The Atlantic Slave Trade

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Slavery is termed as a condition whereby, individual is owned by another, a result, the slave is viewed as property, or rather chattel by law and is therefore deprive most of universal human rights held by other individuals. Slavery is considered as commonplace as its history spans many races, religions, cultures and nationalities, thus from ancient time to modern day. In examining all phases of slavery particularly African slavery which prevailed in American continents, it also crucial to examine slavery before establishment of the Atlantic slave trade by the Europeans.

Both slavery and systems of servitude were common in most parts of Africa, therefore, slavery in Africa began even before the transatlantic slave trade, during this period, slavery was mainly internal. During the pre-colonial period, African nations practiced different forms of slavery, concerning this, according to the article the “The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery”, slavery in pre-colonial Africa was mainly as a result of tribal wars; hence, most enslaved individuals were captured during battle ((James, 59). Other common forms of slavery included debt slavery; whereby, enslaved people were forced to work in order to buy back their freedom, criminal slavery on the other hand involved application of temporary slavery for the purpose of punishing some crimes. Research also indicates the use of slaves as human sacrifices mostly in areas of West Africa.

As a result, most of the African regions such as the Hausasland had they own slave villages whereby, they formed the lowest level of authority and served as servile cultivators as slavery was part of the economic structure belonging to African societies (Inikori, 49& 50). Most of the slaves generally belonged to office holders; hence, to a great extent slavery was closely related to the pre-colonial kingship structures. Like other villages the slave had their own village chiefs. Unlike the Transatlantic slaves, the pre-colonial slavery had a somewhat complex relationship as slaves had not only rights but also freedom, in addition there existed restrictions put in place by traditions and public opinion on both treatment and sale of the slaves by their owners (Inikori, 51).

 In addition the slaves also possessed pieces of lands which were allotted to them by their masters. In other African societies, such as Bida emirates, slaves were acquired through military incursions from other territories, these slaves were from different ethnic groups such as the Hausa, Yoruba, and the Fulani. The captives were provided with land thereby, forming captive agricultural villages. The dweller of these villages were however, not expected to work collectively in their masters’ lands as in the case of European slavery, nor were they forced to render labor services.  Rather the slaves produced their own goods and only paid tributes to their owners in cash, thus cowrie shells or in kind; which involved giving farm products from their settlement slave plantations. In other areas such as the Asante kingdom, slaves acquired through trade for the purpose cultivating in lands as well as in clearing forests were rapidly assimilated into the general population in an effort to prevent the consolidation of what can be termed as a slave caste (Inikori, 60). In addition, the slaves and serfs were afforded full protection by the free Asante commoners.  Conclusively, it therefore can be argued that the African cultures and tribal wars resulted in the accumulation of slaves, and ultimately the Trans-Atlantic trade was ultimately the outgrowth of the internal slavery that existed.


Works Cited

Inikori, Joseph E. "Slavery in Africa and the Transatlantic slave trade." The African Diaspora (1996): 39-72.   

James, C. L. R. "The Atlantic slave trade and slavery: Some interpretations of their significance in the development of the United States and the Western world." A turbulent voyage: Readings in African American studies (1992): 58-81.

August 04, 2023




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Atlantic Slave Trade

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