Africans Abroad: A Documentary History of the Black Diaspora in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean during the Age of Slavery

Africans Abroad: A Documentary History of the Black Diaspora in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean during the Age of Slavery

Africans Abroad: A Documentary History of the Black Diaspora in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean during the Age of Slavery

Africans Abroad: A Documentary History of the Black Diaspora in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean during the Age of Slavery

Excerpt

The enforced expatriation over many centuries of millions of Africans from their homeland to the Americas, Europe, and Asia--the "Black Diaspora," as it is sometimes called--is one of the most important mass movements of population in history. It is also one of the least understood.

The chief reason for this is that the source materials on which any account of the Black Diaspora must be based are fragmentary and often highly obscure. There is little direct evidence of any kind, since in slavery times almost all the Africans who left their homelands for overseas were nonliterate. Moreover, in the countries to which they were taken they constituted for centuries the most oppressed and exploited element in society. Very few even of those who could write left a record of their lives behind them, since the system denied them the means of self-expression.

For the bulk of his information, therefore, the historian of the African experience outside Africa has to rely on what nonblacks have said over time about blacks. Because of the nature of the relationship between the two--a relationship in which the masters were almost always white and the slaves were always black--most of what the nonblacks recorded was prejudiced, much of it was ill-informed, and some of it was deliberately falsified. Indeed, during the age of slavery fair-minded reporting of the African experience was hardly possible for nonblacks. If a slavemaster admitted that Africans and persons of African descent had a history and culture of their own . . .

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