntary manumission, and even the growth of trade and commerce with Africa in the manner pictured by [economist James] Swan. It was agreed that pecuniary considerations were the most important barrier to voluntary manumission, but the slaveholder was told to trust to the Lord for his recompense.

The general attitude was best expressed by the Baptist clergyman Samuel Jones of Philadelphia. The slave trade is abominable; the possession of slaves is not profitable except in the newly settled regions where the costs of labor are very high. But the slave owners are innocent inheritors of the institution and not obliged to free their slaves, “at least not until they have been fully reimbursed the full amount of their cost on equitable principles.”

(The Economic Mind in American Civilization: 1606-1865, Joseph Dorfman, Viking Press, 1946, excerpts pp. 280-282)

Apr 28, 2019 - Black Slaveowners, Historical Accuracy, Slavery in Africa    Comments Off on Moslem Slave Trade Dominance in Africa

Moslem Slave Trade Dominance in Africa

When Europeans traders first encountered Africa at the end of the Fifteenth century, the slave trade in West Africa was already in the experienced hands of Moslem slave traders. Through Islamic jihads during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, new Moslem states were created in West Africa “which in turn promoted enslavement on a larger scale.” The Moslems were also the dominant slave traders in North and East Africa, easily dwarfing the Europeans entering the trade.

Moslem Slave Trade Dominance in Africa

“Slavery was not unique to Africa or Africans, but was in fact common on every inhabited continent for thousands of years. As recently as the eighteenth century, it existed in Eastern Europe, and it continued to exist in the Middle East after the Second World War. What was unusual about the Africa was the magnitude of the trade in human beings within recent centuries.

[One end of the slavery spectrum in Africa] included brutal subjugation and using slaves as human sacrifices. In some parts of Africa, such as Egypt, the Sudan and Zanzibar, Africans were in fact plantation slaves on a large scale. Even where they were not plantation slaves, however, they often nevertheless lived separately from the free population, rather than in the kinds of paternalistic domestic living arrangements that existed elsewhere. In these other non-domestic occupations, mortality rates could be very high, as in Tanganyika and Zaire.

The proportions of slaves in the general population varied, ranging from a minority to a majority, even in a given region, such as the Sudan or Nigeria. Most African slaves remained in Africa – indeed, those captured in the Sudan remained in the Sudan and those captured in Nigeria remained in Nigeria – but the numbers exported were still enormous.

The magnitude of the slave exports from Africa are particularly striking in view of the relatively thin population of the continent then, as now.

The Arabs took more women than men, partly to fill the harems of the Ottoman Empire and other Islamic lands, so that the societies left in the African savanna tended to have an excess of men and children.

The Atlantic slave trade took more men than women, using slaves principally for plantation labor, so that the West African societies from which slaves were taken had an excess of women and children.

In both places the resulting sex imbalance in African societies led to a revision of traditional sex roles, including an increase in polygamy in West Africa.

Inland tribes were such as the Ibo were regularly raided by their more powerful coastal neighbors and the captives led away to be sold as slaves. European merchants who came to buy slaves in West Africa were confined by rulers in these countries to a few coastal ports, where Africans could bring slaves and trade as a cartel, in order to get higher prices.”

(Conquests and Cultures: An International History, Thomas Sowell, Basic Books, 1998, excerpts pp. 109-111)

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