Most people believe that the slave trade was the work of the Europeans, but what is not known is that Africans helped play a role in the slave trade as well. They played a considerable role throughout the slave trade. This exhibit shows the impact that Africans had on the the Transatlantic Slave Trade during the years of 1700-1800.
Throughout Africa, it was common for Africans to kidnap other Africans and sell them into the slave trade. These slaves were often taken by other tribes or groups, but sometimes they were taken and sold by neighbors, friends, leaders, or even their own family. This became a business for many of the Africans and is how many tribes started to earn an income. In fact, at the end of the 18th Century, when European countries began to oppose the slavery, these Africans got upset and started to endorse the slave trade, so they wouldn’t lose their source of money.
First Hand Accounts
Alexander Falconbridge, a surgeon during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, wrote a book about his experiences of the slave trade while working on slave ships. He discusses that many of the people he encountered on the ships were kidnapped by other African Americans. Falconbridge tells the story of one man’s unfortunate kidnapping,
“During my stay on the coast of Africa, I was an eye-witness of the following transaction: a black trader invited a Negro, who resided a little way up the country, to come and see him. After the entertainment was over, the trader proposed to his guest, to treat him with a sight of one of the ships lying in the river. The unsuspicious countryman readily consented, and accompanied the trader in a canoe to the side of the ship, which he viewed with pleasure and astonishment. While he was thus employed, some black traders on board, who appeared to be in the secret, leaped into the canoe, seized the unfortunate man, and dragging him into the ship, immediately sold him” (Falconbridge).
Throughout his book, there is multiple accounts, just as this one, about men, women, and children being kidnapped by friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. After analyzing this novel in Voyant, it shows that the phrase “black trader” or “black traders” is used a multitude of times throughout the book. This shows how common it really was for Africans to participate in the slave trade.
When looking through african art from the Transatlantic Slave Trade, many images contain the same type of event. Many seem to depict the event of slaves being beaten, whipped, or forcibly taken. It is also common to see other Africans hurting or taking the slaves. This shows how this event wasn’t a rare occurrence during this time.
Many of the slaves that were kidnapped from their homes by fellow Africans came from Nigeria. There was a group of Nigerian middlemen who were known for taking others from the streets or even their own homes. They were even known for buying slaves from the central part of Africa to later sell for their own profit. They became one of many sources of slaves in the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. A PBS documentary, called “Africans in America”, referenced on History News Network, states, “The white man did not introduce slavery to Africa . . . . And by the fifteenth century, men with dark skin had become quite comfortable with the concept of man as property…” (Omolewa). The Nigerian Middlemen supplied the Europeans with more and more slaves as time went by.
Because of the work of these Nigerians, the Bight of Benin, or the Slave Coast, contributed a large amount of slaves to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Around 2 million slaves came from this area of Africa. This made the Slave Coast and Nigeria one of the largest sources of slaves throughout Africa.
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- African Captives for the Caribbean Slave Trade. Digital image. Stock Photo. Everett Historical, n.d. Web.
- Grasset De Saint-Sauveur, Jacques. Slave Traders in Gorés. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. N.p., 30 July 2009. Web. 14 Dec. 2016
- Thompsell, Angela. “Timeline of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.” About.com Education. About.com Education, 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
- Eltis, David, and David Richardson. “Overview of the Slave Trade out of Africa, 1500-1900.” Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. New Haven: Yale UP, 2010. N. pag. Slave Voyages. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
- Falconbridge, Alexander. An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa. New York: AMS, 1973. Print.
- “Trans-Atlantic Slave Exports by Region.” WhitneyPlantation.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.
- Stern, Sheldon M. “It’s Time to Face the Whole Truth About the Atlantic Slave Trade.” History News Network. N.p., 13, Aug. 2007. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.