African History And Its Slavery
The African slave trade era tragically affected a large part of African history. During this dark period, vast numbers of African people were uprooted from their homes and sold into slavery. The slaves included African men, women and innocent children.
The transatlantic slave trade era in African history began when European empires began to flourish in the New World but needed a workforce. African slaves were brought over to do the work, and were found to be “excellent workers” they had knowledge of cattle management and with agriculture, and they were used to working in tropical climates. So, beginning around the 15th century, people were captured from Africa and then brought to the New World to work in mines or on plantations.
It might surprise you to know that African slavery was not actually new to Africa, and had actually been going on for centuries by that time nor was it the sole brainchild of evil Europeans. In fact, from about fourteen fifty to the end of nineteenth century, African kings and merchants actually were fully cooperative with slave traders and were willing participants in the slave trade process.
The transatlantic slave trade was unique in that it was specifically engaged in as a part of what was called the “Triangular Trade.” This profitable practice involved several stages. The first stage involved manufactured goods such as guns, beads, tobacco and cloth being taken from Europe to Africa. Guns were included because they helped the Europeans expand their empires, but they also helped them capture more slaves. This practice later backfired, when the guns were turned against the Europeans. But nevertheless, the goods that were brought to Africa were traded for African slaves.
The slaves were then shipped to the Western Hemisphere as the second stage of the Triangular Trade. The third and final stage of the practice was the return to Europe of precious metals and other products produced by slave labor, including gold, silver, molasses, cotton, tobacco and sugar. When the transatlantic slave trade began, African slaves were taken from Senegambia and the Windward Coast, but by the 1650s slaves were captured from West Central Africa in Angola and the Congo.
From fourteen forty to about sixteen forty, Portugal was actually the only country to export African slaves. Interestingly, they were also the last country in Europe to abolish the institution of slavery, although it continued to utilize slaves as contract laborers even after that practice was defunct. Britain was the worst transgressor during the height of the slave trade and during this difficult time in African history, though, with 2.5 million of the roughly 6 million slaves transported during that time directly Britain’s responsibility.
African slaves were under terrible conditions during forced marches along the coast and during the beginning of the transport; it’s estimated that fully -13% of them died before ever reaching their destinations. Most African slaves were shipped to the Caribbean, the Spanish Empire, and Brazil, with less than 5% traveling to North America.
The effects of slavery are still felt today. Descendants of African slaves are scattered throughout the world because that’s where their ancestors were forcibly taken. African-American author and activist Maulana Karenga described the slave trade and its effects as “the morally monstrous destruction of human possibility … poisoning past, present and future relations with others who only know us through this stereotyping and thus damaging the truly human relationships among people of today.” In fact, he said, African slavery didn’t destroy just the people who lived through that period of African history, it destroyed their language, their culture, and their religion, and it destroyed the very essence of “human possibility.