slavery africa

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? 

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 some "slaves" in Africa in those days before the white man came. However, those "slaves" were not taken 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. 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, I am not a historian and I don't claim to be one. However, I am an African and I cherish our oral traditions. I did study history in school (in Africa) and I was taught by someone who actually knew what he was talking about.

In continuation, 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 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 or 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. 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. My country Ghana was called "Gold Coast" because gold was in abundance. Although my ancestors valued gold as a precious metal, the white strangers valued it more as a precious mineral worth more than blood in some cases. In other words, my ancestors had the gold and the white strangers needed the gold and had to trade things like bottles of wine, clothing and textiles, guns and ammunitions, etc. for pieces of gold. 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. 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, change them into good people 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 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 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 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 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 that was exactly what they did.

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 gun. 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 any tribal group 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 the Europeans and 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 "European against natives" wars in the African history.

In other words, my ancestors were not ready to give their own brothers and sisters out into slavery. In fact, most fought and died in battle just to save their communities from the hands of those white strangers. 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. 

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 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, my ancestors did not sell their own brothers and sisters into slavery just like that. They were deceived and "demonically" manipulated by those white strangers who visited our land.

RELATED:  Christianity and Slavery: The role of the Church

RELATED:  The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: Follow-up

RELATED:  Barter Trading and Taxation in Colonial Africa

Comments  
Richard Lopez
#21 Richard Lopez
Sorry to add to the list of people disagreeing so far, but I'm on the side that says Africans did. With equal respect for the fact that Africans were, sold into slavery. What I mean is, it should absolutely be looked at, seriously, as a mixed bag. If you compare it to atrocities at the same scale -- The Holocaust, Egyptian Slavery, Vietnam maybe -- and try to see it neutrally/racially, as people exploiting people, then maybe the most sensible comparison is to Germans and Hitler: Not all Germans were and are, and Germany has clearly owned up to having a dictator rule over them, not to mention Italy and others, not that any of it can ever produce a permanent end to racism unless it actually includes future generations beyond years we could be counting. Europeans, and especially the British, participated in buying and selling slaves. For which they are 100% culpable. There are no excuses. And if you want that deplorable kind of behavior to stop I think it'd be wise to learn that greed and every other shitty thing people ever engender goes well beyond the color of skin. 
Quote
April
#20 April
Racism will never end. We are all evolved apes and capable of some pretty horrific behaviors when we feel violated. History has proven that. We are social animals who are territorial and we tend to prefer to associate with people who look like us and think like us. That will likely never change, as it is programmed into our DNA. Evolution has enlightened our thinking somewhat, as the human brain is far superior intellectually speaking, to the apes and other creatures of this earth. We attempt to control our instincts at times, which has created "civilization". What we fail to see is that we simply find other outlets for our feelings of competitiveness and territoriality, such as sports and even politics (ie: the democrats vs. the republicans). How many people are truly open to critical thinking about issues when speaking to a person from the "other tribe"? Take a look at any twitter feed, etc. and what you'll find is people hunkering down for the team / tribe, who resort to viscous primitive attacks and even outright lies when they feel threatened by an opposing position or attempt at logic. The only one you can control is yourself, so I would suggest that you stop blaming anyone or anything for your problems and use the superior human brain that you have been blessed with to correct your thinking and plan for your own future and teach your children to do the same. Be honest with yourself and ask yourself if you can study harder or work harder or network better or make better choices or whatever you need to do to succeed. Racism is not exclusive to the white race. War is not exclusive to the white race. Greed is not exclusive to the white race. I could go on. It is time to concentrate more on personal responsibility. That is our only chance to better this world.
Quote
Almost Agree
#19 Almost Agree
Quoting Muna:
It saddens me to experience hate from some of our brothers and sisters that are descendants of slavery all because ....

I am so sorry man, that is idealistic. I know white, black, chinese, americans, gay, women, men, muslims, christians etc. And in all those groups there are good people and there are others that could be genocides if you give them a chance. We need to move on. I think the good people are the majority. That a part of europeans did something terrible can't be deny it. I am mix raised, and can see the good and the bad of my heritage. No one was fully good or fully bad. So what we need to be sure is that doesn't happen. So instead of that why don't we unite to criticize current atrocities. The killing of gays in Saudi Arabia, the killing of Muslims in Myanmar, the killing of Indigenous in the Amazonas, the atrocities of US, China and Russia. All those things are happening but people prefers to keep discussing about what happens in the past, instead of using history to learn from our mistakes, and stop oppression in any of its forms because at the end we are all humans.
Quote
Almost Agree
#18 Almost Agree
Quoting Chukwuemeka:
This article is making a very important point but sadly some people are getting it all wrong. The article is not claiming no single African participated. However, ...

I agree with you, and would add we can not generalize all the Europeans and Americas as masterminds. And we can't say either that America was built on Slavery like if that was the only reason. Of course you can't deny it was part of it. However, to say that was the thing that built a country is to dismiss the hard work on millions. I can agree that racism must stop, however, to blame the "Europeans" and not only part of them as those to blame, it's not ok. And to forget the crimes of some Africans, doesn't help to the discussion if we really want to move on. The rhetoric I can hear these days is "you are bad, and I am good" and that will fuel extremism in both sides.
Quote
ed chapman
#17 ed chapman
I went to an all-white college in Texas back in the '60's and got a BS in history with a specialty in southern history and I must say, the professors I had were very specific about white slavers invading the west coast of Africa, and from what I still remember, there was believed to be minimal instances of Africans selling their own people and we were required to do a lot of supplemental reading and research in the library and I can tell you - at least 90% of the slave trade was perpetrated by legions of white slavers. This recent push to throw the blame on the African people looks to be a kind of white supremist ruse to continue the white policy of doing anything to feel superior and yes, I'm an old white man but God didn't put us on earth to hate each other. This recent surge in placing culpability on Africans for slaves coming to America is rubbish - I'd love to see some non-biased, non-rightwing proof on this. Otherwise - haters give it up.
Quote
Jack Rigg
#16 Jack Rigg
Michael McMurray:
It's a weird thing how some people try to exalt the military as supposedly THE symbol/example of the best about the U.S.

The military is a tyrannical dictatorial organization that's the opposite of a democracy and strips people of their individual freedoms and liberty. And they do so by openly admitted 'brainwashing' when they "break people" in bootcamp so they can "build them backup again" to be mindless bots.
Quote
Hope
#15 Hope
This is a great read. Thank You for sharing. Perspective is important when studying history and often history is reduced to dates and whatever is most palatable. I went looking for something like this today because I have a hard time believing that most slaves were purchased from other African slave owners. This account makes sense to me.
Quote
David
#14 David
Muslims took all kinds of slaves it is known in medieval times that many trade routes were founded by Muslim traders that go all the way from the Rusian steps to the Middle East then into Northern Africa and Europe. This known and factual according to medieval history. The routes had been used for thousands of years. It is also known that Muslims sold Africans that were acquired from other African tribes. Then sold into Europe. Muslim Arabs would trade anything and sell it where they would get the best price that also included any slave black white Asian or European.
Quote
Chukwuemeka
#13 Chukwuemeka
This article is making a very important point but sadly some people are getting it all wrong. The article is not claiming no single African participated. However, under what circumstances/conditions were those who participated? Also, is it right to generalize an entire continent based on the actions of some selected few?

There are evil men in every society. Even heaven had Lucifer.. and I think it would be quite insane for someone to think that no single African helped the white man get slaves. The criminals in our societies were punished for their crimes. Then the white man came with the Bible promising to change criminals into good people. We released those criminals to them and what did they do? the white man supplied those criminals with guns and brainwashed them into killing machines (all because the white man needed slaves). Those criminals never got paid for their services (as in selling the captured slaves). Their payment was in kind as in "revenge". Also, those criminals represented an insignificant fraction of the population. For example, Adolf Hitler had an entire army supporting him but would it be OK to say "German people killed the Jews during the Holocaust"? We only hear "Adolf Hitler murdered 6 million Jews". Several Jews helped Adolf Hitler murder their fellow Jews yet how often we hear "Jews murdered their fellow Jews during the Holocaust"?. Why then is it OK to generalize and blame an entire continent for crimes masterminded by outsiders (Europeans)?? That is where history is wrong.
Quote
Joe Michigan
#12 Joe Michigan
The ONLY African Americans I know are the ones born in Africa. I have had the pleasure of knowing a number of them and they are in many ways like me in my understanding of what it is like to be away from the "mother" country, and the work ethic it takes to make something new in the USA. My parents born overseas and myself experiencing the "old country" for 8 years gives me a rather unique perspective. People whose ancestors have lived for more than 3 generations in the US just don't understand that. Except for the Americans of African descent that decide to leave the familiar confines of the black neighborhood. They become immigrants all over again, with their own kin rejecting them for not "representing" and the white people not understanding what they are going through.
Quote
Michael DelGrosso
#11 Michael DelGrosso
Was a nasty, but necessary war fought in America to free black slaves? Because of that nasty, but necessary war, have blacks realized that they are free? Do blacks realize that even awful, horrific crimes against you don't have to mean the forever destruction of you? Are blacks able to forgive? Are blacks able to acknowledge that many peoples have been enslaved no matter how it happened, yet they have not self-destructed? Do blacks ignore the huge leaps and bounds made by blacks? Can blacks accept that everyone's best and worst quality is that we are human, therefore we sometimes make horrible decisions? Do blacks know that slavery is not what drives you to kill your fellow black American? Do blacks realize that slave owners are not what drives absentee parents? Can blacks let go of the past, so that their hands are open to take hold of their future?

If blacks cannot understand and accept the obvious answers to the aforementioned questions, they will continue to be a bottom-rung race of free, but unequal (by their own hands) people. The past happens in order to make ready the path for the future. Your present situation is only as permanent as you want it to be. Change direction, change your future.
Quote
Shanon Sugges
#10 Shanon Sugges
There was slavery in many different forms throughout history. The difference between those and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is the circumstances surrounding the ability to enslave someone. It was historically a by-product of war. The winning side took slaves from the losing side and used them to rebuild their country. There were others who were taken and enslaved but it was for the most part illegal and done in the shadows. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was the first time that a person's color was used as a criteria to enslave people.

And for those who believe slavery was over in 1865 after Lincoln freed them, slavery never ended. It only changed to an institution of the state. It was an acceptable punishment if you committed a crime. Read the 13th and 14th Amendments. Shortly after the emancipation proclamation, laws were passed that targeted freed Africans so that the state could then turn them back over to the plantations they had work on through the convict leasing program. This still exist today.
Quote
Scott Goss
#9 Scott Goss
Every culture and society has had slaves, but it's only the black slaves that are ever mentioned. No one else is important but blacks right? I'm so freaking sick of this. And blacks don't tell me to keep quiet about this! You don't own the rights to free speech. You were not a slave, your parents were not slaves, and your grandparents were not slaves, and your great-grandparents were not slaves. I did not own slaves, my parents did not own slaves, My grandparents did not own slaves, and my great grandparents did not own slaves. Get over it! You are not the only people who have suffered in this world. Yet your voices are the only ones we here crying all the time about everything!
Quote
Bill DeMent
#8 Bill DeMent
Slavery was a part of our history. There is nothing we can do about it now. We fought a civil war over this question and the results was that all slaves were freed and slavery was abolished in the United States. History is history. We cannot rewrite history today to fit our own version of how we feel. There are the haves and the have nots in all societies, even the African societies from which most if not all Black Americans originate. We need to stop living in the past and start living for the future. As long as we divide ourselves into black and white we will never achieve the goals of Dr. King. For many years, I thought he was evil incarnate, but as I have aged and gained wisdom, I have come to understand that he was indeed a great man who had a vision of the future that is totally different from the race mongers of today. If he were alive, he would be ashamed of the way our society has turned out.
Quote
Muna
#7 Muna
It saddens me to experience hate from some of our brothers and sisters that are descendants of slavery all because they think our ancestors sold them into slavery. To be honest I do understand why they think so. Indeed slavery not only hurt our ancestors that were taken into slavery, it also put Africa as a continent backward. We have our culture but the white strangers came with deceit, manipulation and took our kindness and stole our people and riches. Africans tend to trust strangers so easily if only the white men were never allowed into our lands. I hope we keep a very watchful eye on the Chinese with their so called loans.
Quote
Dana Gale
#6 Dana Gale
To those of you who want to place blame on Africans for selling their own, please read king Leopold's ghost. While it is primarily a story of how one man fed his greed by raping the Congo resulting in the death of millions of Congolese, it also shines a light on how every European contributed to get their piece of the pie. Yes, Africans sold slaves to white men. Mostly these were Africans operating out of fear, or, and we must concede this, greed. However, it does not make it right, and it certainly does not allow you to place the blame for the European and American enslavement of Africans ON the Africans. That would be like concluding the Jews were responsible for the holocaust simply because you were able to find a few Jews that turned in other Jews. Otherwise good people act in unlikely ways when they are afraid, or even trusting of a malevolent intruder.

So, as a white person, I say to all of you white people who think that showing that Africans sold other Africans somehow reduces our culpability in the slave trade, it does not. We went into a land that was inhabited by a people with their own cultures, some more advanced by our standards than you might believe, and took out everything we could. All of the riches, all of the resources, which sadly had long lasting effects that we still see today. Read King Leopold's Ghost.
Quote
Rich Attonito
#5 Rich Attonito
Great article and very educational in breaking down the origin of how the slave trade began with the Europeans. Of course it's very unfortunate and we all can't do anything about what happened. The thing I find interesting is that local tribes decided to give criminals over to the Europeans and people seem so surprised that criminals took advantage of the opportunity and basically turned on their own people. It takes two to tango. Unfortunately, the mistake of the tribes with the handling of their criminals was exploited by the economic greed of the Europeans. So lets be real because nobody is completely innocent in this thing. Why would you ever free murderers and thieves? Perhaps if the local leaders allowed the most honorable members of the tribe to bridge the gap then there would be a different outcome. Please don't mistake my comment because by no means does that justify the horrors that this developed into with slavery etc.. i'm just commenting in regards to the subject of the article itself. God Bless.
Quote
Claudia Cristina Granjeiro
#4 Claudia Cristina Granjeiro
This manipulation was more cunning in comparison to the Aztecs who already had against them the belief that the Spaniards had been sent by the gods. Now it seemed very simplistic to me that the Africans themselves sold their own people. In Brazil, there is a break in politics and we see a country being governed by criminals and the people are simply paralyzed and few know to conclude that there is manipulation by these criminals using the public power to try to paint the path of crimes they have committed and which have been committed against the motherland. They distort any order of interpretation that underpins the Republic and Democracy. They have managed to instill hatred against only one party while the others, with a rare exception, are the criminals selling our country and taking our people to retreat that I could never have imagined, not only our material possessions like Petrobras, but also issues like Education, Health and other essential services are being left to be provided only for the political and economic class to accumulate and accumulate more and more to the detriment of the less favored classes and minorities. In a world with real-time information and people did not change their way of acting from those you could not go get information and relate them so that you could have some degree. How many beliefs do I have and which ones will I be able to overcome?
Quote
Michael Van McMurray
#3 Michael Van McMurray
I bet if China, the Russians or some Alien life form showed up on our doorstep to start a war; none of us would worry about who is Black or White or who screwed up 100 years ago. We would all be AMERICAN, Brothers and Sisters, and kicking somebody's ass. Keep in mind, that the media is going to look for the Radicals and these people are a discredit to both Black and Whites. It's easy to think that all whites think one way or all blacks think another way when you see this stuff on CNN, but truly you are only talking less than 2% that seem to speak for the rest of us. When I was in the military we all got along and respected one another. We had the same goal and same mission and the color of our skin did not prevent us from achieving these things TOGETHER.
Quote
Milton e locklear
#2 Milton e locklear
They did similar to native Americans. It always goes to greed and money. They have no remorse. They always say how sorry they are but at no given time do they mention giving back the stolen wealth. I am sure they will find a verse. After all, they are Christians and "civilized".
Quote
K. Ananse
#1 K. Ananse
This article does not in any way portray Africans as saints. It is just history from an African perspective. Some Africans will give you this version of history. Others will give you the European version. My teacher in Africa gave a similar version of history while my history book said something quite different.

It is true our brothers and sisters taken into captivity suffered a lot and continue to suffer because of the transatlantic slave trade. However, people often forget the fact that Africans back home and Africa as a continent suffered a lot too and continue to suffer because of the slave trade. Millions of able-bodied men and women were taken out of the continent to provide “free labor” to the outside world. In the end, the outside world prospered (from the free labor) while Africa suffered and continue to suffer.

Some Americans try to downplay the role of slavery and slaves in America’s rise to power and fame by saying only about 2% of Americans owned slaves during the peak of slavery. However, they often forget the fact that, America's entire economy depended on slavery and slaves. In fact, slaves built America. Someone may ask “how?” Well, the expansion of slavery in the first 70-80 years after the American independence, drove the evolution and modernization of the United States. Slaves were mercilessly tortured and made to work even harder. This allowed the United States to seize control of the world market for cotton, the key raw material of the Industrial Revolution. That was what made America a prosperous and powerful nation. Cotton was the "OIL" of the early 19th century and determined the wealth of nations. Cotton accounted for a staggering 50 percent of US exports and ignited the economic boom that America experienced.
Quote