African Participation in the Atlantic Slave Trade

The opening of  “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano,” there is a short part in the beginning that opens a door to a part of the slave trade not talked about all that much. When Equiano is on the ship that will take him away from Africa, he says “I found some black people about me, who I believed were some of those who brought me on board, and had been receiving their pay”(232). These lines show that he wasn’t captured by European men to be shipped elsewhere for a life of further slavery, but instead by men native to his home. A looked over fact is that Africans from all over the continent were a part of the slave trade themselves, the Atlantic Slave Trade to be more specific.

A majority of the practice was led by rulers of tribes and nations in various parts of the African continent. The Triangular Trade, the shipping route from Europe to Africa, the Americas, and back to Europe, created the demand for slaves(UNESCO). As mentioned before, weapons and other goods would be traded for slaves. Those slaves would be shipped off to the Americas to be used for labor to grow and harvest goods, like cotton, tobacco, and sugar, which would then be shipped to Europe(UNESCO).  In his article, “Afrikan Involvement in Atlantic Slave Trade,” Kwaku Person-Lynn mentions several nations, such as the Ashanti of Ghana, and the Yoruba of Nigeria whose economies depended on the trading of people. Slave traders traded slaves for things like weapons and gun powder(UNESCO). The major source of people place like those mentioned came from prisoners of war that were captured in battle(Person-Lynn). Kidnappings did occur, with peoples from place like Angola and Tanzania serving as middlemen for nations in conflict. They would take people for certain nations so they could later be sold to those who would pay, which in a majority of cases were Europeans(Person-Lynn).

Why would a leader do this? Getting rid of your enemy’s soldiers seems like a solid plan for battle, but their own citizens who were prisoners were also shipped off. Something that occurred in this time was the removal of African leadership by European traders. They would then replace leadership with people who were more likely to agree to their ideas, or bow to their command(Person-Lynn). There is also a question of oppression. In a video on this subject(linked at the end of this post), Historian Ali Mazrui talks about oppression. He speaks about slaves being used to keep other slave and how even when one is above another, they are still oppressed. In relation to Europeans putting certain people into leadership, they would have still been oppressed into compliance because they were put into leadership because of that relationship.

Link to Video: http//:youtu.be/vKYHu032qS4

*Diopian1. “The Role of Africans in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.” Online Video      Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 13 Feb. 2010. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.

*Equiano, Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.”      The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Fifth Edition. Damrosch, David      and Kevin J.H. Dettmar. New York: Pearson, 2012. 231-239. Print.

*Person-Lynn, Kwaku. “Afrikan Involvement In Atlantic Slave Trade.” Race and      History. Race and History, 8 Nov. 2002. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.             <http://raceandhistory.com/selfnews/viewnews.cgi?newsid1036801807,7402,.sht  ml>.

*”Transatlantic Slave Trade.” UNESCO. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.         <http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/dialogue/the-slave-            route/transatlantic-slave-trade/>.

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