The Eastern Slave Trade
The Arab Slave Trade is the longest yet least discussed of the two major trades. It begins in the 7th century AD as Arabs and other Asians poured into Northern and Eastern Africa under the banner of Islam, either converting or subjugating the African societies they came upon. In the beginning there was some level of mutual respect between the Blacks and the more Caucasian-Semitic Arabs. Mihdja, a Black man, is said to be the first Muslim killed in battle while another, Bilal, is regarded as a "third of the faith." Dhu'l-Nun al-Misri, born in Upper Egypt near Sudan, is regarded as the founder of Sufism. Today Sufism's greatest stronghold is in Southern Egypt and Sudan.
Islamic prosperity was based upon Black as well as Arabic genius. >
The children of a stinking Nubian black---God put no light in their complexion!
But as Islamic prosperity grew, so did an air of hostility towards many Blacks, Muslims or otherwise. Some Arabs complained about having to work next to Blacks in high positions. After the Prophet's death, even the descendants of Bilal received negative treatment. Arabic writings became laced with anti-Black sentiment. This reaction of Blacks at the time to this can be seen in the writings of a contemporary 9th Century Black scholar in residence at Baghdad by the name of Abu 'Uthman' Amr Ibn Bahr Al-Jahiz. Al-Jahiz, to confront a growing tide of anti-black sentiment in the Muslim world, published a highly controversial work at the time titled, Kitab Fakhr As-Sudan 'Ala Al-Bidan, "The Book of Glory of the Blacks over the Whites." Al-Jahiz in his work contended that even the Prophet Mohammad's father may have been of African lineage. >
These new attitudes towards Blacks by Arabs marked the beginning of African enslavement. Though not based solely on race, the Arab Slave Trade did focus heavily upon Africans whom Arabs now saw as inferior to themselves. At first these Arabs raided African villages themselves seeking humans for sale. This not being always successful, they soon enlisted the aid of fellow African Muslims or recently converted Blacks. Wrapping themselves within Islam, these converts rationalized the slavery of their non Muslim brethren as the selling of "unbelievers." At other times the Arabs would demand tribute in the form of human bodies from Africans weary of the fight against Arabic-Islamic incursions.
The Arabs took advantage of regional wars in Africa to buy captives from the victor. They also used the old divide-and-conquer technique. They worked one group against the other and took or killed the best and strongest.
The Arab slavers raided at nightfall, during the dinner time. Africans who resisted or tried to run were shot and killed. Most adult men were killed as the Arabs favored women and children for sale. The captives then endured a long and torturous march through the African countryside as the slavers searched and gathered more captives. Young men, women, and children were bound by hand and by neck throughout this journey, enduring beatings and rapes along the way. Those who fell sick or dead were left behind. Others remained bound to living captives.
After surviving the torturous ride aboard the Arab slave ships, Africans were taken to the slave markets. Here Muslim men would inspect their intended purchases. Women and young girls were degradingly probed by these men in public or private stalls to test their sexual worth. Those that did not survive their time in these markets were left out to rot. It is said that that hyenas, very numerous in the region, "gorged themselves on human flesh..." Pictured here is a slave market in East Africa.
Pictured here is an African trader (possibly an Egyptian)with two Sudanese slave girls for sale. The African is a Muslim while the girls are not. The Eastern Slave Trade dealt primarily with African women: a ratio of two women for each man. These women and young girls were used by Arabs and other Asians as concubines. Filling the harems of wealthy Arabs, they often bore them a host of children. This sexual abuse of African women would continue for nearly 1200 years.
The Eastern Slave Trade also dealt in the sale of castrated male slaves: Aghas or eunuchs. Used as guards and tutors, these slaves were central to familial peace, protection and order in many wealthy Muslim households. Eunuchs were created by completely amputating the scrotum and penis of 8-to-12-year-old African boys. Hundreds of thousands of young boys may have been subjected to this genital mutilation. Many bled to death during the gory procedure. The survival rate of this process ranged from 1 in 10 to 1 in 30.
Due to the enormous length of the Arab Slave Trade, from 700 to 1911AD, it is impossible to be certain of the numbers of Africans sold in this system. Estimates place the numbers somewhere around 14 million: at least 9.6 million African women and 4.4 African men.
It has been estimated that in all, at least 14 to 20 MILLION African men, women and children died throughout this trade. (Photos and Information courtesy of The Black Holocaust for Beginners by SE Anderson, A Pictorial History of the Slave Trade, Slave Trade of Eastern Africa by Beachy, Slavery in the Arab World by Gordon Murray and Africa in History by Basil Davidson)