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Mar 28, 2015 - Slavery Worldwide    No Comments

Christian Slaves of the Moslems

Muslim geographers of old are known to have created ideological justifications for enslaving sub-Saharan Africans.  “By the eighth and ninth centuries Arab literature was already merging blackness of skin with a variety of derogatory physical and characterological traits . . . and presumptions of color prejudice . . . ” (Slavery and Human Progress, Davis, pg. 42).

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Christian Slaves of the Moslems

“The rapid extension of Mohammedan conquest brought under Moslem control many thousands of unbelievers. Of these many at once accepted the new faith, many fled, and many were put to death; but many more were reduced to slavery. War was no doubt the chief source of supply for the slave market. It was provided that one in five of the captives should go to the government while the soldiers divided among themselves the remainder.

Later the Caliphs of Egypt and the Sultans of the Turks, finding their thrones in a precarious position, resorted to the use of splendidly trained bands of slaves, bought by traders or acquired by brigands, to maintain their position. This was the origin of an annual tribute of children [as slaves].

Still another source of the slave supply was a result of the misery of the time in which the people were living. Parents sold children, especially girls, to save themselves from starvation. Christians and heathen at war, and heathen at war with heathen, sold their captives into slavery among the Moslems. With the growth in the demand for slaves, avaricious Christian and Jewish merchants also helped to supply the Moslem slave markets.

The slave policy of the Mohammedans is well illustrated in the conquest of North Africa. This began in 647 and was virtually accomplished in 673. Ackbar was the leader of the Moslems. He is said to have taken eighty thousand captives in this invasion, and as the poverty of the country made possible no tribute in gold or silver, “the richest spoil came from the booty of female captives,” some of whom were afterwards sold for a thousand pieces of gold. Captives continued to be collected before and after much persecution and proselytizing, in 743, Abd-el-Rahman reported to the Caliph, that he could send no more Christian slaves because all Africa had become Mohammedan.

The conquerors of the North extended Islam into the interior of Africa. The converted tribes, inspired by the new faith and under tutelage of the Arabs, made war on the heathen African, and the captives of these incessant tribal wars became a most important supply of the northern markets. Jenne on the Niger was a large market. Timbuktu, the capital of Songhay Kano, and Kasena, were other points at which   Negro captives were collected to fill the Arab caravans on the march to the north, where they were sold and distributed throughout Moslem territory and into Europe.

Another source of Egyptian slave supply was the country north and south of the Black Sea. The region of the Circassus became a favorite source of supply for the harem and from the far north Slavs and other people of present-day Russia and people living east and south of the Baltic Sea and those living in the valley of rivers flowing into the North Sea, were brought down to the Volga River, and collected on the Black Sea. Still other slaves were obtained by Moslem brigands coming from Spain.

In the Ninth Century the Saracens were quick to take advantage of the helpless condition of Italy. At this time Pope John the VII wrote to Charles the Bald, “If all the trees of the forests became tongues, they could not describe the ravages of the impious pagans; the devoted people of God are destroyed by continuous slaughter: he who escapes the sword is taken into slavery. Cities, castles, and villages are wasted and without a single soul . . . ”

(Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor, Vol. XIII, No. 4, October, 1928, pp. 479-482)

The Chinese Slaves of Peru

Nearly forgotten and overlooked in history is the fate of Chinese slaves in Cuba, and Peru. English Captain F. Trench Townsend reported: “Though the fate of the poor African slave in Cuba is horrible, that of the unfortunate Asiatic . . . struck me as more pitiful.”  It was in this era that New England-captained slave ships were being caught off Cuba in 1859 by future Confederate naval officer Capt. John Newland Maffitt.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Chinese Slaves in Peru

“No words can describe the lot of the Chinese in Peru. The system commenced in 1849, between which year and 1869, it appears that ninety-thousand Chinese have perished in Peru. What are the causes which have produced this fearful mortality?

The truest causes may probably be found in an important paper submitted by Mr. Murrow, to a meeting of the Association for the Promotion of Social Science, in the latter year [1869].

Mr. Murrow states that the rate of mortality on the passage from China to Peru in immigrant ships has certainly been twenty-five per cent. The principal mortality takes place after arrival in Peru. The coolies in guano work are goaded to their labour under the lash.

The taskmasters are tall, African Negroes, “who are armed with a lash of four plaits of cow-hide, five feet in length, and an inch and a half thick, tapering to a point.”

This weapon is little used during the early part of the day, but about four o’clock in the afternoon it is put into constant requisition, for the purpose of compelling the coolies, who, from weakness or other cause, fall short in the completion of their allotted task.

“The slightest resistance is punished by a flogging, little short of murder, the first six or twelve cuts stifling the agonizing cries of which ring through the fleet. There is no tying-up, the nearest Chinaman being compelled, by a cut of the lash, to lay hold of an arm or leg, and stretch the miserable sufferer on his stomach on the guano.

The mere weight alone of the lash makes the bodies shake, blackening their flesh at every blow, besides cutting into it like a sabre, and when a convulsive movement takes place a subordinate places his boots on the shoulders to keep the quivering body down.”

On this subject, in commenting on the able speech of Sir Charles Wingfield, in the House of Commons in 1873, the [London] Times says:

“In Peru the fate of the imported coolies is even more abominable. They are sent to work in the guano pits on the islands which produce that unsavory wealth; they are beaten and chained and passed by bargain and sale from master to master . . . There is a military force to guard them, and to crush any violence to which despair may drive even the most timid of men. Hope of escape, save by death, there is none; and hence suicide is a common practice, regularly estimated in the probable cost of the labour supply . . . “

To recruit free men in China, imprison them in barracoons, guard them with soldiers, induce them to sign contracts, convey them to Peru and on arrival compel them by force to labour in the guano pits, is that which it might have been supposed no man could have been found to defend . . . [but] shows that a man may be blinded with guano [profits] as effectually as with gold.

A new Treaty has just been negotiated between the Empress of China and Peru, providing for the continuance or renewal of Chinese coolie traffic. The British envoy at [Peking] has had a hand in the negotiation . . . [but] it is deeply regretted that if called in at all, he did not enter his emphatic protest against the whole affair.”

(The Lost Continent; or, Slavery and the Slave Trade in Africa, 1875. Joseph Cooper, Longmans, Green & Company, 1875, excerpts, pp. 43-47)

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