Slave trade existed in Africa from the prehistoric period to the modern time. In Africa, many societies practiced slavery, some viewed slavery as a means of acquiring properties, whereas to others slavery was a way of integrating dependents into their families. There were societies that fully absorbed and assimilated the slaves by allowing them to participate in the military actions. In other societies, slaves achieved administrative positions. In Africa, there existed different ethnic groups, but both the slaves and slave owners were of the black origin. Slaves were taken to do manual works; some were taken as wives and mistresses. Furthermore, slave owners acquired slaves to facilitate their position and status. Slaves were taken as captives; some were kept in homes while others were taken to distant places. Slavery was not only a practice of acquiring armies for warfare, but it was also a means of acquiring wealth by local people. Not individuals, but the community did own land. Each family was allocated land in accordance with the size and its laborers. Therefore, families acquired more slaves in order to increase their rate of production. The slaves who survived had to create wealth to the community. Slavery was a method of contributing wealth to the people. Hence, to enable further creation of wealth, slavery was conducted by societies in distant places and village. Slavery involved children, women, and men. Women performed variety of activities ranging from farming and various tasks associated with agriculture, trading activities, yielding, and cotton spinning. Women did other house chores such as cleaning, cooking among others; moreover, many practiced herding and farming. This paper is a discussion on the slave trade in Africa.
The Trans-Saharan and East Africa slave trade was initiated by the entry of Arabs, who practiced Islamic religion, in Africa. Before the foundation of the Islamic religion, Arabs had been practicing slave trading. As they conquered western parts of North Africa, their leaders took the locals into captivity whom they initiated into their armies. The Arab Muslims spread religion to the camel herders located in the Sahara Desert. The camel herders who were in contact with the black Africans, did trade in black slaves on a small scale. The Arabs continued to buy and capture slaves in West Africa and crossing them to North Africa for sale. Thereafter, the slaves were taken to other countries in regions like; India, Arab, Persia. Transportation routes across the Sahara connected the Mediterranean and the rest of the African continent. The camel caravans carried commodities such as gold and slaves, material goods and Islamic culture affected region. In the 10th to 15th century, slave trade grew rapidly and led to the rise of empires such as Mali, Ghana, Songhai, and Kanem-Bornu. The Arabs raided slave in the areas around the Nile River to Ethiopia. They captured slaves and transported them from Nile to Egypt. The slaves were examined with care by taking measurement of their height and counting of teeth to determine their strength. The price given to the prisoner depended on the age, colour and strength. For more than a thousand years, about ten millions slaves (women, men and children) moved from East and West Africa to North Africa, India including the Middle East. In the 9th Century, Arab Muslims went to the Indian Coast capturing more slaves in Mogadishu (Somalia) and Sofala (Mozambique) and transported them to Asia. Through assimilation, the Arabs intermarried with the locals giving birth to the Swahili culture. By 13th century, cities had been established along the East African coast, they were made up of the Africans, Arabs, and Persians. The development of the cities encouraged the purchase and sale of the slaves, and thus, led to the rise of the East African Slave trade by the 19th Century. With growth of the plantation agriculture, slavery found its new horns. Powerful states rose as a result of slavery and the economy was boosted by slavery. States in East, West, and Central Africa traded, fought, and captured more slaves. The Trans-Saharan trade continued until early 20th century causing more harm and damage to the African continent.
The Atlantic slave trade began in 15th Century after the establishment of plantation agriculture by Europeans. Europeans were supplied with slaves from the West and Central African states across the Atlantic to work on their plantations. African slaves were favored as they were strong to offer work for longer hours, and they were believed to be resistant to tropical diseases. They were considered as being cheap labor; therefore, they became the only source of labor. African traders, mostly of the ruling class, captured slaves and took them to the coast where they were exchanged for goods such as firearms and ammunitions, iron and clothing and ornaments. In the 17th century, the demand for slavery had gone up. The Africans, who engaged in slave trade; acquired more wealth and expanded their states, and in this regard, the demand for firearms increased in some regions. Slaves were taken to Europe, Spain, and Portugal across the Atlantic, which saw many slaves dying as a result of hunger, abuses, and subjection to severe conditions that caused diseases. Millions of slaves died in trying to cross the Atlantic. By the 19th century, slavery had gone global, with the western world taking part in the trade. African societies took part in the trade to acquire manufactured goods and food, whereas states sort prestige. It led to rise in economy of the colonial powers as a result of readily available cheap labor on their plantations. With the introduction of industrialization in the 19th century, western powers shifted from agriculture to industry. Humanitarians saw the abolishment of slavery in Britain and United states. Britain outlawed slave practices in its colonies, in 1833. The Atlantic trade came to a stop in the 1850s, unlike the Trans-Saharan and east Africa slave trades, which at that time were at their peak.
Slave trade remains the most brutal and ugliest kind of trade that man has ever participated in. Slavery caused separation of families, forced labor, fear, and psychological disorders on the poor and powerless. Many were captured against their wishes handled like animals and taken far from their family and friends. The lives of innocent men, women, and children were endangered in the name of acquiring goods and wealth. Slave trade should be a past that no man should ever bring into practice again.
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