It is well documented that some prominent Jewish leaders actually helped Adolf Hitler murder their fellow Jews during the holocaust. It is also a historical fact that Hitler's Nazi army had some high-ranking officers of "Full Jews" origin with Hitler's full knowledge. The Nazis allowed these men to serve but at the same time exterminated their families.
History is full of similar stories and situations. Even the American revolution had some informants, "loyalists" and all-round traitors in uniforms and in plain clothes fighting alongside Great Britain. The main point I am trying to make here is that, there are betrayers, double-crossers, double-dealers, rats, evil and demonic men in every society and Africa is no exception.
There were evil men in Africa in those days and there are evil men in Africa today. The same way some Jews helped Adolf Hitler murder their fellow Jews and some informants (and "loyalists") betrayed America, I believe some very few Africans did in fact help the Europeans to get slaves in Africa in one way or the other. The purpose of this article is not to paint Africa and Africans as "saints" but to tell history from an African perspective.
In fact, Africa had more than "bad apples" and we do sincerely apologize to our brothers and sisters taken into captivity and beyond. This article is just about the nature of the "trade".
According to one famous African proverb, "Until lions get their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter". Reading the European version of history, one may think the whole continent of Africa participated in that evil trade but that is completely false. Reading the European version of history, it appears Africa and Africans put up no resistance at all and in fact, willingly participated in that evil trade. However, that is also very far from the truth. In fact, several communities across the continent put up great resistance. Some fought and died to protect their people. Sadly, the hunters recorded and shared the history of the hunt and it appears to be the only version the world knows.
It may surprise you to know that most slave owners in America and other parts of the western world were very good "Christians". In fact, some used the Bible to justify owning slaves. The Church, especially the Roman Catholic and the Anglican Churches, owned several acres of slave plantations (Please follow "Link 1" below for details). They were always looking for ways to justify their barbaric activities. Why would they record the true tales of the hunt?
Was Africa one nation? Were Africans one people? Were the Europeans in Africa just to trade? If Africans willingly participated in that "trade" then why would the Europeans bring battle troops and weapons of war all the way from Europe to Africa? If Africans willingly participated in that evil trade then why the so many "Europeans against Natives" wars in African history? Also, if Africans willingly participated then what exactly were the Europeans fighting for in Africa? Were the European currencies of any value to Africans? Was there a common currency in Africa? Which currency was used to buy and sell slaves in Africa? Does the Bible permit slavery and slave trade? Why did the church participate in the slave trade?
Even in today's world, there are wars and rumors of war almost everywhere you go. There were wars in Europe in those days and there were wars in America. There were wars almost everywhere in the world. There were tribal wars in Africa too.
The difference between the tribal wars in Africa and the wars in the outside world was that, in the outside world, the conquered were often butchered (due in part to the highly sophisticated weapons of war used) whereas the conquered in Sub-Saharan Africa, became part of the conqueror. In other words, while no enemy was left standing in the outside world, the conquered enemies were left to live and serve in Africa.
So it is true there were some "slaves" in Africa before the white man came. However, in Sub-Saharan Africa, those "slaves" were not taken purposely to become slaves of another kingdom or empire. They were victims of tribal wars, and it was somehow better than what was happening in the outside world where no enemy was allowed to live. Also, in most cases, this form of slavery wasn't permanent. In fact, once there was peace and understanding among the opposing factions, those in servitude ceased to be "slaves" and could return home.
There was also a form of servitude whereby people voluntarily went into servitude to pay for financial, customary and other forms of debt. Once again, this wasn't permanent. Once the debt was paid, those people ceased to be "slaves" and returned home. In fact, this form of servitude is still practiced in some rural communities in Africa.
In most parts of Africa, stories were orally told from generation to generation, sometimes through music, art and culture. There may be some little embelishments and slight deviations from generation to generation and from community to community. However, the basic truth mostly remains. Before I continue, I am an African and I do cherish our culture and traditions. Also, I did read history in school and I was taught by someone who actually knew what he was talking about.
I read an article online today and I was shocked to read so many people believe Africans sold their own brothers and sisters into slavery just like that. Just like the rest of the world, some of my ancestors were evil but as a whole, they were not "stupid" to have sold their own brothers and sisters into slavery just like that. My ancestors were deceived, demonically manipulated, divided and finally conquered. However, that does not mean they were "fools". In fact, my ancestors were too welcoming and trusting and that brought about our downfall. My ancestors allowed the white strangers into our land because, they (the white strangers) said they "come in peace".
Also, before I continue, please note that there were 2 types of slave trading in Africa. The one introduced mostly by the coming of Islam through the Arab raiders and traders from the Middle East and North Africa (or the Trans-Saharan slave trade) and the one introduced by the coming of the Europeans (or the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The focus of this article). The Trans-Saharan Slave Trade is deeply rooted in the Islamic cultures of several countries in the North of Africa (especially in the Maghreb region or the "Berber world") and still practiced (although silently) by some Muslim-dominant countries such as Mauritania and Libya.
According to my grandfather, in those days when there were no Christianity and no modern-day government systems in Africa, kings, queens, and other traditional rulers ruled their kingdoms as heads of state and judged cases according to the rules and regulations of the land. Those who disobeyed the laws of the land were punished and those who obeyed and sacrificed for the betterment of their communities were rewarded accordingly. Although every land had some "prison" facilities, those prisons weren't meant for large groups of criminals. In other words, those who killed were killed. Those who stole paid dearly for it. Those who slept with people's wives were banished from the land. Children who disobeyed elders were punished accordingly, and so on.
My country Ghana in West Africa, was a major Slave Trading Post (Headquarters) where slaves from different parts of Africa were brought and arranged before shipping abroad.
When the white strangers first came to Africa, my ancestors were not sure about their intentions so most communities drove the white strangers away from their land. However, the white strangers managed to convince some of our traditional rulers that they had not come to cause any harm but just to preach the good news (the Bible) and also to trade with the local people. It was barter trading where goods were exchanged for goods. Please follow "Link 2" below for details.
My country Ghana was called "Gold Coast". Why? Because, gold was in abundance. Although my ancestors valued gold as a precious metal, the white strangers valued it more. To the white strangers, gold was more precious than blood in some cases. In other words, my ancestors had gold in abundance and the white strangers needed some of the gold. The only way for the white strangers to get pieces of gold in Africa was to trade things like bottles of wine, clothing and textiles, guns and ammunitions, etc. That was how the "trade" started.
Some of the local chiefs along the coast started accepting the white strangers by giving them place to stay. The white strangers started building missionary centers where they stayed and preached the gospel and also traded with the local people. However, the white strangers later on expanded those missionary centers (including churches and cathedrals) into forts and castles (where they packed slaves before shipping them abroad).
The white strangers did not understand the local language and the local people did not understand a word the white strangers were saying so it made communication very difficult. To help break the language barrier, the white strangers went to the local rulers and asked the local rulers to give them some of the local people to train so they could speak and translate the foreign language which would make communication easier. However, none of those local rulers were ready to give their people out to go stay with strangers. In fact, it was a great taboo in most communities across Sub-Saharan Africa. Such people had to be traditionally cleansed before they could rejoin their communities.
Later on, some of the local rulers came up with an idea that, since the white strangers said they came to preach the "good news" which was meant to change people from their bad ways, they could actually give some of the "OK" prisoners to the white strangers so the white strangers could preach the good news they said they came to preach to those prisoners, change them into good people and also train them in the foreign language in order to aid communication. So the traditional rulers gave some of those prisoners out to the white strangers and to show appreciation, those white strangers gave gifts like textiles, bottles of wine, mirrors, etc. to the traditional rulers. That was how the white strangers got their first "local servers".
Those local people (the former prisoners) lived and served the white strangers in the castles and forts and learned the foreign language which enabled them to serve as mediators, translating the local language for the white strangers and the foreign language to the local people. This helped a lot in communication.
As I mentioned earlier on, those local servers living with the white strangers were some of the "bad apples" in the society and although they served as mediators and made communication a whole lot easier, they also made life a living hell for the local people (some as a form of revenge). For example, when the white strangers sent them to go collect taxes (lets say 5 pieces of gold), those criminals added their own taxes and made it 7 pieces of gold. At times too, they mis-translated just so they could get more power. Some of those criminals even became more powerful than the traditional rulers.
In other words, the white strangers, after preaching the "good news" to those prisoners, turned them into far more dangerous monsters than they were before. Why? Because, only the white man had guns at that time and they shot anyone the criminals considered "criminals".
Those local people living with the white strangers served and "worshiped" them so well to the point where the white strangers began asking for more. Because of the benefits they derived from those local servers, some of the white strangers took some local servers with them on their return home. Back home (abroad), they found those local servers (the black men from Africa) extremely useful and decided to come back for more.
They realized they could use them to work on their plantation farms back home to make more money. They also realized they could sell some of those local servers to their friends and countrymen and make more money, and that was why most of them (the white strangers but this time around slave traders) returned with the intention of picking more local servers (this time around, slaves).
So they returned for slaves but no local ruler was ready to give their people out except those criminals I mentioned earlier on. In my country for example, the Ashantis and those living in the interior parts of the country did not want to have anything to do with the white strangers. In fact, the first white stranger that set foot on the Ashanti empire did not return.
At this point in time, the white strangers had already expanded those churches and cathedrals into forts and castles with slave dungeons. Although history often portrays it as an open secret, the local population had no idea those slave dungeons even existed. In fact, some of those slave dungeons had church services on top of them.
As I mentioned earlier on, the white strangers needed slaves and more slaves but there was no easy way of getting slaves in Africa. So, what the white strangers did was that, they created confusion among the various tribes so as to create more tribal wars.
Before the white man came to Africa, tribal wars were mostly fought with swords, spears, bows and arrows. Although these weapons were lethal, they were nowhere near as quick and fatal as the guns and cannons. The problem here was that, only the white strangers had guns and decided which tribal group to support in times of battle. Any tribal group the white strangers supported with their powerful cannons, guns and ammunitions, easily conquered their enemies.
This also created another major problem. The white strangers did not support the tribal groups for free. In fact, the white strangers started demanding taxes (which included pieces of gold and prisoners of war) and total submission after victory. Any tribal group or community which failed to submit to European authority or refused to pay taxes, were wiped out. Sometimes the leaders of those communities were executed publicly as a form of warning to neighboring communities. Most communities in Africa were turned into concentration camps with European authorities in place.
Although not often mentioned in history books, there were well-trained and well-equiped European troops all across Sub-Saharan Africa and they fought several battles with native tribes who refused to submit to European authority and that explains the several "Europeans against natives" wars in African history.
Yes, there were some greedy and evil Africans who helped the Europeans to get slaves in one way or the other. However, as a whole, Africans were not ready to give their own brothers and sisters out into slavery just like that. In fact, most fought and died in battles to save their communities from the hands of those evil white strangers.
In Ghana for example, because the Ashanti empire was so powerful to defeat, the white strangers created so much confusion and so many wars between the Ashantis and the neighboring tribes and in most cases, supplied some of those neighboring tribes with guns and other powerful weapons of war to enable them defeat the Ashantis. The white strangers continued this until they were able to defeat the Ashantis. The white strangers then took away the king of the Ashantis (Nana Prempeh I) and the queen mother (Nana Yaa Asantewaa) and several others into exile just to break the Ashanti kingdom apart even after slavery so they could colonize and control the Ashanti gold, etc.
To conclude, yes, there were some greedy and evil Africans who did help the Europeans to get slaves in Africa in one way or the other. However, there was no slave-trading agreement between the continent of Africa and the Europeans who visited our land like history portrays. Africa as a continent, was deceived and demonically manipulated. Also, Africa as a whole, did not willingly participate in that evil trade like history portrays. Maybe it wasn't enough resistance but some communities across Africa fought and perished in the hands of those evil white strangers who visited our land.