Did Africans "sell" their own people into slavery? Well, the simple answer is yes. Some Africans did indeed "sell" their own people into slavery the same way some Jewish people helped Adolf Hitler butcher their fellow Jews. I put "sell" in quote for a reason and we will see why.
According to Jomo Kenyatta, the founding father and first president of Kenya, "when the missionaries first arrived, Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They (the European missionaries) taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened our eyes, they had the land and we had the Bible". That was the beginning of the European colonization of Africa.
Below are some interesting questions to begin with.
Was Africa one nation? Were Africans one people? Were the Europeans in Africa just to trade? If Africans willingly participated in the trade then why would the Europeans bring battle troops and weapons of war all the way from Europe to Africa? Why the so many "Europeans against Natives" wars in African history and what 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 slaves in Africa? Did Africans willingly trade ship-loads of "valuable" slaves for just bottles of wine? Does the Bible permit slavery and slave trade? Why did the church participate in the slave trade? Well, let's try and answer some of these questions together.
Even in this modern 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 Africa (excluding Arabs/Muslims in the north) 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 "slaves" in Africa in those days before the White man came.
However, those "slaves" were not taken by force purposely to become slaves of another Kingdom or empire. They were just victims of tribal wars and it was somehow "better" than what was happening in the outside world where no enemy was allowed to live.
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. My teachers and oral tradition taught me something quite different. I wanted to comment on the article but the comment section had been disabled and that is why I am making this post to let people know that we Africans (my ancestors) weren't that stupid to have sold our own brothers and sisters into slavery just like that. We were stupid to have allowed ourselves to be manipulated by the foreigners (my people used to refer to the white men as "white strangers" so pardon me if you see a "white stranger" in my post). We were stupid to have trusted the "white stranger" in the first place and we were stupid to have allowed the "white stranger" into our land. My people allowed the white strangers into our land because they (the white strangers) said they "come in peace".
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 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 one I am talking about). The Trans-Saharan Slave Trade is deeply rooted in the Islamic cultures of several countries in the North (especially in the Maghreb region aka the "Berber world") and still practiced although "silently" by 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 land were rewarded accordingly. Although every land had some "prison" facilities, those prisons weren't meant for large groups of criminals so 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, We (my ancestors) were not sure about their intentions so most communities drove them away from their land but 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. 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 the foreign language which would make communication easier but none of those local rulers were ready to give their people out to go stay with strangers.
Later on, some of the local rulers came up with an idea that, instead of killing those criminals, they could actually give those criminals to the white strangers so the white strangers could preach the good news they said they came to preach to those criminals and also train them in the foreign language in order to aid communication which was better than killing those criminals. So the traditional rulers gave those criminals out to the white strangers and to show appreciation, those white strangers gave gifts like bottles of wine, mirrors, etc. to the traditional rulers. That was how the white strangers got their first "local servers".
Those local people (the criminals) 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 the criminals 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 8 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 criminals, turned them into even 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 criminals were the few "Africans" who helped the white strangers to get more slaves. However, don't forget the fact that they were criminals condemned to death in their various societies for being "Un-African".
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) very 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 relatives 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 and prisoners of war (tribal wars). 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.
However, the white strangers needed slaves and more slaves but there was no easy way of getting slaves in Africa. So what they did was that, they created confusion among the various tribes so that there would be more tribal wars and more war prisoners so they could get more slaves and prisoners of war and that was exactly what they did. As time went on, the white strangers started supplying some of the local warriors (most of them criminals) with guns to enable them wound and capture more war prisoners for them and in return the white strangers started giving those local warriors gifts to encourage them catch more prisoners of war for them. Please note. My were not ready to give their own brothers and sisters out into slavery. Rather, the white strangers were the ones who "demonically" manipulated my people by creating so much confusion between the various tribes and creating so many tribal wars all in an effort to get slaves.
The more tribal conflicts the white strangers created, the more slaves they got so those white strangers created even more confusion among tribal groups and communities. In my country 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 some cases supplied some of those neighboring tribes with guns to enable them defeat the Ashantis. The white strangers continued this until they were able to defeat the Ashantis and 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, we Africans did not sell our own brothers and sisters into slavery just like that. We were deceived and "demonically" manipulated by those white strangers who visited our land and the most painful part is that, some of my people were too blind to see which is very sad.