Tag Archive | "Africa"

The Book of Negroes: 1783 & 2007


The Book Of Negroes

The Book Of Negroes

Aminata Diallo, an 11-year-old child, is taken from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle — a string of slaves. Eventually, she arrives in South Carolina where she begins a new life as a slave. Years later, she finds freedom, serving the British in the American Revolutionary War and having her name entered in the historic “Book of Negroes.”

This book, an actual historical document, is an archive of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the United States in order to resettle in Nova Scotia, only to discover that this new place becomes one that is also oppressive and unyielding. Aminata eventually returns to Sierra Leone — passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America – but eventually finds herself crossing the ocean one more time to England to present the account of her life so that it may abolish the slave trade.

This book is a hand-written list of Black passengers leaving New York on British ships in 1783. It gives a name, age, physical description, and status (slave or free) for each passenger, and often an owner’s name and place of residence. Three copies of the Book of Negroes exist: one in England, at the Public Records Office, Kew. one in the United States, at the National Archives, Washington; and one in Canada, at the Nova Scotia Archives, Halifax. Knowledge of the Black Loyalists begins with this list, made by British and American inspectors.

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Jackie Robinson – Baseball Player


Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson

Americ’a’s Black History tends to recognise Sports men favourably.  Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson (January 31, 1919 October 24, 1972) was the first African American Major League Baseball (MLB) player of the modern era. Robinson broke the baseball color line when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. As the first black man to openly play in the major leagues since the 1880s, he was instrumental in bringing an end to racial segregation in professional baseball, which had relegated African-Americans to the Negro leagues for six decades. The example of his character and unquestionable talent challenged the traditional basis of segregation, which then marked many other aspects of American life, and contributed significantly to the Civil Rights Movement.

Apart from his cultural impact, Robinson had an exceptional baseball career. Over ten seasons, he played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers’ 1955 World Championship. He was selected for six consecutive All-Star Games from 1949 to 1954,was the recipient of the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949 the first black player so honored. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1997, Major League Baseball retired his uniform number, 42, across all major league teams.

Robinson was also in the United states army where he won the commission of Second Lieutenant. He was to serve in the famous all black tank unit the 761st “Black Panthers” Tank Battalion. Although due to a number of circumstances Robinson was never deployed overseas to Europe.

Robinson was also known for his pursuits outside the baseball diamond. He was the first African-American television analyst in Major League Baseball, and the first African-American vice-president of a major American corporation. In the 1960s, he helped establish the Freedom National Bank, an African-American-owned/controlled financial institution based in Harlem, New York. In recognition of his achievements on and off the field, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

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Queen – Amina – Queen of Zaria


Queen Amina of Zaria

Queen Amina of Zaria

This queen of Zazzua, a province of Nigeria now known as Zaria, was born around 1533 during the reign of Sarkin (king) Zazzau Nohir. She was probably his granddaughter. Zazzua was one of a number of Hausa city-states which dominated the trans-Saharan trade after the collapse of the Songhai empire to the west. Zaria’s wealth was due to trade of leather, cloth, kola, salt, horses and imported metals.

At sixteen, Amina became the heir apparent (Magajiya) to her mother, Bakwa of Turunku, the ruling queen of Zazzua. Along with the title came the responsibility for a ward in the city and daily councils with other officials. Although her mother’s reign was known for peace and prosperity, Amina also chose to learn military skills from the warriors. Queen Bakwa died around 1566 and the reign of Zazzua passed to her brother Karama. During this time Amina emerged as the leading warrior of Zazzua cavalry. Her military achievements brought her great wealth and power. Ten years later, Karama died , Amina became queen of Zazzua.

She set off on her first military expedition three months after coming to power and continued fighting until her death. In her thirty-four year reign, she expanded the domain of Zazzua to its largest size ever. Her main focus, however, was not on annexation of neighboring lands, but on forcing local rulers to accept vassal status and permit Hausa traders safe passage. She is credited with popularizing the earthen city wall fortifications, which became characteristic of Hausa city-states since then. She ordered building of a defensive wall around each military camp that she established. Later, towns grew within these protective walls, many of which are still in existence. They’re known as “ganuwar Amina”, or Amina’s walls. She is mostly remembered as “Amina, Yar Bakwa ta san rana,” meaning “Amina, daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man.

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Tom Molineaux – Boxer


Tom Molineaux

Tom Molineaux

Tom Molineaux was an American boxer who settled in Britain after seeking and winning the World Boxing Title. When Tom Molineaux reached the shores of England in 1809, He came to claim the world boxing title. Presumably Molineaux had partaken in his share of matches prior to his rise as Boxer in Great Britain. Read the full story

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Early Black Footballers-Arthur Wharton


Arthur Wharton

Arthur Wharton

Arthur Wharton was the world’s first Black Professional Footballer.Arthur was born to parents who were both mixed race. His father was half Grenadian and half Scottish, and his mother was half Scottish + half Fante Royal of the stool family of Ekumfie. He was also the World Record Holder for the 100 yard dash.

Pictured here with the Prince Hassan Cup (Athletics) . Arthur was probably the first African to play professional cricket in Britain, Arthur was an all round sportsman who found acclaim in Britain. Strangely though at the time of his success Arthur’s people were once again being labelled as the lowest forms of human life.

In Victorian England the dominant ideas labelled Black people as being innately inferior to all other races. Arthur Wharton had been educated in England and he was a master of sports.In short Arthur Wharton flew in the face of these racial theories.

Perhaps this is why he is largely forgotten today. Arthur went to school in Cannock, Staffordshire. His fame came later when he was dubbed the “best goalkeeper in the north”. He played for Preston North End in the 1885-6 season. He also ran for the Birchfield Harriers and played football for Darlington all in one year. Arthur was the forerunner of all black footballers.

To learn more about him. see” The first Black Footballer – Arthur Wharton 1865-1930 An absence of Memory ” by Phil Vassili Frank Cass Books. www.frankcass.com or see.
Football Unites …Racism Divides at http://www.furd.org/


Read an extract of Phil Vasili’s book about Arthur Wharton

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Granville Sharpe


 

Granville Sharpe

Granville Sharpe

Sharpe was Possibly the Most Prominent of the Abolitionists and today, is certainly the most celebrated.? Sharp wrote numerous articles about slavery, religious history and now and then turned his hand to Social theory.

He was born in Durham on 10 November 1735 and was one of eight children. He was sent to London to become an apprentice to a linen draper, he missed out on the Formal education that his older brothers had received. Gretchen Gerzina suggests that ‘One might expect Sharp to have Chaffed at such Menial work, especially when his brothers were all in Processional Careers’. But she goes on to point out that Sharp seemed to be working in manual professions for a reason. He was learning the views and arguments of his many Employers. Because they were all from different backgrounds, he saw the value of their differing perspectives on life.? He Said ‘This extraordinary experience has taught me to make a proper distinction between the OPINIONS of men and their PERSONS’.

This was a man who seemed to never tire. He worked full time but really became involved with the abolitionists proper when a Black man called Jonathan Strong came to his brothers surgery badly beaten (Pistol whipped by his master.)

Sharp went on to fight the cases of a great many slaves. He was the chairman of the ‘Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade’ informed of the kidnaping of Henry Demane thanks (indirectly) to Ottobah Cugganno. Demane was saved from transportation to the Plantations.

In 1769 he Published “A Representation of the Injustice and Dangerous Tendency of Tolerating Slavery Or of admitting the least claim of private property in the persons of men, in England”

This Challenged the country’s legal establishment declaring that legally ” As soon as a Negro comes into England he becomes Free”

Eventually though would come his most famous case where he represented James Somerset. In What for ever more would become known as the “Somerset ruling” Sharp fought and won a battle which allowed Somerset to stay in England. Even though his master, A Virginia planter wanted to take him back to the plantations in the west Indies.

Sharp argued that everyone coming into this country was subject to its laws and protection. Somerset had run away and then been recaptured by his master, that was kidnapping, according to James Mansfield, part of Sharps legal team, Not Lord Mansfield the case Judge)
Somerset had every right to abscond because he was only property in the West Indies not here in England.

After much deliberation Lord Mansfield found in favour of Somerset and Sharp won the case, However many people misunderstood the ruling believing that the ruling meant that all the Slaves in Britain were automatically Free.

What it in fact meant was that the masters could not legally force a slave to leave the country against his own will.

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Sugar cubes in my fridge


Sugar Cubes

The term cultural shock is very real. A split second of brain overload, a sense of loss coupled with confusion. Like the day I woke sweating and feeling dehydrated. This led me to my newly acquired Tosiba fridge. It was only when i opened it i became conscious of my being in Africa. There was a box of white sugar cubes placed on the eggs tray by my friend the evening before. Puzzled i laughed, maybe she is loosing her mind but on second thought she was very right, ANTS!

You see back in London ants where something we played with at school or watched when we where waiting for someone in the park. However in Ghana ants are not to be played with, and they love sugar. If you are careless enough to leave sugar out uncovered, in the morning you will be visited by the colony. Unwanted guest’s who systematically remove your life stock in there thousands.

Any similarity of the ants and the early white colonialists is not intentional, however understood.

I remember when i was a young boy growing up in South London in the 70’s and 80’s Africa was a word used to refer to small potbellied starving children with flies in there eyes. I hardly heard the word being used in my West-Indian household.

Until the Nigerian Biafra war started bringing waves of Nigerians to London they like us ended up working on the buses and other working class jobs. Immediately there was a isolation between there community and the resident west Indian community’s .

West Indians felt we where better in that we was there first and could speak English as our first language. I guess the dumb amongst us was glad to find someone who was considered less than we where living in the UK. I wonder what the educated whites where thinking during this time. Undoubtedly they watched to see if we would embrace ourselves.

Fortunately for them this was not the case. The social engineering of us through slavery and them through colonialism worked and they breathed easily at that time to see us still disliking and not knowing each other.

This engineering and my personal indoctrination of Africans came about in school. Where my history teacher showed Africa exclusively in a negative light “These are savages” he said “They are cannibals”. This with the amount of newspaper cartoons depicting Africans with bones in there nose’s dancing around a big boiling pot cooking a white woman was damaging to my and many other West Indian childrens psychology.

This damage like a virus left unchecked accounts for most of the negative encounters diasporians and born Africans experience. Especially in the diaspora.

In Ghana this damage although not as severe as in England still exists. Out of the diaporians who come from London UK and the USA to relocate here many have spoke of there unwelcome as a member of the family. They conclude that Ghanaians just see them as American or British. Some Ghanaians go as far as to even call us white.(obruni) One Ghanaian MP declared that “We don’t want them coming here building there ghettos”.

Thankfully this is not the norm and only a example of a dying minority who have not bothered to educate themselves to the dictates of our history. Slavery i have discovered has had many victims not only those who where sold. But also the sellers have to come to terms with there guilt.

Most Ghanaians know the part played by slavery in our history, and i have been asked by them if “i know that we are brothers”. This is also echoed in the government with there initiative The Joseph Project where Ghana is officially reaching out to us to return or invest in the homeland.

This Blog invites you all to comment i will be writing more soon and look forward to hearing from all of you peace. Will Muhammad

Wilton Muhammad Accra Ghana: Wiltons website: Diasporan Returns

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Diasporians Africa's Mirror



In my last piece entitled “For the love of Ghana” i pointed out how diasporians are like a “mirror” for Africa. They being outside of Africa and holding kinship to her are in a special position. What is apparent to the Diasporian by life’s experiences hold keys to Africa’s rise.

Africans around the world are in need of Justice a divine favour from almighty god. This justice that we seek is a birth right and anyone who is in opposition to it is in opposition to god. Its that simple!!

It is clear to most of us by now that White supremest are behind most of our problems in Africa and in the Diaspora’s. This system is the most powerful cognitive device, an institution of deception that permeates every corner of our globe.

It is responsible for many injustices most of which have involved both Africans at home and abroad. We don’t always suffer at the direct hands of it, but it also have our own brothers and sister acting out prescribe roles in positions of responsibility in its own peoples absents. From slavery to this very hour we are under a measure of influence from those who do not have our own interest at heart.

Everything in nature has an interest, and has whats in best interest for it. White people will confirm this fact, as they have done many times in there study of “wild life”. Yet there practice on earth is totally to the contrary. They dictate to us whats in our interest along with the interests of other people in the world.

In nature that would mean that the goat can dictate to the lamb what it should eat. When in fact the lamb pays no attention to the goat. This is not racism in reverse just truth and facts.

Diasporians (Those who where born outside of Africa particularly the children of slaves) are concrete proof that the so called white man is of a different nature to us. Why, because despite living with him, schooling with him, fighting wars for him, we still are very different and our community’s have never lived in peace together. I can safely say that even though i was born in London England i am more comfortable by far here in Ghana than i could ever be in London.

Black Africa should be constantly studying diasporian experiences. Its Africa’s only true source of valuable information in which it needs to become truly independent. The diasporian by way of life experiences holds key knowledge for Africa if understood listened and respected.

The most important of all of the diasporians experiences is slavery. But slavery is not the only experiences that Black Africa needs to study form the diasporian. Really every aspect of our travels in the diaspora are good lessons to our brothers and sisters on this continent. A qualified engineer in London who is black would be extremely valuable in Ghana or any African city.

He could live like a king, and can create situations that potentially alleviate poor living conditions for thousands of people. Instead he sits at home with his small house in London suffering himself, and paying bills. Whats wrong with this picture? What is wrong is that the poor engineer, the poor nurse, the poor doctor etc has allowed someone to dictate to them whats in there best interest.

In nature everything behaves according to the law in which it was created. Lets see if the white man has a different nature form the black man. For a start physically the white is much weaker than the black. As Doctor Leakey a white anthropologist said “dark eyes are dominant light eyes are recessive you can get the recessive from the dominant but not the dominant from the recessive.” Instantly we see that even just on a psychical level we differ.

The question now must be does that physical difference translate into the mental and spiritual?

I would seem that anyone studying theology would have to bear witness that it takes strength to be right. Strength of character etc. To do wrong is referred to as weaknesses. When ever we are telling the truth it takes a measure of strength. whenever we lie it comes from a weakness.

Do you think when the doctor was talking about weakness he only meant the eyes? What about skin, bones, hair, muscles and of course brain?

If his brain is generally different to ours then simply he is of a different nature to us. Ok we are all quote unquote human. But so is the bird family all bird, that doesn’t mean the Eagle should hang out with the Budgie Or in the cat family the Tiger chilling with the house cat.

One of our great thinkers to my mind the greatest The Honorable Elijah Muhammad Gave a very telling lesson to The Diasporian he said we should “Accept our own and be ourself”. What is interesting here is that this was one instruction and not two.

Accepting our own is tied to being ourself. You cannot attain one without the other. Isn’t it great to conceive that we all both diasporian abroad for no matter how long, and born “Africans” are kin? Not out of romance but out of the recognition of pure facts.

If we view all as a family body of people then it would be no use having a head without a heart or a foot without a hand. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that the understanding of our plight lies in the conception of us being a whole. It is also evident that our solutions also are contained in this conception.

I have listened to diasporians try to extricate themselves from involvement and association with Africa. This can never be successful because we are simply in truth a part of that family of people. Even if you the individual have convinced yourself, the rest of the world is not with you in their view of you. This leaves us in a very weak position because then we are trying to belong to something that is non existent. This has undoubtedly added to how others have lost respect for us and in some cases consideration for us.

Our born resident Africans on the other hand fall on this point too, because of the boundaries of tribalism and nationalism. BOTH in 2007 are not in our best interest.

The Great Asagefo Kwame Nkrumah Knew this. That is why he was a Pan Africanist. He also had great admiration for Marcus Garvy who created the concept “The black star” which is proudly shown on the Ghana flag. As great as Ghana is she should be viewed as a State in Africa along with Nigeria etc. This is not impossible and it MUST be done in order for us to secure our future as a people.

Ghana was born out of a conception of mutual understanding and recognition of both the diasporian and the born African. Garvey a Diasporian Nkrumah the born African both recognized what was important here.

I love Nkruhmah i accept his ideals as my own he is a father to my thinking along with all the diasporian greats. It is disturbing to me to see his name and idea’s rubbished buy Ghanaians because as a Diasporian having my understanding of the outside world i can see he was and is principle to our survival and restoration as a people in and out of Africa.

Naturally a arm re attached to a body successfully will bring benefits. What benefit would seven miles of black star line ships full of diasporians pulling in to Tema harbor bring to Ghana?
Not that this is the way it should be done but there would be great benefit, too much to mention given that we where successfully resettled.

As quiet as it is kept the most beneficial and feared knowledge diasporians have and can deliver to Africa is the Complete understanding of the White world its weaknesses its intentions its capability’s etc all we have learn t as a matter of second nature.

It is this knowledge that is missing painfully in Africa!!

The re attachment of this knowledge is linked to why slavery was allowed to happen in the first place. This is the crown that is granted for our lynching and burning and whippings. It is our graduation a precious gift born out of pain and suffering. I believe our experiences and knowledge if used in Africa will unlock an ability to deal with investment, infrastructural theological and social issues with the outside world better and more justly for our benefit.

Indeed there is no one that knows the white world better than the diasporian bar only the white man himself. Our four hundred year journey in HIS HOUSE was not in vein.

when i think along these issues i can see how our history was orchestrated buy our father in heaven as preparatory to a great future. Let me know your thoughts on these points raised, as no one brother can be as definitive as the collation of more than ones thoughts.

Wilton Muhammad Accra Ghana West Africa.

Wilton Muhammad Accra Ghana: Wiltons website: Diasporan Returns

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Driving in Ghana


Driving In Ghana

I remember taking my last taxi to Tema before picking up my new second hand car that came off a ship from Germany. It felt good that i was finally avoiding bartering with the greedy taxi drivers who when seeing a foreigner would double their fare.

You see the taxi driver is one of the most arrogant and contentious people in Ghana. I was later going to find out that their plight i had only exchanged and not gotten rid of.

I stood there amongst many cars next to mine waiting for the Ashanti dealers to arrive for the exchange of the millions of cedis cash i had in my ruck sack for my car. Soon they came smiling and after counting every note they handed over the car to me.

Everything seemed to go smooth i had the car ownership papers my road worthiness and tax along with my driving license within a few days. It wasn’t long before i was stuck at kwame Nkrumah’s circle in a huge static traffic jam. I had Taxi’s and tro tro’s on all sides boxing me in and not giving up even an inch.

It was a million miles away from driving in the mostly good mannered streets of south London.
Sure in London there was “Road rage incidents” that could lead to your death if you met the wrong driver in the wrong situation, but in Ghana minus the death every driver almost is the wrong driver. All of them want to go before you. All of them don’t have respect or have knowledge of “The right of way”, and even more shockingly some are literally suicidal in there driving.

I know you the reader outside of Africa probably think i’m exaggerating but believe it or not i am being very careful to choose my words carefully to only tell you the truth.

Let me give you some examples. It is very common for you to be driving along and a parked car usually a taxi without checking his mirror pulls out in front of you making you slam on your breaks to avoid hitting him. He will do it without apology and most of the time in total oblivion to you your speed and any eventuality he may cause.

In the cases where you hit him he will blame you, and to be truthful if you are a foreigner the local people in most cases will also blame you.

I have even had on about 3 occasions a suicidal driver over taking about 4 vehicle’s coming to wards a row of cars ahead of me in our lane. In these situations i remember the drivers flashing there lights ignorantly to move the traffic ahead of me out of the way even though we are in our rightful lane. Amazingly the cars ahead of me would give them way by driving into the place where people walk. In other words giving these deranged individuals the priority of an emergency at the cost of endangering pedestrians and other road users.

But by far the most amazing thing i have experienced was in a place called Dodowa. You see Dodowa is a very quite town hardly any cars at all. I was driving though there one Sunday afternoon, i was the only car on the road. Up ahead i notice a woman standing on the reservation that separates the road. She had already cross half the road and was waiting i thought for me to pass with a small boy before she continued.

To my surprise the woman made a desperate run in front of my car pulling the hesitant boy. I slammed on my breaks and swerved to miss her causing a screech. When she got to the other side she foolishly smiled.

A woman who felt it fit in inpatients to risk her life and the life of her son rather than to just wait till i pass. This made me think for some days after, and i can only draw the conclusion that Ghanaians both pedestrians and drivers have an erroneous and unhealthy attitude towards road use. This can be confirmed in the number of fatal road traffic accidents that happen here every day. According to the government 3 people die due to road accidents every day in Ghana.

Only just last month on the Accra Wenniba Road some 45 people perished as a truck carrying yams from Tema hit two cars that had crashed in the middle of the road. People who was about to rescue the occupants of the cars where ran over by the truck.

Even though there are far less cars in Accra than in London, driving in Accra is far more demanding. In order to get from A to B you have to anticipate whats unimaginable in London.

I can almost hear you ask “What about the police in all of this?”. Well they are very busy trying to make a decent salary from road block bribes rather that chase bad drivers. I had a policeman stop me at a road block, he checked for everything. When he saw i had all that the law required he just asked me for money. The asking for money was the purpose of the road block it seemed.

Wilton Muhammad Accra Ghana: Wiltons website: Diasporan Returns

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Slavery – A Brief Overview



W
hat is unique about slavery in the Atlantic world is both its magnitude
(a very large number of slaves) and its modernity (slavery occurred in the very recent past).? When studying slavery in the Atlantic, then, we must account for why slavery should be so intimately connected with modernity and with the rise of the modern economies and societies of Europe, the Africa’s and the Americas. This is an important point. Many people tend to think of slavery as some archaic feature of a long dead past, a bygone practice with little relevance to our lives today.

Of course we are one century and several generations away from the age of slavery and Africans are even closer to it (slavery was ended in Africa only during the early twentieth century). The truth is that in terms of social time, slavery is right in our back yard and often pushed into insignificance. The modern Atlantic world–including the countries, cultures and practices we know today in Africa, Europe and America–was significantly shaped by the institution of slavery.

Female SlavesWe continue to live the legacy of slavery (for example, we can hardly imagine what an Atlantic world without slavery would look like today).

We should not, indeed we cannot, ever forget slavery. If we do, we lose our humanity by refusing to reflect on one of the fundamental institutions of the past which “got us where we are.”

Understanding slavery in modern life means looking at four continents: Africa, Europe, South America, North America, and of course? the Caribbean.

Slaves were an important minority of the population in both the Africa’s and the Americas (and in certain places on both continents slaves constituted the majority of the population). At least as many slaves were made and kept in the Africa’s as were forcibly transported as human cargo westward across the Atlantic. People on the western side of the Atlantic are usually ignorant of this fact because they know so little about Africans and their history.

There were far fewer slaves in Europe than in the Africa’s or the Americas, but Europeans and their economies were central to creating the demand which sparked enslavement’s within Africa, financing the Atlantic slave trade, transporting slaves, and benefiting economically from slave labour both in the Americas and in the Africa’s. Africans, of course, were the people enslaved in this modern system of Atlantic slavery. It is especially important to study Africa and Africans in the Atlantic, then, because unlike Europeans or Americans of any origin, Africans were both slaves and slave owners in the Atlantic.Enslavement refers to the process of making slaves.

This may sound funny, but most slaves who were captured and transported across the Atlantic had to be enslaved (they had to be created as slaves); few were born in bondage. What this means is that the vast majority of those slaves transported? were not simply enslaved persons living in African societies whose masters decided to get rid of them, they were free people who were captured by a variety of means and sold away to a different land.

The existence of a transatlantic trade in slaves then, meant that many new persons would be enslaved within Africa to supply the demand for slaves in the Americas.? In Africa, slaves were created through a variety of means with differing implications. The first point to consider is that most African slaves were captured by other Africans and not Europeans. People generally have in their minds the image of Europeans landing on the African coast and conducting raids on African villages, kidnapping persons and taking them back on board their ships. This image was powerfully reinforced by the popular television series entitled Roots by Alex Hailey.

There were indeed some European raids on African villages to create slaves, especially during the first several decades of the transatlantic slave trade, but very few slaves indeed were captured this way. This is not to suggest that Europeans were not responsible for slavery. The Planters demand for slaves is what drove the Atlantic slave trade. The stories slaves and later free African Americans told about the enslavement of their ancestors expressed a harsh judgement of both Europeans and those Africans who enslaved other Africans.

Slave WomanEuropeans probably would have enslaved Africans themselves in large numbers had they been able to. The fact is that Europeans were unable to colonise Africa until the late nineteenth century because, unlike in the Americas and in parts of Asia, they could not win military victories in Africa. Although they generally navigated their coasts in canoes of varying sizes, Africans were skilful in protecting their coastlines. Europeans could not simply march in and do what they wanted. African chiefs and wealthy persons, who were the most implicated in making slaves of other Africans, prevented Europeans (with armies) from simply marching into the African interior and doing what they wanted. African rulers effectively ruled their own territories and allowed Europeans in only as traders, diplomats, and guests, like they do today.

Because Africans maintained political control over themselves throughout the entire period of the slave trade (ca. 1450 to 1850) they themselves conducted the business of enslavement, selling the slaves to Europeans at the coastline where they were loaded on to European ships.

This has led to a wide misinterpretation of African slavery, which is by no means comparable to the Atlantic Slave Trade.

Slave ChildAfricans were captured as slaves by other Africans in the following ways: prisoners of war, slave raids, condemned criminals, condemned debtors, persons accused of witchcraft, kidnapped. In any one region and time slaves were created by a mixture of these methods, but one or two tended to predominate at any time and place. In the Senegambia, Guinea Coast, and Slave Coasts of West Africa, war tended to predominate as the most important source of slaves. In places like Angola? enslavement by kidnapping and condemnation for debts was quite important. Slaves were almost always captured in situations of conflict. Sometimes, if a family? learned of the capture of one of its members, it could bargain with the person who had enslaved him or her to redeem (purchase) the slave back Sometimes families traded a slave they themselves owned for a member of their family. This practice, which occurred in many places in Africa, was symbolic of the great tragedy of the slave trade. In order to save members of their own families, many persons engaged in capturing others.

In the first years of the slave trade slaves tended to come from the coastal areas of Africa. Over time, however, the source of slaves moved further into the African interior. Historians have often referred to this moving source of slaves as the “slaving frontier.” Slaves captured hundreds of miles in the interior of Africa were forced to walk all the way to the coast and many died and suffered severe deprivations on these “marches of death.” Americans tend to think of the mortality on board ship in the “middle passage,” but the mortality of slaves walking to the coast was probably as high as mortality in the oceanic passage.


In the middle of a blank page at the beginning of her celebrated work Beloved, A Novel, Toni Morrison writes:

Sixty Million and more.”

A dedication to numbers in the preface of a superb novel exploring the inner anguish of slavery raises important and appropriate issues about the study of the slave trade: how shall we remember and learn about it? Can numbers appropriately express the magnitude of the collective and individual experiences in slavery? How correct is Morrison’s number of 60 million? To whom exactly does it refer?

In short, Morrison’s 60 million is a reasonable figure for the number of people whose lives were directly transformed by the slave trade (as people enslaved, killed, displaced, or allowed to die) It is far greater than the number of Africans who were actually landed alive in the West Indies,America?and Europe or removed from the African continent as slaves during the nearly 400 years of the Atlantic slave trade.

Today, nearly everyone agrees that slavery is immoral and contrary to human rights. This was not generally true in the Atlantic world until the late nineteenth century. First of all, we must distinguish between the opinions of enslaved persons and the opinions of those who remained free. Evidence from both the Africa’s and the Americas demonstrates that slaves seldom if ever considered their enslavement to be legitimate and moral.

Everywhere slaves sought to increase their autonomy and to be treated with respect and dignity, like free persons. No one wanted to be treated like a slave. In the Americas this is particularly clear, for when slaves did not resist their condition directly and openly (because of repression), they sought autonomy and freedom in less dramatic ways. They told stories that encoded a distinct moral condemnation of slavery. Africans did the same. In Africa, slaves and persons who were at risk of enslavement often talked about slavery as eating, likening the wealth derived by African and European slavers to ill gotten gain. Persons who became rich in the business of enslavement, it was thought, derived their wealth from practising witchcraft.

Africans commonly claimed that Europeans transported Africans across the ocean in order to eat them on the other side or to use their blood to paint their ships red. In large areas of West Africa, cowry shells were the forms of money that slaves were bought and sold with. According to widely spread stories in that part of the African continent, the wealthy obtained their cowries by throwing slaves into the water where cowry shells grew on them. Once the shells covered the bodies of the dead, it was said, they were removed and the body discarded. Stories like these suggest that persons enslaved saw their bondage as immoral and illegitimate.

When we talk about slavery and morality, we must distinguish between how free persons and enslaved persons considered slavery. While slaves tended to reject the legitimacy of their bondage, free persons were generally less categorical in their condemnation of servitude. In fact, virtually all societies in the Americas and the Africa’s during the period of the slave trade held slaves. This does not mean, however, that free persons considered it legitimate for anyone to be captured as a slave. In the Americas and in Europe, for example, custom and the law prevented whites from being enslaved. In the Africa’s, there were usually certain rules that governed who could be captured as a slave and in what circumstances. Of course, these rules were often broken when free persons enslaved others.

Part of the reason slavery came to an end was the mounting sense that enslavement was immoral. But the more likely explanation for the death of slavery was an economic one.

Posted in African American History, African History, Caribbean History, SlaveryComments (0)

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PjxzdHJvbmc+d29vX3ZpZGVvX2NhdGVnb3J5PC9zdHJvbmc+IC0gU2VsZWN0IGEgY2F0ZWdvcnk6PC9saT48L3VsPg==