Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa

Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa

Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa

Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa

Synopsis

development in the history of West Africa.

Excerpt

Slavery was a widespread practice dating back to antiquity. In Africa, the origins of slavery are hidden in the mists of time, before there were any written records. The records we do have tell the story of slavery as a practice already well established in African societies. Over twelve hundred years ago, for example, Arabic chronicles described how Arab traders from the north came to Africa south of the Sahara bringing salt to exchange for gold and slaves. These trans-Saharan routes carried caravans that returned laden with slaves from black Africa. Slaves were also obtained from military raids, such as those on the black populations of Nubia, in the Sudan, and on places as far south as Bomo. The slaves were taken to Cairo and other Arab centers, there sold, and then dispersed throughout the Arab world. It was a community of such slaves, called the Zanj, who led a major revolt in the salt mines of Iraq in the ninth century of our era.

The Arab writer Ibn Khaldun says in his “Prolegomena to World History,” written in 1377 C.E., that God made Africa a natural source of slaves, for “the Negro nations are, as a rule, submissive to slavery, because [Negroes] have little [that is essentially] human and have attributes that are quite similar to those of dumb animals.” The ruler of Borno thought differently. In 1391–92 he wrote a letter to the sultan of Egypt, complaining about slave raids into his territory by Arabs from the north, this in spite of the fact that he and his people were free and Muslim. These Arab raiders, he lamented, “have devastated all our land, all the land of Bornu… They took free people among us captive, of our kin among Muslims… They have taken our people as merchandise.” The . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.