What stands out for me most from Chapter 1 reading is the degree and the level of sophistication of intra-Africa trade prior to European exploration as well as the existence of intra-Africa slavery and, in fact, a slave trade that existed before and almost as a predecessor if not a prerequisite to trans-Atlantic slave trading. By the time of the arrival of the Europeans, human trafficking was already an established thing. Of course that doesn’t make it better, and it certainly doesn’t make the involvement of the European powers in the slave trade any less severe, not any less wrong (as if a moral measure could be applied), but as they say, it is what it is.
There is only a glancing mention of the trans-Sahara slave trade in Chapter 1, which lasted longer and was perhaps more voluminous in terms of sheer numbers of bodies transported.
I also found interesting the mention of East European roots of human slavery, as related to feudal practices of serfdom. But again, only a passing mention.
Finally I took note of the mention that slave trafficking in East Africa continued into the 19th century because policing was weaker on the east coast than on the west where British and American anti-slavery efforts were in effect.
In Chapter 2 I learned of the existence of African explorers collaborating with Europeans in seeking new worlds. It is fairly obvious that demand for slaves was economics-driven, but I hadn’t made the connection that opportunities for countries to exploit the slave trade was a function of wars, conflicts and internal developments inside and between European powers. I also wasn’t aware that slaves were not forbidden literacy skills by law in Brazil as they were in the U.S.
Due to a former association of several years living in Guinea-Bissau and Angola, I expected more information about the Portuguese development of their particular slavery model honed by decades of experience moving enslaved workers to coffee and sugar plantations in Sao Tome from Cape Verde and Angola. I would recommend this addition in future editions.
Finally, there is a lot to learn about slave revolts and aspirations for independent diasporan communities in Latin American and Caribbean countries. Traditional history remains muted on the frequency and success rate of such movements.
response to Barbara
Barbara: after reading your submission, I want to go back and make some stylistic changes to mine! I love the way you use bold to highlight and the dashes to separate ideas. Definitely gonna try it next time.
I think it is important to note that Europeans used the inland rivers and trade routes already established by the indigenous people for their trade. It’s an agency issue, for better or for worse. You also allude to the idea that groups of Africans also profitted from human trafficking, a concept that is relevant for our eventual explanations to museum-goers. Finally, the generations of seasoning in the Caribbean and especially in Brazil will click when people think about ancestors and relatives with ancestors names passed down who have traces of Spanish and Portuguese names.
What you highlighted about Franz Boas and his influence on WEB DuBois and Zora Neale Hurston reminds me of correspondence between Boas and William Montague Cobb, whose papers I am processing at work. Amazing the connections that exist!
response to Laurice
Charing and sobering. I agree. But at least it means we were not entirely victims in the process. I think escaping from victimhood mentality, by learning and by study, is its own very special liberation.
African families profited financially from enslaving fellow Africans, and used the proceeds to send their children away for European educations, where they continued to build generational wealth. It continues to today. I met some very interesting people in the African countries I was assigned to. Many of them had grandparents and great grandparents who were colonial administrators, the petite bourgeoisie of their countries continuing past colonial liberation. Complicit? Indeed. The fortunate few.
It helps to see these things with a clear head.
The slave trade was still a big deal, especially for all the reasons you have enumerated. We have a complex heritage.
response to Linda
I started a 15 poem series on Nat Turner a couple years ago, a heroic sonnet crown. But I ran out of gas after #9! Remind me to share it with you.
There is much to learn from Brazil, so close to us and yet so foreign and strange. Slavery continued there until the 1880’s, after ending officially in the US in the 1860’s, and in the UK in, I think, the 1820’s. There is a sort of continuum that is worthy of serious study. Each had recolonization programs, UK to Sierra Leone, US to Liberia, and Brazil to Nigeria. Another interesting continuum. Only in the US, among the three, was eventual segregation enshrined and written into federal law. Of course, South Africa learned from us in building its apartheid system.
So much to know and so little time.
Look forward to future interactions.