slavery africaDid 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.

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

Richard Lopez
#25 Richard Lopez 2021-02-28 06:43
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. 
#24 April 2020-06-14 09:34
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.
Almost Agree
#23 Almost Agree 2020-06-12 13:00
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.
Almost Agree
#22 Almost Agree 2020-06-12 12:49
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.
ed chapman
#21 ed chapman 2020-05-11 11:08
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.
Jack Rigg
#20 Jack Rigg 2019-12-25 07:10
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.
Truth Bomb
#19 Truth Bomb 2019-10-18 23:23
Quoting Chukwuemeka:
Why then is it OK to generalize and blame an entire continent for crimes masterminded by outsiders (Europeans)?? That is where history is wrong.

You're the one trying to generalize and blame an entire continent (Europe) for crimes committed by a very small number of people, and with the full complicit assistance of Africans. Africans were the ones enslaving other Africans, and then selling them to the Europeans, because Africans had been doing that for centuries before the Europeans even showed up.

Stop trying to blame Europeans only for what they and Africans did together, as a full partnership. All it does is provide excuses for racism. That's where YOU are wrong.
Truth Bomb
#18 Truth Bomb 2019-10-18 23:14
Quoting Dana Gale:
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.

YES, it DOES. You don't seem to understand that the slave trade was not something the Europeans forced or coerced the Africans into doing; it was an extension of the indigenous slavery which had been endemic to sub-Saharan Africa for centuries. The Europeans did not enslave the Africans. AFRICANS enslaved the Africans, and then sold them to the white folks, becoming very rich and powerful as a result. That's why, in fact, when the Europeans and the US gave up slavery, the African nations did not, and kept right on enslaving and selling to anyone who would buy; firstly an illegal trade to the Americas, and also an expansion of the ancient Arab slave trade. They were not about to give up their power and wealth just because the white folks didn't want to buy their slaves anymore. You are peddling a false narrative about history.

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's not about reducing culpability, because guess what? You and I are not culpable for things which took place hundreds of years before we were born. It's about showing that the narrative that White People Enslaved Africa is completely false, and in fact the Europeans didn't even start conquering and colonizing Africa until decades AFTER the Atlantic slave trade had been abolished. You are conflating the colonization of Africa with the Atlantic slave trade, when not only are they n ot the same thing, but the colonization took place under the excuse that it needed to happen because the Africans wouldn't give up slavery for themselves. Yes, there were ulterior economic motives to that, but one does not need to read Leopold's Ghost to understand that.

In fact, the European nations stripped Leopold of the colony precisely because of how awful he was. The ONLY reason you even know about the Congolese genocide by Leopold in the first place is because white people were appalled by it, and have been writing about it to condemn it ever since.
Truth Bomb
#17 Truth Bomb 2019-10-18 23:04
Quoting K. Ananse:
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.

That's not correct. They were not taken out of Africa, they were SOLD out of Africa, by African slave traders. That's not 'free labor', that's sadly a commodity that most of Africa already embraced, and which was eventually ended because the European nations decided it was evil.

Also, in terms of numbers, you're presenting the information in a misleading way. 12.6 million Africans wee sold into slavery during the Atlantic trade, but that's over 350 years, skewing heavily into the 18th Century. When you break down the numbers per year, that's actually only about 30k. Now, 30k is still 30k, but when you consider that the actual population of sub-Saharan Africa at the time was about 50m, this means that Africa was only losing 0.06% of its people every year. That's why in 1600 the population was around 44m, in 1700 it was 52m, and in 1800 it was over 60m, so the drain of able bodies didn't impact the population growth in any way.

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.
That's not true at all, and no, slaves did not 'build America'. The expansion of slavery in America after independence took place exclusively in the Southern states, and was grown from the slave population already there. It was pretty horrible, that's for sure, but it also was only due to the invention of the cotton gin. Cotton may have been important, but it sure wasn't the "oil of the time". It was a precious product that was important for about 30 years, before it slowly was replaced by other commodities; that's why, in fact, the Northern states and the UK wanted to end the slave trade. The idea of cotton being indispensible was created by the Southern plantation owners themselves, who insisted that the world could not do without their system, and argued that as a reason to NOT get rid of slavery. The rest of America, plus the UK, did not agree.

Please stop spreading this false idea that slavery built America. It didn't.

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. .
Truth Bomb
#16 Truth Bomb 2019-10-18 22:49
I am so tired of this kind of misinformation, just because some people do not wish to face up to historical reality.

Slavery had been endemic to West Africa, and many other parts, for centuries before the Europeans showed up. It's remarkably easy to find this information if you simply search, but I'll save you all some trouble and offer you this basic resource. In fact , the Arab slave trade had been going on since the 8th Century, but everyone seems to overlook that, despite more Africans being exported from Africa in that trade than in the Atlantic one.

When the Europeans showed up, they were looking for trade and a way to establish themselves. To do this, they copied the Ottoman model which had been plaguing European coasts for at least 200 years prior: they established ports, and raised the West African coastline for slaves. But then, something strange happened. Far from being weak, the West Africans fought them off, and then when they discovered that slaves were the goal, they simply offered to sell slaves to the Europeans to avoid any hassle. That's how the Atlantic Slave Trade started, and it grew from there. The African nations were not coerced, tricked or manipulated into this: is was simply an expansion of what they had already been doing for centuries. The more slaves the white folks wanted, the more guns, produce and goods the Africans got in exchange, which created enormous slaving empires, such as the Oyo empire (Yoruba), Kong Empire, Imamate of Futa Jallon, Imamate of Futa Toro, Kingdom of Koya, Kingdom of Khasso, Kingdom of Kaabu, Fante Confederacy, Ashanti Confederacy, and the kingdom of Dahomey. These kingdoms relied on a militaristic culture of constant warfare to generate the great numbers of human captives required for trade with the Europeans. Often those poor captives were marched up to 500 miles to the sea, with a higher death toll than the Middle Passage, before they even saw a white man.

The vast majority of slaves sold in the Atlantic trade were obtained in this fashion. To pretend that this was all just some nasty trick pulled by white devils is absurd, disgusting, and frankly racist. And, also, it should be remembered that when the West did abolish slavery, those African nations did NOT, and instead expanded their plantation network and redoubled their sales to the Middle-east. The historical reality is that Africa was raped by Africans, who got very wealthy and powerful as a result, and even the Scramble for Africa which took place afterwards was predicated upon the excuse of ending slavery, since the Africans were refusing to give it up themselves.

It's time to grow up, and just accept that truth. That doesn't mean the Atlantic slave trade was okay, but it sure as hell wasn't something done to Africa by evil white folks.
#15 Hope 2019-10-07 11:48
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.
#14 David 2019-08-02 20:49
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.
#13 Chukwuemeka 2019-01-28 07:05
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.
Joe Michigan
#12 Joe Michigan 2019-01-28 06:42
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.
Michael DelGrosso
#11 Michael DelGrosso 2018-12-09 13:07
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.