The MAAFA (enslavement of Africans) Timeline
The MAAFA (enslavement of Africans) Timeline
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The Maafa: A Holocaust of Greed
The term Maafa is kiswahili for "disaster" or "terrible occurrence, and thus the name now given to the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. The Trans Atlantic Slave Trade is probably the most horrendous and traumatic event in the Western hemisphere. To the descendants of Africans now residing in North America, South America, and the Caribbean, it is definitely the most significant event in our history. The Trans Atlantic Slave Trade is born out of greed. With the "discovery" of the New World, Europe saw the probability of amassing large amounts of wealth unknown to the region at that time. For the labor needed to collect this wealth gained from gold, silver, sugar, tobacco and other crops, Europeans went to the shores of Africa. For years the Europeans had traded with the Africans for crops and other items. But now they came for human bodies. The ensuing trade turned portions of the African continent into chaos, empires rising and falling based on their quota of slaves. The brutalities and degradation these victims existed under was daily and never-ending. And the legacy would continue to their children and descendants for generations to come. This was the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade: an event which destroyed peoples and whole cultures; an event which would destabilize a continent, changing it forever; an event which would enrich Europe, create empires, and build America.
The Slave Trade was not a statistic...The Slave Trade was people living, lying, stealing, murdering, dying.
The Slave Trade was a Black mother suffocating her new-born baby because she didn't want him to grow up to be a slave.
The Slave Trade was a "kind" captain forcing his suicide minded passengers to eat by breaking their teeth...
The Slave Trade was a pious captain holding prayer services twice a day on his slave ship and writing later the famous hymn: "How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds."
Lerone Bennet, Before the Mayflower
Given its profitable nature, it is not surprising that nearly EVERYONE was involved in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Europeans would play the most significant role in the trade as they were the buyers and thus exercised the greatest amount of control. Europeans of various nationalities, status and religions engaged in slavery. This included the Spanish and the French, royalty and merchants, Catholics and Jews. Arabs, as in the East, played a significant role in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. They raided many African villages and were key intermediaries between Europeans and Africans.
The African Role in the Slave Trade
The issue of African involvement in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade is a complex one. First it must be understood that, as with the rest of the world, slavery had long existed in Africa. The form it took however differed in various respects from its European counterpart. Slavery in Africa was a product of warfare in which the conquered were expected to become servants to the victors. Or it may have been a form of punishment for crime, taboo breaking, etc. There was certainly some level of cruelty as servitude demands such. Yet these captives were never treated as entirely sub-human beings. There were many cases of slaves marrying into the households which held them. Prior to European contact, a point at which the African system of slavery changed drastically, slavery was never the economic base of any African society. And it did not so fully deny anyone their humanity as European chattel slavery would do.
The Arabic technique of "divide and conquer" was mastered by Europeans. They would give one group of Africans guns to raid another for slaves. They would then arm another to do the same and yet another to help them protect themselves from other African slavers. If one wanted guns to protect one's self from slavers, one was forced to become a slaver also. This vicious cycle of bodies-for-guns-or -protection, spread like a disease. Some Africans, such as those of Dahomey, prospered immensely from slave trading. Slaves could be bartered for anything from glass trinkets to rum and whiskey. Especially traded, were guns. This greed on the part of Africans was key in their participation in the trade.
It must be understood that there was no unifying "racial" identity of the period between diverse African ethnic groups. Making slaves of captives of war seemed "natural." And the participants were mostly royalty and slave warrior groups. Only in the rarest circumstance did Africans actually raid their own villages for slaves. Most came from other ethnic groups as the product of war. It should also be remembered that many of those who participated in the trade often became slaves themselves. Ethnic warfare and chaos was needed continually to keep the trade alive. Africans owned no ships to transport the cargo of human bodies, no factories to manufacture guns and no large plantations to be operated by slaves. In essence had there been no need for slaves by Europe and her colonies, there would have been no slave trade. States such as Ashanti, Dahomey, Bambara and many others grew powerful from slave trading. This era of greed on the part of Africa's ruling class would cost it dearly in the end. In the end it was Africa which was left weakened and disunited and Europe who prospered. As one historian has said, "Europeans did not come for the Ibo, Mandingo or Yoruba---they came for us all."
Capture and the Slave Dungeons
European slavers and their African allies raided the Western coast of Africa with guns and cannons, setting fire to towns and villages. Women caught in these raids were usually sexually abused through rapes: public or private, gang or individual. This act of disempowerment served a dual purpose: to strip African women of any dignity and to force African men to watch as their sisters, daughters, wives, aunts, grandmothers and friends suffered while they stood by powerless. Children, male or female, endured the worst sexual abuse often leaving them bleeding to death or in a state of permanent shock. European diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea were often passed on to these victims. Captured and bound with ropes, nets, wood, iron, leather or other bindings, the Africans would then set upon a torturous march to the coast where many died along the way.
If they survived the death march to the coast, the dungeons would be the next stop for these captive Africans. Here they were packed into small dirt-floored shacks known as baracoons which held 30 to 50 Africans within a 10 by 15 ft floorspace covered with , urine, feces and blood. Day and night the temperature within the cell was well over 90 degrees. Dehydration through diarrhea, ing and sweating was a common form of death. Here Africans were also branded with hot irons. In such unsanitary conditions, the burns often became infected inducing fevers or gangrene. These hapless victims were clubbed, whipped or shot to death as a warning to other Africans to remain in good health. African women, as would become the routine, were raped repeatedly thus creating a host of unwanted pregnancies. The ground in the women's baracoons was said to often be littered with menstrual blood and aborted fetuses. Pictured here is the infamous slave dungeon of El Emina in Ghana. Hundreds of thousands of Africans died in these dungeons waiting, sometimes for months, to be transported through "the door of no return."
The Middle Passage
Jesus, the Liberty, and the Gift of God were some of the ships which dealt in human misery. Africans were brought aboard the ship near, if not fully, naked. Every space available was utilized for holding the human cargo who remained chained to each other. As Eric Willams put it, "Each slave had less room than a man in a coffin." The floor was filled with blood, human waste, parasites and . The air was no better as decaying bodies and human excrement filled the nostrils, often causing suffocation. Parasites such as lice infested dirt matted hair while maggots lived within open sores. Many Africans went insane in this seemingly never-ending nightmare. For African women there was no rest as sexual abuse by the ship's crew was an ever present threat.
Death on these ships came in a variety of ways. Sometimes it came in the cells where disease and suffocation would finally take its toll. Sometimes it was the product of repeated rapes which women, men and boys were forced to endure. Some Africans were thrown overboard, half-alive, to be drowned or devoured by sharks who had learned that the slave ships often dispensed a feast of Black bodies. One slave captain, short on food, had 132 Africans thrown overboard because his insurance covered death by drowning but not starvation. Others still, tired of the rapes, beatings and abuse, jumped eagerly into the waters to escape the madness about them.
Resistance and insurrection were daily thoughts on the captured Africans' and fearful ship captain's minds. Some, such as the famed Amistad Revolt, were successful. But the price of failure was harsh. For women it was gang rape preceded or followed by a flogging. Others were slashed with knives, slit from stomach to vagina. Men were often castrated and mutilated or in one known case, made to rip out and then devour the heart, liver or other organs of their comrades. It was common to make the remaining Africans---men, women and children--- watch these gory spectacles.
How many Africans died in route to the new world? Some say hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of African bodies may litter the Atlantic sea floor.
Arrival: "The New World"
After enduring the horrors of the slave ships, the Africans were then sold and auctioned off, along with livestock, to the highest bidder. Some were sold in the Caribbean, some in South America, some in North America, and others in Europe. All were slaves. (About 49% of all slaves in the Western hemisphere went to South America; 38% went to the Caribbean; a little over 7% went to Mexico and Central America; 4.5% ended up in the United States.)
Life in the new world was harsh for these recently arrived Africans. They were made to complete all types of tasks: from domestics to field hands. Black bodies were whipped, beaten, raped, mutilated, castrated, or worked to death in this strange new land. One terrible account tells of a slave master who nailed a Black woman to a tree by her ear for breaking a dish.
Throughout all of this resistance was common. Many Africans, such as the famous Maroons of the Caribbean and South America, often revolted and escaped into the hillsides. Their courageous raids were a constant thorn in the plantation owner's side. These rebellions would create the Gabriel Prossers, Denmark Vesseys, and Touissant L'Overtures. But revolt was costly. Unless complete freedom was won, as in the case of Haiti, revolts were suppressed brutally. In Santa Domingo there is the account of a large group of rebels being buried alive. The vast majority attempted to resist in any manner they could. But mostly they attempted to survive as Ogun and Oshun were replaced with Mary and Jesus, and Asante, Shakur, and Adun were replaced with John, Elizabeth and Tom. And the horror and humiliation would continue for centuries, endured by one's children and their descendants. Pictured here is an artist's recreation of the plotting of the famed Nat Turner Revolt.
Holocaust: The Numbers
The numbers for this Holocaust are unknown as many documents were falsified by smugglers and ship captains. The numbers however are well into the millions. The most moderate count places 24 million Africans being smuggled into the New World. Half of them would die en route. Others go as high as to claim 40 million Africans imported.
The Impact of Slavery on Africa's Population
To put things into perspective, let us take a look at scholar Walter Rodney's statistics on African population growth during the trans-Atlantic slave trade period. Africa's population growth between 1650 and 1900 went from 100 million to a mere 120 million. If compared with the rate of growth of Europe and Asia, Africa should have held some 400 million. What was the cause of this comparatively low rise in population? What is the cause of the missing 280 million missing men, women and children? Does the answer lie in the slave trade? Does this fantastic number include those who were never born because of the slave trade? What percentage of this vast number were those snatched from the continent? How many in this number were killed in ethnic-slave trade based warfare before they could contribute to Africa's population growth? The answers to these questions remain mostly unanswered. But the very effects of the slave trade on African life seems staggering given the numbers.(Photos and Information courtesy of The Black Holocaust for Beginners by SE Anderson, A Pictorial History of the Slave Trade, Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams, Slave Women in Caribbean Society by Barbara Bush, The Black Man's Burden by ED Morel, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney and Black Jacobins by Cyril James )
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The African Holocaust—The Slave Trade
by John Henrik Clarke
There is a need to look holistically at African history, good and bad. If African people are to be educated to face a new reality on the eve of the twenty first century, we must know about the good times as well as the bad times. We must also know that history has not made Africa and Africans an exceptional case. In the great unfolding of history, Africans have played every role from saint to buffoon and we need to learn how to live with the good as well as the bad. We need to understand the triumphs as well as the tragedies in our history. At the end of what I have been alluding to as the last of the three golden ages in Africa, we entered a period of internal and external tragedy, partly of our making, but mainly imposed on us by foreigners in search of new land, new energy and new resources. We made the terrible mistake of thinking some foreigners could settle our internal "family" disputes. Instead of settling our family disputes, the foreigner turned us, one against the other, and conquered both. This is the great mistake we made in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries at the end of Africa's third golden age. It is the greatest mistake we are making right now. This mistake grows out of our misinterpretation of our greatest strength which is our universal humanity.
As a people we have always been hospitable to strangers. The weakness in this noble gesture is that we have not been alert enough and suspicious enough to examine the intentions of the stranger that we have invited into our homes. All too often in our history strangers come in as guests and stay as conquerors. This is, at least in part, how and why the slave trade started. You cannot explain the slave trade and vindicate or rationalize the European participation in the slave trade by saying some Africans were in the slave trade and sold slaves to the Europeans. In some instances and in some regions, this was basically true. You cannot excuse the European slave trade by saying that slavery was practiced among the Africans before the Europeans came. In some instances and in some regions, this is also basically true. But the system of internal servitude in Africa that existed in some parts of Africa before the coming of he Europeans and the chattel slavery imposed upon Africa by the Europeans had no direct relationship, one to the other. In the African system of servitude which deserves critical analysis, families were broken up but not a single African was shipped out of Africa. In no way am I trying to say or imply that this system was good. My main point is that it was not the same as the European system. The European slave trade was a three continent industry that brought about a revolution in maritime science, international trade and a system of mercantilism that had not previously existed in world history. No Africans had this kind of international contact or were in a position to establish it at this juncture in history.
For more enlightenment on this subject, I invite you to read the following books, Black Mother, The Years of Our African Slave Trade: Precolonial History, 1450–1850, by Basil Davidson, Forced Migration, by Joseph E. Inikore, Christopher Columbus and The African Holocaust, by John Henrik Clarke and How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, by Walter Rodney.
Like most world tragedies the Atlantic slave trade, or the European slave trade, started slowly, almost accidentally. At first the Europeans did not visit the coast of West Africa looking for slaves; they were searching for a route to Asia for the spices and the sweets they had heard about because they needed something to supplement the dull European food of that day. In general they needed new energy, new land and new resources. Plagues, famines and internal wars had left Europe partly exhausted and partly under-populated. In the years between the first European entry into West Africa from about 1438 to the year of Christopher Columbus' alleged discovery of America in 1492, there were no slaves of consequence taken out of Africa because there was no special work outside of Africa for slaves to do. The creation of the plantation system in the Americas and the Caribbean Islands set in motion a way of life for Europeans that they had not previously enjoyed. This way of life and the exploitation of the resources of the Americas and the Caribbean Islands, after the destruction of the nations and civilizations of the people referred to as "Indians," renewed the economic energy of Europe and gave Europeans the ability to move to the center stage of what they refer to as world progress. This was done mainly at the expense of African people who are still not thoroughly aware of their impact on every aspect of world history. Education for a new reality in the African world, must train African people to understand the nature of their contribution to the different aspects of world history, past and present, and the possibilities of their future contribution.
If slavery was the African people's holocaust, we should not be ashamed of saying so. We should have no hesitation in using the word "holocaust" because no one people has a monopoly on the word and I know of no law that gives a people the right to copyright a word as though it is their exclusive ownership. In relationship to this subject I have previously said that slavery was already an old institution before the European slave trade. However, the European slave trade in Africa is the best known and best recorded in the history of the world and also, in my opinion, the most tragic. The neglected tragedy of this system is that it did not have to occur at all. Had the European entered into a genuine partnership with the Africans instead of reducing them to slaves there would have been more goods and services to be had, both for the Europeans and the Africans, through contract labor.
The European slave trade in Africa was started and reached its crescendo between 1400 to 1600. This was also a turning point in the history of the world. Europe was emerging from the lethargy of the Middle Ages. Europeans were regaining their confidence, manifesting a new form of nationalism and extending that nationalism into racism. The African had goods and services that the European needed, and the European had the basic technology that the African needed. Had the African needs and the European needs been considered on an equal basis, there could have been an honest exchange between African and European and the European could still have had labor in large numbers without the slave trade and the massive murder that occurred in the slave trade. This idea, only a dream in the minds of a few men, could have changed the world for the better had it been seriously considered.
Slavery is taught as though it is something that victimized only African people. Slavery is an old institution. It is as old as human need and greed. It grew out of a weakness in the human character and the need to cover-up that weakness by dominating other people. In teaching about slavery, the one thing African people seem not to know is that for most of their existence on this earth they have been a sovereign people, free of slavery. The period of their enslavement is the best known and the best documented in history in comparison to other slave periods in history. When other people were the victims it was comparatively short. Feudalism in Europe, a form of European enslavement of Europeans, no matter what you call it, lasted much longer. This is why a holistic view of history is needed in order to understand this particular part of history that relates to a single people. This is where so-called Black Studies Programs missed both the objective and the subject in the study of slavery.
In evaluating the African slave trade, there was another "Middle Passage" often neglected by most scholars—the Arab slave trade. It is often forgotten that the Arab slave trade in East Africa and the slave trade from North Africa into Inner West Africa was protracted and ruthless. Sometimes the Arabs from the north who were Moslem enslaved Africans in the south who were also Moslems, thereby violating one of the most basic customs of their faith—that no Moslem should enslave another Moslem. There is a small library of books on this subject that most scholars have chosen not to read, thereby making the Arab slave trade the best kept secret in history—although it is not a secret at all. Of the many books and documents that I have read on the subject, Slavery in the Arab World by Murray Gordon, 1987, and The African Slave Trade From the 15th to the 19th Century, in The General History of Africa: Studies and Documents 2, UNESCO,1979. I find the most informative the UNESCO book, especially the chapter, "The Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean."
Like most strangers to Africa the Arabs entered Africa, allegedly, as friends. The Africans who are curious and uncritical about new people, new religions and cultures treated the Arabs as well as they treated other strangers. The Arabs were not always kind in their spread of Islam in Africa. In fact, they were usually ruthless and often disrespectful of societies and cultures that existed in Africa before they arrived. In North Africa the two wars of Arab conquest that came in the seventh and tenth centuries, the first being religious and military, broke the back of Roman influence in the area and replaced the corrupt Roman regimes. At first the Arabs were welcomed in North Africa as a replacement for the ruthless Romans. When the North Africans and Berbers discovered that the Arabs were also ruthless, although in a different way, it was too late because the Arabs now had the military upper hand.
Another aspect of Arab conquest, generally neglected, is the spread of Arab influence in East Africa through accommodation and sexual conquest. Many times the Arabs moved down the coast of East Africa rendering the service of the much needed East African coastal trade. Soon after this, Arabs began to marry or cohabit with African women. This in turn resulted in a generation of African-looking Arabs. These Arab half-breeds facilitated the spread of the trade inland at a time when the Arab face was held in suspicion in this part of Africa. In the fierce competition in the West African slave trade, the Portuguese were driven from West Africa around to East Africa. The Arab slave trade, moving from north to east met the Portuguese slave trade moving up from the south. These two slave trades complemented each other and culminated with the establishment of one of the largest slave trading forts, in the history of the world, on the Island of Zanzibar. This event is well documented in any good history of East Africa, including the Cambridge History of East Africa, and The Cambridge History of Africa. Basil Davidson's A History of East and Central Africa to the late 19th Century, and certain chapters on East Africa in his Lost Cities of Africa is a popularization of the subject. There are two old but valuable books on the subject, East Africa and Its Invaders by Reginald Coupland, and the chapters on East Africa in the book, The Colonization of Africa by Alien Races, by Sir Harry Johnston.
While the East African drama of slavery was unfolding with the Arabs and later with the Portuguese as the protagonists, the larger drama in West Africa was changing the course of history. The Africans, all along the coast of West Africa were being subjected to a form of humiliation never before known, in quite the same way, in their history or human history. The collecting of Africans, sometimes prisoners of war from other Africans, the movement of Africans from the hinterlands to the coast, where very often seven out of ten lost their lives, were forms of unrecorded genocide. This is one of the numerous missing statistics in the attempt to estimate the number of Africans who died in the slave trade within Africa, the number of those who died in the slave dungeons waiting for shipment to the Americas, and the number of those who died on the journey to the Americas. The precise figures will never be known. Good estimations in this case are the best that we have.
There are a number of books describing the tragic living conditions in the slave forts and dungeons along the coast of West Africa. Books written by Europeans tend to tone down the tragedy. Books written by African scholars tend to be academic and objective to the point of being noncommittal to the tragedy of slavery. The following is a brief description of some of the conditions in these slave dungeons. In the early slave trade the forts sometimes contained between three hundred to five hundred captives. During the eighteenth century most forts had been adapted to the larger scale slave trade and they held many hundreds more. There were sections for the female captives and sections for the male captives. There were smaller and more tortuous dungeons for the rebellious and unruly captives. The conditions within and around these slave holding castles were great tragic horror stories. Within the castles there were no beds, no drinking water, no installed toilet facilities, and no means of day by day sanitary maintenance. The apartments of the slave traders and captains were directly above the main holding dungeons. And they lived there in luxury and were unmindful of the misery and degradation one or two floors below.
These conditions were forced upon a people who had never done European people any harm or had ever allied themselves with the enemies of the Europeans in any way. The Europeans who forced this condition upon African people professed to believe in a loving God who was no respecter of kith, kin and geographical boundaries in the dispensing of his mercy and understanding to all human beings. In their action toward the Africans that would last for more than three hundred years, the Europeans were saying that Africans had no soul or humanity, no culture or civilization worthy of respect, and that they were outside of the grace of God.
The long journey across the sea was another tragic story of misery. Figuratively, the slave ship was a floating city of prisoners presided over by a crew of ruffians gathered from the human scum of Europe. The period of the European slave trade in Africa is best known to us because it is the best-documented. However, the documentation is often confusing because it was created by people who were trying to justify the slave trade. Most people, especially Europeans who created most of the documents on the slave trade, write about the subject with the intent to make the victim of slavery feel guilty and to vindicate the perpetrators of this inhuman trade.
There is probably more dishonesty related to the interpretation of this subject than any other subject known to mankind. The African slave trade, like African history, is often written about, but rarely if ever understood. This misunderstanding probably grows out of the fact that we nearly always start the study of the African slave trade in the wrong place. The germ, the motive, the rationale for the European aspect of the African slave trade started in the minds of the Europeans in the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries. And this slave trade could not have started at all had there been no market for it. The slave trade started when the Europeans began to expand into the broader world. And the market for slaves was created by Europeans for European reasons. The story of the European slave trade in Africa is essentially the story of the consequences of the second rise of Europe.
The peopling of the so-called new world by African people in the Americas and the Caribbean Islands was an enterprise of monumental proportions. This act would change the status of Europe and the world forever, and the Africans brought to the new world would be transformed into a new kind of people, neither wholly African nor wholly American. They would not easily adapt to their new condition though they gave their slave master, in some cases, the impression that they were doing so. They did not easily give up their African way of life, in spite of the attempt to destroy and outlaw it. This was the basis of massive slave revolts throughout the Caribbean Islands, South America, especially Brazil, and the more than two hundred and fifty slave revolts recorded in the United States.
Every attempt was made through the church and through oppression to deny that Africans hid a revolutionary heritage. There is documentary proof that Africans fought on the shores of Africa to keep from getting on the slave ships. After being forced on the slave ships they continued the fight. Some fought to keep from being taken off the slave ships. Many, many more continued the fight once they got here. In parts of South America, and on some islands in the Caribbean where the slaves outnumbered the Europeans, some Africans bypassed the auction block, fled into the hills and the forests and never became slaves at all. Some of these Africans who escaped slavery were called Maroons. The best books on the subject are, The Maroons, by Mavis Campbell, Maroon Societies, by Richard Price, and The Haitian Maroons, and Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James.
The drama of African survival in what is called the new world went beyond drama itself. In conditions that defied human imagination, for a protracted period lasting over three hundred years, Africans, using various techniques, pretenses, and acts of both submission and rebellion, went beyond survival and prevailed in order to live and still be a people in spite of the massive effort to destroy every aspect of their humanity. Part of what kept them alive, away from home, is that they would not give up their African culture in spite of being consistently pressured to do so. Many Africans, away from home, depending on the prevailing conditions that could change any day or any moment, had to become two persons in a single body. Some went beyond schizophrenia and changed their personality to suit the prevailing situation in order to survive so that the next generation could prevail.
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Did We Sell Each Other Into Slavery?
A Commentary by Oscar L. Beard, Consultant in African Studies
24 May 1999
The single most effective White propaganda assertion that continues to make it very difficult for us to reconstruct the African social systems of mutual trust broken down by U.S. Slavery is the statement, unqualified, that, "We sold each other into slavery." Most of us have accepted this statement as true at its face value. It implies that parents sold their children into slavery to Whites, husbands sold their wives, even brothers and sisters selling each other to the Whites. It continues to perpetuate a particularly sinister effluvium of Black character. But deep down in the Black gut, somewhere beneath all the barbecue ribs, gin and whitewashed religions, we know that we are not like this.
This singular short tart claim, that "We sold each other into slavery", has maintained in a state of continual flux our historical basis for Black-on-Black self love and mutual cooperation at the level of Class. Even if it is true (without further clarification) that we sold each other into slavery, this should not absolve Whites of their responsibility in our subjugation. We will deal with Africa if need be.
The period from the beginning of the TransAtlantic African Slave so-called Trade (1500) to the demarcation of Africa into colonies in the late 1800s is one of the most documented periods in World History. Yet, with the exception of the renegade African slave raider Tippu Tip of the Congo (Muslim name, Hamed bin Muhammad bin Juna al-Marjebi) who was collaborating with the White Arabs (also called Red Arabs) there is little documentation of independent African slave raiding. By independent is meant that there were no credible threats, intoxicants or use of force by Whites to force or deceive the African into slave raiding or slave trading and that the raider himself was not enslaved to Whites at the time of slave raiding or "trading". Trade implies human-to-human mutuality without force. This was certainly not the general scenario for the TransAtlantic so-called Trade in African slaves. Indeed, it was the Portuguese who initiated the European phase of slave raiding in Africa by attacking a sleeping village in 1444 and carting away the survivors to work for free in Europe.
Even the case of Tippu Tip may well fall into a category that we might call the consequences of forced cultural assimilation via White (or Red) Arab Conquest over Africa. Tippu Tip s father was a White (or Red) Arab slave raider, his mother an unmixed African slave. Tip was born out of violence, the rape of an African woman. It is said that Tip, a "mulatto", was merciless to Africans.
The first act against Africa by Whites was an unilateral act of war, announced or unannounced. There were no African Kings or Queens in any of the European countries nor in the U.S. when ships set sail for Africa to capture slaves for profit. Whites had already decided to raid for slaves. They didn't need our agreement on that. Hence, there was no mutuality in the original act. The African so-called slave "trade" was a demand-driven market out of Europe and America, not a supply-driven market out of Africa. We did not seek to sell captives to the Whites as an original act. Hollywood s favorite is showing Blacks capturing Blacks into slavery, as if this was the only way capture occurred. There are a number of ways in which capture occurred. Let s dig a little deeper into this issue.
Chancellor Williams, in his classic work, The Destruction of Black Civilization, explains that after the over land passage of African trade had been cut off at the Nile Delta by the White Arabs in about 1675 B.C. (the Hyksos), the Egyptian/African economy was thrown into a recession. There is even indication of "pre-historic" aggression upon Africa by White nomadic tribes (the Palermo Stone). As recession set in the African Government began selling African prisoners of war and criminals on death row to the White Arabs. This culminated as an unfortunate trade, in that, when the White Arabs attacked, they had the benefit of the knowledge and strength of Africans on their side, as their slaves. This is a significantly different picture than the propaganda that we sold our immediate family members into slavery to the Whites.
In reality, slavery is an human institution. Every ethnic group has sold members of the same ethnic group into slavery. It becomes a kind of racism; that, while all ethnic groups have sold its own ethnic group into slavery, Blacks can't do it. When Eastern Europeans fight each other it is not called tribalism. Ethnic cleansing is intended to make what is happening to sound more sanitary. What it really is, is White Tribalism pure and simple.
The fact of African resistance to European Imperialism and Colonialism is not well known, though it is well documented. Read, for instance, Michael Crowder (ed.), West African Resistance, Africana Publishing Corporation, New York, 1971. Europeans entered Africa in the mid 1400 s and early 1500 s during a time of socio-political transition. Europeans chose a favorite side to win between African nations at a war and supplied that side with guns, a superior war instrument. In its victory, the African side with guns rounded up captives of war who were sold to the Europeans in exchange for more guns or other barter. Whites used these captives in their own slave raids. These captives often held pre-existing grudges against groups they were ordered to raid, having formerly been sold into slavery themselves by these same groups as captives in inter-African territorial wars. In investigating our history and capture, a much more completed picture emerges than simply that we sold each other into slavery.
The Ashanti, who resisted British Imperialism in a Hundred Years War, sold their African captives of war and criminals to other Europeans, the Portuguese, Spanish, French, in order to buy guns to maintain their military resistance against British Imperialism (Michael Crowder, ed., West African Resistance).
Eric A. Walker, in A History of Southern Africa, Longmans, London, 1724, chronicles the manner in which the Dutch entered South Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Van Riebeeck anchored at the Cape with his ships in 1652 during a time that the indigenous Khoi Khoi or Khoisan (derogatorily called Hottentots) were away hunting. The fact of their absence is the basis of the White "claim" to the land. But there had been a previous encounter with the Khoi Khoi at the Cape in 1510 with the Portuguese Ship Almeida. States Eric A. Walker, "Affonso de Albuquerque was a conscious imperialist whose aim was to found self-sufficing colonies and extend Portuguese authority in the East&He landed in Table Bay, and as it is always the character of the Portuguese to endeavor to rob the poor natives of the country, a quarrel arose with the Hottentots, who slew him and many of his companions as they struggled towards their boats through the heavy sand of Salt River beach." (Ibid. p. 17). Bartholomew Diaz had experienced similar difficulties with the indigenous Xhosa of South Africa in 1487, on his way to "discovering" a "new" trade route to the East. The conflict ensued over a Xhosa disagreement over the price Diaz wanted to pay for their cattle. The Xhosa had initially come out meet the Whites, playing their flutes and performing traditional dance.
In 1652, knowing that the indigenous South Africans were no pushovers, Van Riebeeck didn't waste any time. As soon as the Khoi Khoi returned from hunting, Van Riebeeck accused them of stealing Dutch cattle. Simply over that assertion, war broke out, and the superior arms of the Dutch won. South African Historian J. Congress Mbata best explains this dynamic in his lectures, available at the Cornell University Africana Studies Department. Mbata provides three steps: 1) provocation by the Whites, 2) warfare and, 3) the success of a superior war machinery.
There are several instances in which Cecil Rhodes, towards the end of the 19th Century, simply demonstrated the superiority of the Maxim Machine Gun by mowing down a corn field in a matter of minutes. Upon such demonstrations the King and Queen of the village, after consulting the elders, signed over their land to the Whites. These scenarios are quite different from the Hollywood version, and well documented.
It has been important to present the matters above to dispel the notion of an African slave trade that involved mutuality as a generalized dynamic on the part of Africans. If we can accept the documented facts of our history above and beyond propaganda, we can begin to heal. We can begin to love one another again and go on to regain our liberties on Earth.
Oscar L. Beard, B.A., RPCV
Consultant in African Studies
P.O. Box 5208
Atlanta, Georgia 31107
All is Well. Workin' Hard - Tryin' to Save Time for Fam. Check in Periodically.
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