The Amistad Revolt: Memory, Slavery, and the Politics of Identity in the United States and Sierra Leone

By Iyunolu Folayan Osagie | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
The Amistad Story in the American Context

By the nineteenth century, when the Amistad1 tragedy unfolded, the traumatic realities of pillage, death, and enslavement were lived experiences in most of Africa. To mention one particular instance, many Africans from around the Vai-Mende country were taken captive to Dombokoro, or Lombokoro or Lomboko,2 and sold to Laigo and Luiz, two notorious Spanish slave dealers.3 Dombokoro was on the western coast in the Gallinas country, what today is the border area between Sierra Leone and Liberia. In Lomboko, Spanish and Portuguese slave dealers built several forts where captured Africans were imprisoned for months at a time, as circumstances demanded, to await slave buyers who made lucrative wholesale purchases for even more profitable retail markets in the New World. The captives’ stories were often similar. Many had been kidnapped, overpowered by several African slave catchers, while on a journey to their farms, on a trip to another village to buy goods, or while running some simple errand in the vicinity of home. Some were taken, in a putatively legal subterfuge, as prisoners of war, while they were trying to escape from their villages that were being pillaged.4

Throughout most of the eighteenth century, and increasingly in the early and mid-nineteenth century, both intertribal and intratribal wars in Africa were incited by the high demand for slaves in the West.5 In the attempt either to protect their villages or to participate in the principal market economy that slavery had become, many chiefs and their people went on the “war path” or “war road.”6 The economic and social instability evoked by these wars in the entire Senegambia region made the acquisition of slaves extremely easy. The situation ensnared many families into

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