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Dec 3, 2017 - Black Slaveowners, Slavery in Africa    Comments Off on The African Slave Trade

The African Slave Trade

Sir Samuel W. Baker (1821-1893) was a British explorer and naturalist who spent several years in Africa in the mid-1870s, and helped convince the French-educated Khedive Ismail to eliminate the slave trafficking in his Egyptian and Sudan domain. Though the khedive was no doubt involved in the human trafficking which flourished in his land, he allowed Baker a free hand in suppressing local governors’ whose wealth depended greatly on enslaving and selling their own people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The African Slave Trade

“Sir Samuel W. Baker had been distinguished for his explorations in Central Africa; and his representations of the evil effects produced by the slave trade on a country rich in soil and well-peopled induced the khedive of Egypt to fit out an expedition to put a stop to this nefarious business and give protection to the inhabitants, whom he claimed to be his subjects, from the ravages of slave-traders.

Companies of brigands had been formed that absolutely depopulated the country by driving away those they did not enslave. One of these traders had twenty-five thousand Arabs under pay, engaged in this inhuman traffic. And it was estimated that fifteen thousand of the khedives subjects were engaged in this business. Each trader occupied a special district, and with his band of armed men kept the population in submission. It was estimated that fifty thousand Negroes were annually captured by land pirates.

The khedive determined to put a stop to this, and [in the mid-1870s] organized an expedition for that purpose and put Mr. Baker at the head of it with supreme power, even that over life and death. He knew that there would be more or less fighting, for Soudan, the home of the slave-trader, would be wholly opposed to the attempt to break up their business.

April 20th, just below the junction of the Bahr-Giraffe with the White Nile, the expedition came in sight of one of the governors’ vessels of this district, and, watching it through powerful telescopes, notices suspicious movements on board . . . Baker sent his aide-de-camp to visit the vessels lying near. The result was the discovery of a gang of slaves. Mr. Baker then requested to be shown around the encampment on shore.

To his horror, he found mass of slaves squatted on the ground – many of the women secured by ropes around the neck, and amid the filthy fetid mass, not only children but infants. Altogether, on the boats and on shore were found one hundred and fifty-five slaves.

Though this territory was not within Baker’s jurisdiction, as fixed by the khedive, yet he insisted on the liberation of the slaves. The governor rebelled at first, but finally on being threatened with the wrath of the khedive, yielded; and the naked, astonished crowd of slaves departed with loud discordant yells of rejoicing to their distant homes.

[Another boat of the governor was boarded] and there seemed an awkward smell about the cargo . . . the planks which boarded up the forecastle and the stern were broken down, and there was a mass of humanity exposed, boys, girls and women closely packed like herrings in a barrel, who under threats had remained perfectly silent until thus discovered.”

(Stanley and Livingstone in Africa, J.T. Headley, Spencer Press, 1937, excerpts, pp. 110-111; 120)

The Rise and Fall of Emancipation in Petersburg

The American Revolution stirred the idea of emancipating the Africans brought to America on British and New England slave ships, and Virginia’s early emancipation efforts were second to none. But while the Northern States in the early 1800’s had trouble tolerating the few free black people among them, the very large number of free blacks and slaves in the South being influenced by black revolts in the Caribbean created a smoldering powder keg. Virginia had experienced an enemy inciting blacks to massacre white Virginian’s with Lord Dunmore’s 1775 emancipation proclamation; it was feared that New England’s radical abolitionists would do the same.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Rise and Fall of Emancipation in Petersburg

“[An] alarming proportion of black families were “matriarchal,” that is, the husband/father was either absent or . . . present but of negligible influence. [Also] the woman-dominant family was unstable and disorganized, at once the symptom and cause of severe social pathology among black people.

Women were prominent among free blacks; they outnumbered the men three to two, they headed more than half of the town’s free black households, and they constituted almost half of the paid free black labor force. Among those free blacks who managed to accumulate property, a high proportion — 40 to 50 percent — were women.

The [Virginia] manumission law of 1782 empowered the owner to set free any slave under the age of forty-five by the stroke of a pen.

For the first time, a substantial proportion of black Virginians would be free people. Petersburg’s free black population more than tripled in the space of twenty years, its size swelled by the high rate of emancipation in the town itself and by the hundreds of newly-freed migrants from the countryside who came in search of kin, work and community.

By 1810, there were more than a thousand free blacks in Petersburg, and they made up close to a third of the town’s free population (31.2%). Free blacks and slaves together outnumbered the whites four to three.

It was the very success of the manumission law that led to its demise. In 1805, Petersburg’s common council begged the General Assembly for some action to halt the growth of the free black population.

The council feared an uprising, and with seeming good reason. Petersburg had welcomed its share of refugees from Saint-Domingue [Haiti], where dissatisfaction among free blacks had touched off protracted [racial] warfare; in 1803, the whites of Saint-Domingue were ousted altogether.

When Petersburg’s officials looked at their own burgeoning free black population, they imagined it happening all over again . . . “a mine sprung in St. Domingo that totally annihilated the whites. With such a population we are forever on the Watch.”

(The Free Women of Petersburg, Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784-1860; Suzanne Lebsock, W.W. Norton, 1984, excerpts, pp. 89-91)

 

Oct 21, 2017 - Antebellum Realities, Black Slaveowners, Freedmen and Liberty, Race and the North, Race and the South    Comments Off on Selling Runaway Slaves in Delaware

Selling Runaway Slaves in Delaware

The author below records that Virginia slave owners averaged a loss of only about 60 slaves per year between 1800 and 1830, an insignificant number given a total slave population of nearly 470,000 by the latter year. He also notes that “there is little evidence to support the view that the average runaway was motivated by a desire for freedom in the abstract sense. Frequently he wanted to get back to his family, friends, and the place he was reared.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Selling Runaway Slaves in Delaware

“The average age of a runaway slave was about twenty-seven years, but their ages ranged from ten to sixty. To run away and remain at large for an extended period of time required considerably agility, ingenuity and bravery. Many times the runaway was forced to “lay up” during the day and move about at night.

Unless aid was forthcoming from friends, the fugitive had to rely entirely on his own wits to obtain food and shelter. This helps explain why so few slave women attempted to escape. Because of the danger and the rigor of such an existence, slave women were reluctant to run away.

The misery of many slaves did not begin until after they had escaped. They had to continually be on the lookout for slave patrols . . . and being returned to his master, if he had one, or sold to pay the jail fees. Jailers were required by law to provide adequate clothing and other basic necessities when needed, but some of the jailers were negligent and their prisoners suffered terribly, particularly in winter.

One such instance of neglect occurred in King William County. The slave brought charges against the sheriff and the latter was fined $400.

The fate of at least twelve runaways, who managed to escape to Wilmington, Delaware, is worth noting. Two Negro couples operated what proved to be a very unprofitable business there. While their husbands were in Maryland and Virginia decoying runaway slaves into the State of Delaware, the wives were enticing into their web certain runaways who were promptly sold. The two women were finally arrested, and at their trial it was revealed that they had sold more than a dozen fugitive slaves back into slavery.”

(Runaway Slaves in Virginia, 1800-1830, Major Stanley W. Campbell, Rockbridge Historical Society, Volume Six of the Proceedings, J.P. Bell Company, 1966, excerpts, pp. 58-61)

Sep 21, 2017 - Black Slaveowners, Slavery in Africa, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Challenging Africa’s Established Order

Challenging Africa’s Established Order

The Arab empire’s extent in ancient times was outlined by Berber wanderer Ibn Batuta who spent forty years touring countries from western China to modern-day Mali without once leaving Arab hegemony. It is recorded that in the fourteenth century, Timbuktu’s greatest ruler, Mansa Musa, arrived in Cairo with a magnificent caravan of soldiers, courtiers, wives, concubines and 12,000 slaves. A baggage train of 300 camels carried three hundred pounds of gold. By the time of the first European visits to Africa, the slave trade of native tribes and Arab had been long-established.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Challenging Africa’s Established Order

“Beyond its attraction as a center of great wealth, no city was more worthy of discovery for geographical and scientific reasons. Arabic texts documented that merchants from Tripoli to Morocco had gathered at Timbuktu since the late thirteenth or early fourteenth centuries, when it was incorporated into the great Malian Empire, to buy gold and slaves in exchange for prized European manufactured goods, cloth, horses, and the mined salt of the desert.

[Evidence in Moroccan archives indicate] that trade had been conducted across the [Sahara] region since early times . . . [and] it seems likely that gold, animal skins, ivory, gemstones, perfumes and black slaves from the Sudan states were exchanged for the manufactures and trinkets of the Phoenician, Roman and Byzantine worlds.

Having taken their empire, the Arabs sealed it off. Foreigners who dared set foot in any part of it were confronted with a harrowing choice: either take a vow of abiding allegiance to Islam, forsaking all others loyalties, or face decapitation.

[In the Arab empire . . .] Gold and slaves were paramount. The importance of the slave trade is illustrated by estimates suggesting that from the seventh to the end of the nineteenth centuries, between 9 and 13 million slaves were transported north across the Sahara. This is comparable to the numbers shipped seaward during the four centuries of the Atlantic slave trade, though the Saharan traffic has received less public discussion.

Timbuktu grew to become an opulent city boasting real infrastructure – markets, mosques, and important Islamic libraries and schools. The wealth to fund this cultural and intellectual development was generated from the gold mines of West Africa, worked by black slaves for their black and Arab masters, and the merchants who carried their goods on camels, oxen and asses, and men’s heads, and in the canoes of tropical Africa’s rivers and lakes.

Though Africa was a cipher to white men, caravan routes and rivers were familiar to those black Africans along the western coastline who traded in their own kingdoms, and to the Arabs who had ventured deep into the interior centuries before Europeans arrived. These men were willing risk their lives . . . and thought nothing of inflicting untold suffering to secure the three commodities Africa offered in abundance: slaves, ivory, and gold.

To these Africans and Arabs, European travelers were “the devil’s children” and “enemies of the Prophet,” meddlesome interlopers who, with their idle talk of abolishing the slave trade and supplanting Arab caravans with British shipping, challenged the established order.”

(The Race for Timbuktu: In Search of Africa’s City of Gold; Frank T. Kryza, HarperCollins, 2006, excerpts, pp. xii-xxi)

Charleston’s Colored Masters

Many of antebellum Charleston’s free black population owned slaves, and the Brown Fellowship of that city was organized in 1790 by black commercial slaveowners who saw no need to emancipate their black brethren. In 1796, Samuel Holman, a mulatto slave trader from Rio Pongo, West Africa was admitted to that colored society, which preserved the distinction between free persons of color and slaves.  On the eve of war in Wilmington, North Carolina, the labor utilized in erecting Dr. John D. Bellamy’s mansion included free black carpenter with slave workers who underbid white carpenters. The latter petitioned the legislature in the mid-1850s to increase the tax on slaves so white workers could find work.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Charleston’s Colored Masters

“Many prominent citizens like Christopher Gustavious Memminger, an influential lawyer and politician of Charleston County, believed that the free black community served a useful role and protected the interest of slaveholders.

Since many of the well-to-do colored persons were slave masters and landholders, the whites concluded that the free black elite would join them in support of the institution of slavery. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the lines were drawn by the free black populace and the views of white supporters of the colored community seemed accurate.

On April 12, 1861 . . . the black masters saw the opportunity to affirm their commitment to South Carolina and sided with the white slaveowners. A group of free blacks from Charleston City, including a number of colored slaveowners, issued the following statement:

“. . . [Our] attachments are with you, our hopes and safety and protection from you . . . our allegiance is due to South Carolina and in her defense, we will offer up our lives, and all that is dear to us.”

The sentiments of the Charleston black slaveowners were shared by the black slaveowners of other counties. For example, William Ellison, a cotton planter and the owner of 63 slaves, offered his aid to the Confederate Army in Sumter County.

As the Confederate Army began to make successful advances in the summer of 1862, the black masters continued their farming operations with slave labor. As the war raged on, shortages of meat and other foodstuffs were not the only dilemma faced by the colored masters. Even the wealthiest colored masters could not always purchase clothing for their families and slaves. Quite often the slave masters employed their female slaves to make homespun clothing.

[After 1863, many black masters] sought to liquidate their human chattel . . . before the Union Army forced them to emancipate their slaves. As the war continued to worsen for the Confederacy, other colored masters probably attempted to sell their slave property but could not find a willing buyer because the Union Army was advancing towards South Carolina.

Yet even as the Confederacy was falling into disarray, many of the black masters refused to sell their slaves, while others chose not to grant their servants nominal freedom. As late as 1865, there were 81 colored slave masters who owned 241 slaves in Charleston City. Many of these slaveowners used their slaves as workers and did not intend to emancipate them.

Among the invading troops [at Charleston in early 1865] were the Twenty-first US Colored Troops. When they reached the city, a crowd of jubilant free blacks and slaves greeted the soldiers; but the colored masters of Charleston perceived the invasion as apocalyptic destruction rather than salvation.”

(Black Slaveowners, Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina, 1790-1860; Larry Koger, University of South Carolina Press, 1985, excerpts, pp. 189-192)

The Foreign Slave Trade in Antebellum Mobile

The existence of African slaves in the American South was largely the result of foreign interests and New England slavers importing already-enslaved black people from Africa. With the agricultural expansion of the United States enabled by the Louisiana Purchase, large numbers of laborers were required to work the fields.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Foreign Slave Trade in Antebellum Mobile

“An illicit market in Mobile supported foreign slave trade despite the federal prohibition against it since 1808. Reports appeared occasionally of African natives working in the city. In March 1859, according to the British consul, “twenty wild African Negroes” worked in Mobile. Since these slaves spoke only their native dialect, residents concluded that the slaves were recently imported. Their appearance sparked excitement among the citizens about the foreign slave trade.

Later in 1859 the schooner Clotilde, owned by the Northern-born steamboat builder Timothy Meagher, transported what was reputedly the last cargo of contraband slaves from Africa to the United States. Slavers then transported 116 survivors of this voyage to John Dabney’s plantation on the Alabama River a few miles north of Mobile. Some slave-owners in the area secretly purchased some of the Africans, and the shipowner and captain retained the rest.

Slave ownership remained confined to a small proportion of the free population of Mobile, slightly less than 6 percent in 1830 and 1840. Masters and mistresses came from widely different backgrounds and occupations. In 1860, New Englanders like Thaddeus Sanford, a newspaper publisher turned farmer; Gustavus Horton, a cotton broker; and William, Rix, a merchant, owned slaves. So did foreign-born Mobilians like Israel I. Jones and Jonathan Emanuel, [both] English-born merchants; Ann Yuille, a Scottish baker’s widow; and Albert Stein, a German-born hydraulic engineer.

In 1850, 191 women owned 807 slaves. Women made up nearly 10 percent of large slaveholders, those with 11 or more slaves, in 1850. By renting some of their slaves to local employers, widows received good incomes.

Sarah Barnes, sixth largest slaveowner in Mobile in 1850, presumably rented some of her 52 slaves to others. So did two other women with large slaveholdings in the 1857 city tax book. Eliza Goldthwaite, widow of a former State judge, who claimed 17 slaves, and Sarah Walton, widow of a former mayor of Mobile and mother of Octavia Walton Levert, owned 20 slaves.”

(Cotton City, Urban Development in Antebellum Mobile, Harriet E. Amos, University of Alabama Press, 1985, excerpt, pp. 87-89)

 

May 7, 2017 - Black Slaveowners, Slavery in Africa    Comments Off on “Slaves, Don Teodore, Are Our Money”

“Slaves, Don Teodore, Are Our Money”

The central African city of Timbuktu (Timbuctoo) continued as a market for slaves long after the British had abolished their transatlantic slave trade — which had more to do with destroying French colonial commerce than philanthropy. The Captain writes below of how the British action simply forced native African slave traders to the interior of the Dark Continent, and the trade flourished nonetheless as slaves were a traditional African medium of exchange. In his 1961 book “The Slaves of Timbuktu” (Harper & Brothers), author Robin Maugham found that slavery still existed among the African tribes in the late 1950’s. He was the brother of author Somerset Maugham.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“Slaves, Don Teodore, Are Our Money”

“[Mahometan Foulah] Mami had visited many of the European colonies and Moorish kingdoms on the north coast of Africa, so that he was not stupefied by the untrammeled ignorance of Africans who consider Timbuctoo a combination of Paris and paradise. Indeed, he did not presume, like most of the Mandingo chiefs, to prefer it to Senegal or Sierra Leone. He confessed that the royal palace was nothing but a vast enclosure of mud walls, built without taste or symmetry, within whose labyrinthine mesh were numerous buildings for the wives, children, and kindred of the sovereign.

The markets of Timbuctoo, alone, secured his admiration. Every week they were thronged with traders, dealers, peddlers and merchants, who either dwelt in the neighboring kingdoms, or came from afar with slaves and produce. Moors and Israelites from the northeast were the most eminent and opulent merchants; and among them he counted a travelling class crowned with peculiar turbans, whom he called “Joseph’s-People,” or in all likelihood, Armenians.

However, in spite of its despotic rulers, Timbuctoo was a great central mart for exchange, and commercial men as well as the innumerable petty kings, frequented it not only for the abundant mineral salt in its vicinity, but because they could exchange their slaves for foreign merchandise. I asked the Foulah why he preferred the markets of Timbuctoo to the well-stocked stores of regular European settlements on the coast which was reached with so much more ease than this core of Africa?

“Ah!,” said the astute [slave] trafficker, “no market is a good one for the African in which he cannot openly exchange his slaves for whatever the original owner or importer can sell without fear! Slaves, Don Teodore, are our money.”

(Adventures of an African Slaver, Captain Theodore Canot, Star Books, 1928, pp. 135-136)

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 18, 2016 - Black Slaveowners, Historical Amnesia/Cleansing, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Slavery in Korea

Slavery in Korea

The Puyo group of tribes is first known to have lived along the banks of Sungari River in northern Manchuria, and was a “considerable tribal power” by the first century AD, and somewhat equal in power to the Koguryo, or Korean, tribes south of it. The Puyo held commonly slaves, who were either prisoners of war or criminals. The Yi Dynasty of 14th & 19th centuries, continued the practice of holding slaves – paralleling the Arab slave trade of the Bantu’s in southeast Africa which predated the transatlantic slave trade by 700 years.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Slavery in Korea

“At the bottom of [Korea’s Yi Dynasty] social ladder were the ch’on-min. The majority of them were slaves serving either the government or private individuals, and they were regarded as hardly human and treated accordingly, though government slaves had a somewhat easier time of it than private ones.

The government slaves worked mostly in the workshops which supplied court and bureaucracy with various manufactured goods and performed various menial tasks for the officials. Private slaves served as household servants and also tilled the soil, their labor being much less expensive than that of sangmin farmers.

While slave status was hereditary, it was sometimes possible for a man to be a slave of a given person while his family was not. It was sometimes even possible for a slave to own slaves. Marriage outside the ch’on-min class, however, was impossible, and the children of slave women were classified as slaves no matter what their father’s status might have been.

In addition to slavery, certain other occupations were regarded as so demeaning as to merit ch’on-min status. These included strolling actors (there were no actresses), kisaengs [prostitutes], and butchers. Butchering was the most despised of all occupations, so much so that butchers and their families were often compelled to live in segregated villages.

The numbers of slaves held by the government had been greatly increased at the outset of the Yi Dynasty by the expropriation of many thousands of slaves held by Buddhist temples and monasteries.

[With the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592 and after], the government pressed many slaves into military service . . . and this often entailed an automatic rise in status. And when at last the country was at peace, many of the government offices found that they were unable to support as many slaves as formerly.

Often the government had no option but to emancipate large numbers of slaves because it was unable to feed and house them . . . and large numbers of slaves became artisans or farmers. Eventually it became government policy to give official yangmin [farmer] status to all slaves who had served the government for two generations in positions formerly reserved for yangmin.”

(The History of Korea, Han Woo-Keun, Grafton Mintz, editor, Eul-Yoo Publishing Company, 1970, excerpts, pp. 252-253; 313-315)

 

 

Mr. Tubman of Liberia

The country of Liberia was founded by the American Colonization Society, mostly Southerners and ably led by President James Monroe of Virginia. The intent was to settle freed slaves in their homeland and to plant responsible, republican government on that continent.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Mr. Tubman of Liberia

“The president of Liberia is a plausible and enterprising man in his middle fifties named William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman, sometimes called by the nickname “Shad.” The Honorable Mr. Tubman has been Chief Executive of Liberia since 1944, and will probably remain president for a considerable time to come. He is a character of the utmost originality and interest, who gives forth a certain waggish note.

Liberia is sui generis — unique. I could use any of several adjectives about it — odd, wacky, phenomenal, or even weird. It is, as is well known, one of the five independent countries in Africa, and for a great many years (until Egypt became a republic in 1953) it was the only republic on the continent. Haiti in the West Indies aside, it is the only Negro republic in the world.

Monrovia, the capital, was named for President Monroe, and is practically the only city I have seen without either taxis or buses. The people are too poor, too mercilessly exploited. A village in Uganda or in the wastes of northern Nigeria will have bicycles in profusion, but not the capital of Liberia. There was no successful telephone service in Monrovia until last year [1954], and the system does not extend beyond the city.

Liberia is roughly the size of Ohio or Tennessee, but the entire country has only ten miles of paved road, five of which are in the capital. Liberia never had a road until 1916 when an enterprising American diplomat built one in Monrovia itself so that he could use an automobile that had arrived there by mistake, the first ever to be seen in the country.

Consider health and education. Only two native Liberians have ever become doctors. There are also two naturalized Haitian MD’s, but in the whole country there are probably not more than a half-dozen reputable physicians outside of Firestone and the [Christian] missions. Infant mortality runs as high as 75% in some areas . . . [and] no public health service at all existed until 1931—and Liberia had been an independent republic since 1847!

More than 90 percent of the population is illiterate . . . in 1946 the total sum allotted to education in the national budget was only around $50,000 (80% of education was taken care of by missionaries); it is substantially higher now, roughly $1.5 million out of a budget of $10,088,810.

Liberia College, the chief institution of “higher” learning in the country where several of its leading contemporary citizens were educated, had for years no library, laboratories or scientific equipment; a former head of this school calmly appropriated all its funds on one occasion, and with his loot sent his daughters to be educated in Italy.

Thievery — the cities swarm with thieves — is most conspicuous during the rains. First, rice is short then and people are hungry. Second, the noise of the rain makes it easy for thieves to get around. Stealing is, however, by no means confined to professional criminals or to the poor, who are so miserable that petty theft may easily be forgiven — it is almost a national sport. Newspapers talk openly of “wholesale stealing” in government departments . . . [and] recently the Italian delegation lost, of all things, its safe.

In the field of political corruption Liberia has some wonderful distinctions. One president of the republic (not Mr. Tubman) got 243,000 votes in a certain election, though only 15,000 persons were privileged to vote.

Most educated Africans in neighboring countries pay lip service to Liberia because it is an independent republic created by freed Negro slaves, but they despise it inwardly because it constitutes a betrayal of what modern Africans stand for. Even Ethiopia has higher standards. Liberia might almost be called a kind of perverse advertisement for imperialism since although the country is free, the people are so badly off compared to those in most French and British colonies.

One brief word on Liberian history. Liberia was created by the American Colonization Society, a private organization (its first president was a nephew of George Washington) formed in 1816 to transport freed American slaves to Africa, where they might settle and start a new life on their own.

The motive was only humanitarian in part. A good many American slaveowners wanted to get freed slaves out of the country; it was dangerous to have them around. Also in 1819, the American navy was empowered to seize slave ships on the high seas, free any slaves found and return them to Africa, as part of an attempt to suppress what remained of the organized slave trade.

Out of Slavery — Slavery

One of the most horrifying official documents I have ever read has to do with Liberia, the report made in 1931 by an international commission inquiring into the slave traffic.

For years rumors had been heard, which the Monrovia government persistently denied, that Liberia tolerated organized slavery. At last in 1929 pressure, largely from the United States forced an investigation. Henry Stimson, secretary of state at the time, wrote to the Liberian authorities: “It would be tragically ironic if Liberia, whose existence was dedicated to the principle of liberty should succumb to practices so closely akin to those its founders sought forever to escape.”

Facts uncovered by the commission were — and are — appalling. It found that “slavery as defined by the 1926 anti-slavery convention” existed in the country, that contract laborers “were recruited under conditions of criminal compulsion scarcely distinguishable from slave-raiding and slave trading,” and that high officials of the Liberian government not only connived at this traffic but made money out of it.

Mr. Tubman, current president of Liberia, was a Senator during this period and is mentioned twice in the commission report, each time in connection with the receipt of fees from native chiefs.”

(Inside Africa, John Gunther, Harper & Collins, 1955, excerpts, pp. 843-849; 860-861)

 

 

 

Sep 22, 2016 - Black Slaveowners, Slavery in Africa, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Nigeria a Source of Slaves

Nigeria a Source of Slaves

The country of Nigeria was named for the Niger River, which means “black,” and the ninth longest river in the world. For many years a great source of slaves — and though the trade had diminished by 1847, in that year more than 80,000 slaves were shipped out of Africa “to all destinations.” In 1859, in command of the USS Crusader off Cuba, (future Confederate naval officer) Lt. John Newland Maffitt, was capturing New Englander-captained slavers and liberating thier slaves.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Nigeria a Source of Slaves

Nigerian history along the coast, like that of Sierra Leone and the Gambia, begins with the Portuguese. A Portuguese ship reached the Bight of Benin in 1472. Traders of other countries, including the British in particular, then began to reach this wild, forlorn, fragrant coast—they sought “pepper, Elephant’s teeth, oyl of palm, cloth made of cotton wool very curiously woven, and cloth made of the barke of palme trees.”

Soon came traffic much more lucrative, that in human beings. Indeed slavery dominates Nigerian history for almost three hundred years, with all its bizarre and burning horrors. We have already touched on slavery in East Africa; on the West Coast its history was different.

First: the origin of the Atlantic trade was the discovery of America and the consequent development of sugar plantations in the West Indies. When the American aborigines were killed off, as they were promptly, a labor force had to be found somewhere, and slaves from Africa were a marvelously cheap (as valued by African tribes) and convenient device to this end.

The trade brought fantastic profits. In the Cameroons in the early days the purchase of a slave from African tribes was “two measures of Spanish wine” and he could be sold for a thousand ducats, the profit being 5,000 percent. As late as 1786, a slave could be bought from African tribes in Nigeria for 2 pounds and sold in America for 65 pounds. In that period, 100,000 slaves or more were shipped across the Atlantic each year.

Second:  Aside from the British and Portuguese there were slave traders of several other nationalities, but Britain got a monopoly of the business by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1712.

Third:  Africans were as much involved in the overseas slave traffic as the Europeans since the latter did not dare as rule penetrate inland from the sea — the interior was too dangerous. Instead, they bought slaves from warlike African tribes — the Ashanti on the Gold Coast for instance — who seized and collected other Africans and marched them to the coast. As much barbarity accompanied these raids on Africans by Africans as accompanied the actual voyage across the ocean.

Fourth:  Africans also sought and captured slaves for themselves. In Northern Nigeria for example, slavery was almost universal until most recent times; slavery did not become illegal in Nigeria till 1901, and a few domestic slaves are still alive who have never been emancipated. A case can be made for slavery and the slave trade.  It is that tribal wars took place in the African interior without cessation, and that it was better for a man to be taken prisoner and made a domestic slave or even sold into slavery, than to be killed and perhaps eaten.

On a slave raid the object was to get the prisoner alive and with luck, he might survive the trip to America or Arabia. On balance, the slave trade (despite its inferno-like horrors) may have saved more lives than it cost. In any case it is the origin of a great many healthy, useful and progressive Negro communities in the Western world.”

(Inside Africa, John Gunther, Harper & Brothers, 1955, excerpts, pp. 752-756)

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