Afrikan Involvement In Atlantic Slave
By Kwaku Person-Lynn, Ph.D.
Facing the truth about the past is not always a pleasant adventure. In fact, it
is extremely painful dealing with why Black people are in the United States,
after the 16th century. In no way is this an attempt to belittle the great and
amazing history of Afrika, but simply to look at a portion of the past that does
not merit a positive spot light, but is part of the Afrikan story nonetheless.
An authentic way to attack this problem is to look at a passage from Adu Boahen,
a noted Afrikan historian, author and former chair of the History Department at
the University of Ghana. He approaches this issue with a pure honesty: "How
were all these numerous unfortunate Africans enslaved and purchased? African
scholars and politicians today must be honest and admit that the enslavement and
sale of Africans from the seventeenth century onwards was done by the Africans
themselves, especially the coastal kings and their elders, and that very few
Europeans actually ever marched inland and captured slaves themselves. Africans
became enslaved mainly through four ways: first, criminals sold by the chiefs as
punishment; secondly, free Africans obtained from raids by African and a few
European gangs, thirdly, domestic slaves resold, and fourthly, prisoners of
war," (Adu Boahen, Topics In West African History p. 110).
There is adequate evidence citing case after case of Afrikan control of segments
of the trade. Several Afrikan nations such as the Ashanti of Ghana
and the Yoruba of Nigeria
had economies depended solely on the trade. Afrikan peoples such as the
Imbangala of Angola and the Nyamwezi of Tanzania would serve as middlemen or
roving bands warring with other Afrikan nations to capture Afrikans for
Extenuating circumstances demanding exploration are the tremendous efforts
European officials in Afrika used to install rulers agreeable to their
interests. They would actively favor one Afrikan group against another to
deliberately ignite chaos and continue their slaving activities.
I. A. Akinjogbin, noted Afrikan historian, in his article, 'The Expansion of Oyo
And The Rise Of Dahomey 1600-1800," gives an example in the Aja Kingdom of
Dahomey (now Benin): "The principal European traders took active part in
installing kings who they judged would favor their activities, irrespective of
whether such kings were acceptable to their subjects, or were the right
candidates according to Aja traditions," (History of West Africa, J. F. A.
Ajayi and Michael Crowder, eds., p. 389). This is the exact same system used
today, whereby certain American Afrikans are put in positions to divide people
of Afrikan descent through radio programs, editorials, books, chairs of academic
departments, so-called fabricated leaders, executive directors of white
supremacists organizations, and so forth.
A couple of additional points to be addressed are the Arab slave trade in
Afrika, occurring almost 1,000 years prior to the European slave trade, and
continues even today, and continental Afrikan slavery, which was part of the
culture, but more humane and unlike the chattel slavery of the United States. In
Afrika, slaves were still human beings. In the United States, slaves were
property. The cold reality, Afrikans controlled the capture of other Afrikans,
initiated several wars and raiding parties to secure captives, set prices for
buyers and even extended credit to Europeans for the purchase of Afrikans.
One prevailing and probably wishful sentiment on the part of many is that
Afrikan rulers did not know what type of slavery they were selling Afrikans
into. A view dispelled by the fact many rulers knowingly went to war with their
neighbors, killing millions and destroying entire communities in order to
capture fellow Afrikans for sale. Maintaining power, expanding the economy,
greed and expansionist ambitions were the prime motivating factors.
There is no way anyone can defend or justify Afrikan involvement in the slave
trade, other than acknowledge that it is one of many historical facts that must
It is mandatory to look at the mistakes of the past so as not to duplicate them
again. There are several people of Afrikan descent psychologically and
culturally involved in the negative, anti-Black philosophy of western culture.
They would turn against other Blacks at the drop of a dime, especially if they
felt it would curry favor with their European companions, and often add to their
pockets. It is essential to examine the slave trade, in order to understand the
same behavior operative today.
Though this effort concentrated on the Afrikan involvement in the slave trade,
by no means does it dismiss the European role in the most traumatic, brutal,
oppressive event in human history. Europeans, through the church in Rome, and
lessons learned from Arabs, launched the Atlantic slave trade, financing the
European and American industrial revolution. Thus, the birth of an economic
system we practice today, capitalism. Europeans developed it from a pirating
operation into a business, partly the European Jewish contribution to the trade,
and supplied favored groups with arms and ammunition, contributing to the deaths
of millions. Without the Europeans, there would have never been an Atlantic
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