- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Monday, October 26, 2015
Was Slavery All Black and White?
Mali only legally abolished slavery in 1960 and hundreds of thousands of people are still enslaved there in 2015, despite the law.
The early 20th-Century black writer of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston, bitterly complained that "the white people held my people in slavery here in America. They had bought us, it is true, and exploited us. But the inescapable fact that stuck in my craw was: My people had sold me....My own people had exterminated whole nations and torn families apart for a profit before the strangers got their chance at a cut. It was a sobering thought. It impressed upon me the universal nature of greed."
African kings were willing to provide a steady flow of captives. When France and Britain outlawed slavery in their territories in the early 19th Century, African chiefs who had grown rich and powerful off the slave trade sent protest delegations to Paris and London. Britain abolished the slave trade and slavery itself against fierce opposition from West African and Arab traders. African slaveholders and slave traders didn't think of themselves or their slaves as 'Africans'. Instead, they thought of themselves in tribal terms and their slaves as foreigners or inferiors.
According to Basil Davidson, a celebrated scholar of African history, in his book ‘The African Slave Trade’ explained: "The notion that Europe altogether imposed the slave trade on Africa is without any foundation in history...Those Africans who were involved in the trade were seldom the helpless victims of a commerce they did not understand: On the contrary, they responded to its challenge. They exploited its opportunities."
Tunde Obadina, a director of Africa Business Information Services, has acknowledged the importance of Britain, and other Western countries, in ending the slave trade. "When Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807," he has written, "it not only had to contend with opposition from white slavers, but also from African rulers who had become accustomed to wealth gained from selling slaves or from taxes collected on slaves passed through their domain. African slave-trading classes were greatly distressed by the news that legislators sitting in Parliament in London had decided to end their source of livelihood. But for as long as there was demand from the Americas for slaves, the lucrative business continued." Obadina goes on to say, "Slave trading for export only ended in Nigeria and elsewhere in West Africa after slavery ended in the Spanish colonies of Brazil and Cuba in 1880. A consequence of the ending of the slave trade was the expansion of domestic slavery as African businessmen replaced trade in human chattel with increased export of primary commodities. Labour was needed to cultivate the new source of wealth for the African elites. The ending of the obnoxious business had nothing to do with events in Africa. Rulers and traders there would have happily continued to sell humans for as long as there was demand for them."
Ghanaian politician and educator Samuel Sulemana Fuseini has acknowledged that his Asante ancestors accumulated their great wealth by abducting, capturing, and kidnapping Africans and selling them as slaves.
Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Awoonor has also written: "I believe there is a great psychic shadow over Africa, and it has much to do with our guilt and denial of our role in the slave trade. We, too, are blameworthy in what was essentially one of the most heinous crimes in human history."
In 2000 officials from Benin publicised President Mathieu Kerekou's apology for his country's role in "selling fellow Africans by the millions to white slave traders…We cry for forgiveness and reconciliation," said Luc Gnacadja, Benin's minister of environment and housing. Cyrille Oguin, Benin's ambassador to the United States, acknowledged: "We share in the responsibility for this terrible human tragedy."
A year later, the president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, who is himself the descendant of generations of slave-owning and slave-trading African kings, urged Europeans, Americans, and Africans to acknowledge publicly and teach openly about their shared responsibility for the Atlantic slave trade.
In the Arab world, which was the first to import large numbers of slaves from Africa, the slave traffic was cosmopolitan. Slaves of all types were sold in open bazaars. The Arabs played an important role as middlemen in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and research data suggest that between the 7th and the 19th centuries, they transported more than 14 million black slaves across the Sahara and the Red Sea, as many or more than were shipped to the Americas, depending on the estimates for the transatlantic slave trade.
Both the slave sellers and the slave owners made money from the slave trades. However, the slave owners made significant more money.