Covid-19 Update: We've taken precautionary measures to enable all staff to work away from the office. These changes have already rolled out with no interruptions, and will allow us to continue offering the same great service at your busiest time in the year.

Africa and Slavery: Transatlantic Slave Trade

3643 words (15 pages) Essay in History

18/05/20 History Reference this

Disclaimer: This work has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work produced by our Essay Writing Service. You can view samples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Introduction

Growing up as a child, we  never learn all the details about slavery. If someone was to ask a 15-year-old who is to blame for slavery, they’d confidently reply, “white people.” We grow up believing white people are to blame for all African and African-American suffering because of the ongoing racism in our nations. The poor treatment of slavery and the slave trade in American and African textbooks is another major reason there are so many misconceptions about the issue. A detailed look at certain texts in the United States shows that Africa is not a high priority even in world history courses. Despite some changes and add-ons recently, the topic is regulated to a few paragraphs, without the responsiveness needed to explore it. One would never hear an African-American man say that another African-American is “racist,” yet they critically evaluate the racial slurs spoken from someone Caucasian. Although slavery is a delicate and disavowing topic, all parties must be held accountable for their participation in the enslavement of minority groups and Africans in the Atlantic slave trade.

Two writers, Daniel B. Domingues Silva and Anne C. Bailey, both focus on the perspectives of Africans and African societies from which slaves were taken and the materials slaves were exchanged for and the methods of enslavement. They both touch on the evolution of the slave trade over time and the history of the involvement of some Africans in the sale of others. Daniel stresses the idea that African traders resisted the termination of slavery because of materialist concerns and many Africans sent to Atlantic markets came from spaces within African traders’ own populations/cultural spaces. Bailey argues that although Africans had great influence on the enslavement operations, the terms and impact weren’t equal between all global parties (America and Europe). Do Africans fully blame Americans and Europeans for slavery? Do they feel these countries should apologize for the trade? Using quantitative sources such as shipping records, and slave registers, while examining travel accounts, official correspondence, and testimonies of slave and freed individuals will give some clarification on whether or not African traders played a part in the enslavement of their own kind and if they had equal terms with global parties. Such information is very helpful in investigating the experience of enslaved Africans and their descendants.

Chapter 1

Although the Atlantic slave trade was the largest, long-dragged crusade of people in history, we must acknowledge that slavery started many centuries before the Transatlantic Slave Trade (1). We must also acknowledge that Africans weren’t the only victims of slavery. Before the Transatlantic slave trade, with Africans being the main target group, many ethnic and minority groups were sold and forced into labor. Starting in the 15th century, the Portuguese began to purchase African people on the same coast they used to explore. The transportation and sale of slaves depended on three categories of trading agents: merchants, brokers, and traders. Merchants supervised the shipment of slaves while the brokers, made up of Portuguese and Brazilian subjects from Angola, bought slaves brought from the interior for items imported from overseas, and traders served as middlemen between the brokers and slave suppliers in the interior of West Central Africa. Portuguese interests were primarily directed toward gold and their secondary concerns were slaves. By opening up a route from the sea, they hoped to control the African Saharan routes, but their new trading was simply an extension of older patterns as they mainly shipped Africans to Europe like the overland Muslim-controlled caravan routes had. Due to the opening up of the West African coast, Africans became the cheapest available slaves at the time. Because of the consistent exports of gold and ivory, and the development of Portugal’s big Asiatic trading empire (2), the trading relations between Western Africa and Europe became a cheap routine. By the 16th century, Western Africans replaced all other ethnic groups in the European slave markets. In the New World, African slavery thrived under European rule and America became the great market for approximately 10 million African slaves in the next 500 years. Eventually African slaves became the most wanted work-force for the European-American export industries. There is the belief that Africans coined themselves as one people and one continent instead of many different communities, but the truth is that only in the modern era did Africa become a continental force. For many centuries, before and after the Atlantic slave trade, Africa’s regions and communities were largely separate from each other. This allowed many communities to live secluded from each other and sometimes without knowledge of one another’s existence. For example, Ghanians claim the trading of Africans was not familiar in most of their northern communities. “The historian Benedict B. Der (3) has argued that slave trading was not a feature of northern Ghanaian societies before the nineteenth century but concedes that a kind of domestic slavery did exist among most ethnic groups (Saboro & Oldfield, n.d.).” Oral accounts by Mamprusi (4) and Dagomba (5), two major ethnic groups in northern Ghana, claim the slave trade was unknown among them. Great tribes like Asante (6), Fante(7), and Ga (8) were primary suppliers of slaves, which they got through payment of tributes, kidnappings, raids, and wars. The Asante Kingdom in the Gold Coast was involved in much of the slave trade in Africa. “The historian J.K Flynn (9) has noted, for instance, that “by 1820 Asante had become the dominant power in the Gold Coast” and suggests that “the history of the Gold Coast in the nineteenth century was essentially the history of Asante’s relations with the southern peoples and their European allies (Saboro & Oldfield, n.d.).”” The Asante Kingdom ran a remarkable amount of all internal slave supply in the 19th century.

John Thornton (10) suggests that Africans and Europeans were equal partners in the transatlantic system in Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World. Anne C. Bailey feels this was simply not the case because being equal partners means equal terms and equal influence on the international and universal processes of the trade. “Africans had great influence on the processes of enslavement on the continent itself, but they had no direct influence on the engines behind the trade in the capital firms, the shipping and insurance companies of Europe and America, or on the plantation system in the Americas. Likewise, they did not wield any influence on the budding manufacturing centers of the West. Furthermore, this influence on the continent was by no means an exclusive one, as evidenced by the presence of over fifty European-built and -manned slave forts and castles in Ghana alone (Bailey, 2006).”

Chapter 2

Europeans didn’t make Africans sell slaves but their presence on the coast increased slave traffic. “Merchants purchased their captives from brokers located along the coast of West Central Africa. These brokers controlled the supply of human cargo on the coast but depended in turn on traders who transported captives from the interior to the ports (Domingues, 2017).” Traders would wait months for the prosperous loading of their ships. Author of the famous hymn Amazing Grace and retired slave trader, John Newton (11), confessed that he believes the wars in Africa would end if Europeans would stop tempting them by offering goods for slaves (Bailey, 2006). Some chiefs of local tribes played a large role in the trading system, working alone or in limited partnerships with family members. Chief Ndorkutsu of Atokor (12) had agents stationed along the trade route for three to four days until they collected enough slaves and brought them to the coast, waiting on the arrival of European and American trading vessels. Ndorkutsu worked largely alone or in limited partnerships with his brother, Chief Gbele (13) and later his nephew Kumodji of nearby Srogbe (14). “The trade from West Central Africa depended on merchants established on the region’s coast. Some of them were Africans who acted as brokers or middlemen responsible for purchasing slaves in the interior and selling them to transatlantic traders (Domingues, 2017).” Slaves were obtained from the interior from Krepi (15) and beyond, where they were then exchanged for a mix of foreign commodities, such as firearms, gunpowder, textiles, alcohol and salt from the coast. They distributed these goods to loyal followers to consolidate their own power, but also advanced them on credit to traders supplying slaves from the interior to the coast. The traders, Doe (16) and Afedima (17), from the town of Woe were of the Anatsi family (18) and also had a limited partnership. Afedima was known for her fishing ventures along the coast and was in need of many laborers to help her in her efforts. She had both domestic slaves and others whom she sold. Her business efforts brought her in contact with the Atlantic system. She dealt with a lot of Danes, Portuguese, and other European traders, eventually marrying Don Jose Mora (19), an important trader in his own right. She came back from Europe as the first person to own a European fishing net, which increased Anlo fishing ventures. Doe was said to have brought the Yewe God from Dahomey and he used the Yewe (20) to acquire slaves for sale on the open market.

In the 1840s, a Kimbundu speaker from Libolo, Nanga (21), was pawned by his mother. She gave up her son to free one of her brothers, who had been sold earlier for adultery, which was an offence punishable by enslavement, banishment, or even death. Africans often pawned family members as a way of securing quick credit to pay debts or buy goods, with the intention of redeeming the pawn after the agreed time period. Nanga’s mother failed to reclaim him and he ended up in the hands of Portuguese traders on their way to Brazil. After a British man of war stopped his vessel and took it for adjudication in Freetown, Sierra Leone, the court found the ship’s crew guilty of trading slaves and released all of them. Seven years after Nanga’s liberation, a German missionary, Sigismund Koelle (22), took down his story and made it available for all future generations as part of his study in African languages, Polyglotta Africana (23) (Domingues, 2017). Sigismund Koelle not only took down Nanga’s story, but he took everyone from the vessel’s story. Information collected about those slaves captured, released and brought to Sierra Leone shows that 30% of the slaves had been kidnapped, 11% had become slaves as a result of the judicial process, 34% had been taken in war, 7% were debtors, and 7% were sold by “relatives and superiors.”

There are several important accounts of two professional slave catchers, Kpego (Pogo) (24) and Kajani (25). Kpego was from an Anlo town named Asamara and was said to be “the leader” in slave dealings. He caught anybody, any stranger, any citizen and sold Anlos to the Danes. Kajani was from the northern region and he would arrest and chain Anlos people together to sell them. “In the Anlo area, whenever there were disobedient people or people who behaved criminally, they were rid of by selling them to the Danes along the coast together with palm kernel. (Bailey, 2006)” These men were both individual traders who didn’t engage in any large-scale partnerships. Knowing that people could be randomly captured and sold away from their communities against their will created nervousness among the Anlos.  Babatu (26) and Samori (27) are two others that did most of their slave raiding in the northern region of Ghana. They had large armed groups at their disposal, terrorized the people, and waged numerous battles in order to obtain slaves. Babatu was much feared by villages in the region, who were required to pay heavy tributes in order to avoid capture. He was from Niger, outside of Ghana, and didn’t represent any particular ethnic group. His allegiance varied according to his purpose. 

In all maps of the slave market routes, the center of Asante control, Kumasi (28), is the center of all routes. The Asante and the Akwamus (29) played an important role in slave trading throughout the era of the slave trade. Throughout the years, the Asante have been accused of going to war to acquire and then to sell slaves, but in 1820, Asante leaders like Osei Bonsu (30) states, “ I cannot make war to catch slaves in the bush like a thief. My ancestors never did so. But if I fight like a king and kill him when he is insolent, then certainly I must have his gold, and his slaves and the people are mine too. Do not the white kings act like this? (Bailey, 2006)” In 1876, the king of Salaga in northern Ghana accused the Asante of selling a whole village full of his people, suggesting no one’s life or property is safe while the Asantes were in town. The Salaga slave market (31) was the most famous of all the slave markets and overrun by Asante forces in 1744 who conquered much of the surrounding areas and made them tributary states of the Asante kingdom. As a result, the Asante maintained control over the Salaga market, Dagbon, and other regions in the north and in this way were able to administer their trading operations. Salaga and the northern slave routes in general were important outposts not only for the movement of slaves to the south but also for the movement of slaves along the Trans-Saharan routes. The Asante, Akwamus, and the Anlo Ewe (32) were often allies. When the Anlo was no longer tributary to the Akan state Akwamu in 1730, they continued a relationship based on trade. Later with the rise of the Asante empire, their relationship greatly involved the trading of prisoners of war. The realization that no one was immune from the trade became intense. In the eyes of the slave trader everyone was a potential slave and everyone was judged equally in spite of social status. Certain ex-slaves, particularly Brazilian slaves, returned to Africa and engaged in slave traffic because there was no work. “It may say something about the predominance of slave tracking, hunting, and selling activities on the African continent in the nineteenth century that even some of those who returned were drawn into the trade. What had been a marginal activity in the sixteenth century became a predominant one in the nineteenth in no small part due to the overwhelming influence of European and American traders and their African counterparts (Bailey, 2006).”

Conclusion

Human greed and desire for wealth were clearly motivations in Ghana, other parts of West, and Central Africa which encouraged European and African traders of like mind. Some historians would say that Africans did not sell their brothers, but sold other Africans whom they didn’t recognize as their equal or whose culture was different to theirs. This slave trade wouldnt have been as successful without the help of Africans selling eachother. Africans participated in massive raids for guns, liquor, and other Western products that brought millions of captives to the coast. These raids provoked new wars across the continent, which created new supplies of slaves. I believe it would have been more difficult for merchants to get off of their vessels and attempt to go inland themselves to gather slaves. In general, human trafficking is disgusting, but Europeans dont deserve to be fully blamed for this, nor should they be apologizing to Africans because of it. Like Europeans, Africans need to start taking responsibility for the millions of slaves that were transported all over the New World.

Annotations

1

Transatlantic Slave Trade

Segment of the global slave trade that transported between 10 million and 12 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th century.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/transatlantic-slave-trade

2

Portuguese Asiatic Trading Empire

Portugal dominated the spice trade between Asia and Europe. Portugal also dominated much of the trade in India, Indonesia, China, and Japan.

3

Benedict B. Der

Author of Slave trade in northern Ghana

4

Mamprusi (Mampruli)

A people who inhabit the area between the White Volta and Nasia rivers in northern Ghana.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Mamprusi

5

Dagomba (Dagbamba)

The dominant ethnic group in the chiefdom of Dagbon in the northern region of Ghana.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Dagomba

6

The Asante Kingdom

(Ashanti Empire)

People of south-central Ghana and adjacent areas of Togo and Cote d’lvoire.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Asante

7

Fante (Fanti)

people of the southern coast of Ghana between Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Fante

8

Ga (Gan)

people of the southeast coast of Ghana, speaking a dialect of the Kwa branch of Niger-Congo languages.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ga

9

J.K Flynn

10

John Thornton

11

John Newton

12

Chief Ndorkutsu of Atokor

13

Chief Gbele

14

Kumodji of Srogbe

15

Krepi (Peki)

Ewe town of Ghana.

16

Doe

Of the Anatsi family from the town Woe.

17

Afedima

Female entrepreneur from Woe in the Volta Region.

18

Anatsi family

Family of Doe and Afedima.

19

Don Jose Mora

Spanish slave trader.

20

Yewe God

Intermediaries between man and the Supreme God. Yewe is considered a protector against harm. It’s a means to show one’s wealth and status. Yewe was used as a source of power.

21

Nanga

22

Sigismund Koelle

German missionary of the Church Missionary Society working among freed slaves in Freetown (now in Sierra Leone).

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Niger-Congo-languages#ref708629

23

Polyglotta Africana

Produced in 1854. One of the earliest and most significant printed linguistic works on West Africa. It gives translations into English of words in about 160 languages.

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/polyglotta-africana

24

Kpego (Pogo)

Slave catcher.

25

Kajani

Slave catcher.

26

Babatu

Slave catcher.

27

Samori

Slave catcher.

28

Kumasi (Coomassie)

A city, south-central Ghana.

https://www.britannica.com/place/Kumasi

29

Akwamu

Akan state of the Gold and Slave coasts of western Africa.

https://www.britannica.com/place/Akwamu

30

Osei Bonsu

King of Asante Kingdom (1801-1824)

31

Salaga Slave Market

Largest market for slaves in the Western Sudan.

32

Anlo Ewe

Peoples living in southeastern Ghana, southern Benin, and the southern half of Togo who speak various dialects of Ewe, a language of the Kwa branch of the Niger-Congo family.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ewe-people

Works Cited

  • B., Domingues da Silva Daniel. The Atlantic Slave Trade from West Central Africa, 1780-1867. Cambridge University Press, 2019.
  • Bailey, Anne Caroline. African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade beyond the Silence and the Shame. Ian Randle, 2007.
  • Der, Benedict G. Slave Trade in Northern Ghana. Woeli, 1999.
  • Klein, Herbert S. The Atlantic Slave Trade. Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Saboro, Emmanuel, et al. “Slavery, Memory and Orality: Analysis of Song Texts from Northern Ghana.” University of Hull.
  • Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World: 1400-1680. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993.
Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Find out more

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have the essay published on the UK Essays website then please:

Related Lectures

Study for free with our range of university lectures!