Contrary to conventional thought, Slavery was NOT only endured by Blacks, all peoples have at one time or another been enslaved. The irony is that it is Blacks who appear to have created the institution of Slavery. As the creators of civilization, and the builders of the worlds first cities, Blacks logically were the first to have a need for slaves, as a source of free labor. Slavery in ancient cultures was known to occur in civilizations as old as Sumer, and it was found in every civilization, including Ancient Egypt, the Akkadian Empire, Assyria, Ancient Greece, Rome and parts of its empire.
Black Kings of Ancient Slave owning Societies
Sumerian story: GILGAMESH and AGGA of KISH - ( Before 2,500 B.C.)
82-89 They hit him, they struck him. They beat Birhur-tura's entire length. Gilgamesh climbed up on the rampart after the officer of Unug. His radiance overwhelmed Kulaba's young and old. He armed Unug's able-bodied men with battle maces and stationed them on the causeway at the city gate's door. Only Enkidu went out through the city gate. Gilgamesh leaned out over the rampart. Looking up, Aga saw him: "Slave, is that man your king?"
92-99 "That man is indeed my king." It was just as he had said: Gilgamesh cast down multitudes, he raised up multitudes, multitudes were smeared with dust, all the nations were overwhelmed, the land's canal-mouths were filled with silt, the barges' prows were broken, and he took Aga, the king of Kic, captive in the midst of his army.
HAMMURABI'S CODE OF LAWS (circa 1780 B.C.)
15: If any one take a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates [to escape], he shall be put to death.
16: If any one receive into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or of a freedman, and does not bring it out at the public proclamation of the [police], the master of the house shall be put to death.
Such institutions were a mixture of debt-slavery, punishment for crime, the enslavement of prisoners of war, child abandonment, and the birth of slave children to slaves. In the Roman Empire, probably over 25% of the empire's population, and 30 to 40% of the population of Italy was enslaved. Records of slavery in Ancient Greece go as far back as Mycenaean Greece. It is often said that the Greeks as well as philosophers such as Aristotle accepted the theory of natural slavery i.e. that some men are slaves by nature. At the time of Plato and Socrates, slavery was so accepted by the Greeks (including philosophers) that few people indeed protested it as an institution.
Romans inherited the institution of slavery from the Greeks and the Phoenicians. As the Roman Republic expanded outward, entire populations were enslaved, thus creating an ample supply to work in Rome's farms and households. The people subjected to Roman slavery came from all over Europe and the Mediterranean. Such oppression by an elite minority eventually led to slave revolts (see Roman Servile Wars); the Third Servile War led by Spartacus was the most famous and severe. Greeks, Berbers, Germans, Britons, Thracians, Gauls (or Celts), Jews, Arabs, and many more were slaves used not only for labor, but also for amusement (e.g. gladiators and sex slaves). If a slave ran away, he was liable to be crucified. By the late Republican era, slavery had become a vital economic pillar in the wealth of Rome.
In the Viking era starting c. 793, the Norse raiders often captured and enslaved militarily weaker peoples they encountered. In the Nordic countries the slaves were called thralls. The thralls were mostly from Western Europe, among them many Franks, Anglo-Saxons, and Celts. Many Irish slaves participated in the colonization of Iceland. There is evidence of German, Baltic, Slavic and Latin slaves as well. The slave trade was one of the pillars of Norse commerce during the 6th through 11th centuries. The Persian traveler Ibn Rustah described how Swedish Vikings, the Varangians or Rus, terrorized and enslaved the Slavs, (thus the word Slave).
The Vikings raided across Europe, though their slave raids were the most destructive in the British Isles and Eastern Europe. While the Vikings kept some slaves for themselves as servants, known as thralls, most people captured by the Vikings would be sold on the Byzantine or Islamic markets. In the West the targets of Viking slavery were primarily English, Irish, and Scottish, while in the East they were mainly Slavs. The Viking slave trade slowly ended in the 1000s, as the Vikings settled in the European territories they once raided.
The Mongol invasions and conquests in the 13th century made the situation worse. The Mongols enslaved skilled individuals, women and children and marched them to Karakorum or Sarai, whence they were sold throughout Eurasia. Many of these slaves were shipped to the slave market in Novgorod, (near Moscow in Russia).
Slave commerce during the Late Middle Ages was mainly in the hands of Venetian and Genoese merchants and cartels, who were involved in the slave trade with the Golden Horde. In 1382 the Golden Horde under Khan Tokhtamysh sacked Moscow, burning the city and carrying off thousands of inhabitants as slaves. Between 1414 and 1423, some 10,000 eastern European slaves were sold in Venice. Genoese merchants organized the slave trade from the Crimea to Mamluk Egypt. For years the Khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan routinely made raids on Russian principalities for slaves and to plunder towns. Russian chronicles record about 40 raids of Kazan Khans on the Russian territories in the first half of the 16th century. In 1521, the combined forces of Crimean Khan Mehmed Giray and his Kazan allies attacked Moscow and captured thousands of slaves.
In 1441, Haci I Giray declared independence from the Golden Horde and established the Crimean Khanate. For a long time, until the early 18th century, the khanate maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. In a process called the "harvesting of the steppe", they enslaved many Slavic peasants. About 30 major Tatar raids were recorded into Muscovite territories between 1558-1596. In 1571, the Crimean Tatars attacked and sacked Moscow, burning everything but the Kremlin and taking thousands of captives as slaves. In Crimea, about 75% of the population consisted of slaves.
The Islamic World was also a main factor in Medieval European slavery. From the early 700s until the early Modern time period (rough the 18th or 19th centuries) Arabs and Berbers (Moors) consistently took European slaves. This slavery began during the Muslim Conquest of Visigothic Spain and Portugal in the 8th century. The Muslim powers of Iberia both raided for slaves and purchased slaves from European merchants; the Jewish Radhanites, one of the few groups that could easily move between the Christian and Islamic worlds.
As the Muslims failed to conquer Europe in the 8th century they took to pirate raids against the shores of Spain, southern Portugal and France, and Italy, that would last roughly from the 9th century until the 12th century, when the Italian city-states of Genoa, Venice, and Pisa, along with the Spanish kingdoms of Aragon and Castile, as well as the Sicilian Normans, began to dominate the Mediterranean. The Middle Ages from 1100 to 1500 saw a continuation of the European slave trade, as there was a shift from the Western Mediterranean Islamic nations to the Eastern nations, as Venice and Genoa took firm control of the Eastern Mediterranean from the 12th century and the Black Sea from the 13th century sold and both Slavic and Baltic slaves, as well as Georgians, Turks, and other ethnic groups of the Black Sea and Caucasus, to the Muslim nations of the Middle East.
The Barbary Corsairs, sometimes called Corsairs or Barbary Pirates, were Muslim pirates and privateers who operated from North Africa from the time of the Crusades (11th century) until the early 19th century. Based in North African ports such as Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, Salé, and other ports in Morocco, they sailed mainly along the stretch of northern Africa known as the Barbary Coast. But their predation extended throughout the Mediterranean, south along West Africa's Atlantic seaboard, and into the North Atlantic as far north as Iceland, and they primarily commandeered western European ships in the western Mediterranean Sea. In addition, they engaged in Razzias, raids on European coastal towns to capture Christian slaves to sell at slave markets in places such as Algeria and Morocco.
These Pirates destroyed thousands of French, Spanish, Italian and British ships, and long stretches of coast in Spain and Italy were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants, discouraging settlement until the 19th century. From the 16th to 19th century, pirates captured an estimated 800,000 to 1.25 million Europeans as slaves, mainly from seaside villages in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, but also from France, Britain, the Netherlands, Ireland and as far away as Iceland and North America. The most famous corsairs were the brothers Hayreddin Barbarossa ("Redbeard") and Oruç Reis, who took control of Algiers in the early 16th century.
The Byzantine-Ottoman wars and the Ottoman wars in Europe brought large numbers of Christian slaves into the Islamic world too. After the battle of Lepanto approximately 12,000 Christian galley slaves were freed from the Ottoman Turks. Christians were also selling Muslim slaves captured in war. The Knights of Malta attacked pirates and Muslim shipping, and their base became a center for slave trading, selling captured North Africans and Turks. Malta remained a slave market until well into the late 18th century. It required a thousand slaves to equip merely the galleys (ships) of the Order.
Slavery in Poland was forbidden in the 15th century; in Lithuania, slavery was formally abolished in 1588; they were replaced by the second enserfment. Slavery remained a minor institution in Russia until the 1723, when the Peter the Great converted the household slaves into house serfs. Russian agricultural slaves were formally converted into serfs earlier in 1679. The runaway Polish and Russian serfs and kholops known as Cossacks (‘outlaws’) formed autonomous communities in the southern steppes.
The sale of European slaves by Europeans slowly ended as the Slavic and Baltic ethnic groups Christianized by the Late Middle Ages. European slaves in the Islamic World would continue into the Modern time period as Muslim pirates, primarily Algerians, with the support of the Ottoman Empire, raided European coasts and shipping from the 16th to the 19th centuries, ending their attacks with the naval decline of the Ottoman Empire in the late 16th and 17th centuries, as well as the European conquest of North Africa throughout the 19th century.
Following the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as well as the involvement of the United States Navy in the First and Second Barbary Wars interceding to protect US interests (1801–5, 1815), European powers agreed upon the need to suppress the Barbary pirates and the effectiveness of the corsairs declined. In 1816 a joint Dutch and British Fleet under Viscount Exmouth bombarded Algiers and forced that city and terrified Tunis into giving up over 3,000 prisoners and making fresh promises. Following a resumption of piracy based out of Algiers, in 1824 another British fleet again bombarded Algiers. France colonized much of the Barbary coast in the 19th century
The maritime town of Lagos, Portugal, was the first slave market created in Portugal for the sale of imported African slaves - the Mercado de Escravos, opened in 1444. In 1441, the first slaves were brought to Portugal from northern Mauritania. Prince Henry the Navigator, major sponsor of the Portuguese African expeditions, as of any other merchandise, taxed one fifth of the selling price of the slaves imported to Portugal. By the year 1552 black African slaves made up 10 percent of the population of Lisbon. In the second half of the 16th century, the Crown gave up the monopoly on slave trade and the focus of European trade in African slaves shifted from import to Europe to slave transports directly to tropical colonies in the Americas - in the case of Portugal, especially Brazil. In the 15th century one third of the slaves were resold to the African market in exchange of gold.
The 15th century Portuguese exploration of the African coast is commonly regarded as the harbinger of European colonialism. In 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued the papal bull Dum Diversas, granting Afonso V of Portugal the right to reduce any "Saracens, pagans and any other unbelievers" to hereditary slavery which legitimized slave trade under Catholic beliefs of that time. This approval of slavery was reaffirmed and extended in his Romanus Pontifex bull of 1455.
Below is a letter, which King Ferdinand sent along with Columbus on his second voyage to Haiti. It was to be communicated to the Taino/Arawak Indians.
In the name of King Ferdinand and Juana, his daughter, Queen of Castile and Leon, etc., conquerors of barbarian nations, we notify you as best we can that our Lord God Eternal created Heaven and earth and a man and woman from whom we all descend for all times and all over the world. In the 5,000 years since creation the multitude of these generations caused men to divide and establish kingdoms in various parts of the world, among whom God chose St. Peter as leader of mankind, regardless of their law, sect or belief. He seated St. Peter in Rome as the best place from which to rule the world but he allowed him to establish his seat in all parts of the world and rule all people, whether Christians, Moors, Jews, Gentiles or any other sect. He was named Pope, which means admirable and greatest father, governor of all men. Those who lived at that time obeyed St. Peter as Lord and superior King of the universe, and so did their descendants obey his successors and so on to the end of time.
The late Pope gave these islands and mainland of the ocean and the contents hereof to the above-mentioned King and Queen, as is certified in writing and you may see the documents if you should so desire. Therefore, Their Highnesses are lords and masters of this land; they were acknowledged as such when this notice was posted, and were and are being served willingly and without resistance; then, their religious envoys were acknowledged and obeyed without delay, and all subjects unconditionally and of their own free will became Christians and thus they remain. Their Highnesses received their allegiance with joy and benignity and decreed that they be treated in this spirit like good and loyal vassals and you are under the obligation to do the same.
Therefore, we request that you understand this text, deliberate on its contents within a reasonable time, and recognize the Church and its highest priest, the Pope, as rulers of the universe, and in their name the King and Queen of Spain as rulers of this land, allowing the religious fathers to preach our holy Faith to you. You own compliance as a duty to the King and we in his name will receive you with love and charity, respecting your freedom and that of your wives and sons and your rights of possession and we shall not compel you to baptism unless you, informed of the Truth, wish to convert to our holy Catholic Faith as almost all your neighbors have done in other islands, in exchange for which Their Highnesses bestow many privileges and exemptions upon you. Should you fail to comply, or delay maliciously in so doing, we assure you that with the help of God we shall use force against you, declaring war upon you from all sides and with all possible means, and we shall bind you to the yoke of the Church and of Their Highnesses; we shall enslave your persons, wives and sons, sell you or dispose of you as the King sees fit; we shall seize your possessions and harm you as much as we can as disobedient and resisting vassals. And we declare you guilty of resulting deaths and injuries, exempting Their Highnesses of such guilt as well as ourselves and the gentlemen who accompany us. We hereby request that legal signatures be affixed to this text and pray those present to bear witness for us, etc.
These Papal bulls came to serve as a justification for the subsequent era of slave trade and European colonialism. Although for a short period as in 1462, Pius II declared slavery to be "a great crime". The followers of the church of England and Protestants did not use the papal bull as a justification. The position of the church was to condemn the slavery of Christians, but slavery was regarded as an old established and necessary institution which supplied Europe with the necessary workforce. In the 16th century African slaves had substituted almost all other ethnicities and religious enslaved groups in Europe. Within the Portuguese territory of Brazil, and even beyond its original borders, the enslavement of native Americans was carried out by the Bandeirantes.
The Bandeirantes or "followers of the banner" were Portuguese colonial scouts in Brazil, members of the 16th-18th century South American slave-hunting expeditions, called Bandeiras (Portuguese for "flags"). Their purpose was to capture natives and force them into slavery.
According to David Stannard's American Holocaust, 50% of African deaths occurred in Africa as a result of wars between native kingdoms, which produced the majority of slaves. This includes not only those who died in battles, but also those who died as a result of forced marches from inland areas to slave ports on the various coasts. The practice of enslaving enemy combatants and their villages was widespread throughout Western and West Central Africa, although wars were rarely started to procure slaves. The slave trade was largely a by-product of tribal and state warfare as a way of removing potential dissidents after victory or financing future wars.
However, some African groups proved particularly adept and brutal at the practice of enslaving others, such as Oyo, Benin, Igala, Kaabu, Asanteman, Dahomey, the Aro Confederacy and the Imbangala war bands. By the end of this process, no fewer than 18.3 million people would be herded into "factories" to await shipment to the New World.
The kings of Dahomey sold their war captives into transatlantic slavery, who otherwise would have been killed in a ceremony known as the Annual Customs. As one of West Africa's principal slave states, Dahomey became extremely unpopular with neighbouring peoples. King Gezo of Dahomey said in the 1840s:
The slave trade is the ruling principle of my people. It is the source and the glory of their wealth…the mother lulls the child to sleep with notes of triumph over an enemy reduced to slavery…
Like the Bambara Empire to the east, the Khasso kingdoms depended heavily on the slave trade for their economy. A family's status was indicated by the number of slaves it owned, leading to wars for the sole purpose of taking more captives. This trade led the Khasso into increasing contact with the European settlements of Africa's west coast, particularly the French.
Benin grew increasingly rich during the 16th and 17th centuries on the slave trade with Europe; slaves from enemy states of the interior were sold, and carried to the Americas in Dutch and Portuguese ships. The Bight of Benin's shore soon came to be known as the "Slave Coast". In 1807, the UK Parliament passed the Bill that abolished the trading of slaves. The King of Bonny (now in Nigeria) was horrified at the conclusion of the practice:
We think this trade must go on. That is the verdict of our oracle and the priests. They say that your country, however great, can never stop a trade ordained by God himself.
The Atlantic slave trade peaked in the late 18th century, when the largest number of slaves were captured on raiding expeditions into the interior of West Africa. Obviously, Europeans did not TAKE Slaves in Africa, they BOUGHT Slaves in Africa. These expeditions were typically carried out by African kingdoms, such as the Oyo empire (Yoruba), Kong Empire, Kingdom of Benin, Kingdom of Fouta Djallon, Kingdom of Fouta Tooro, Kingdom of Koya, Kingdom of Khasso, Kingdom of Kaabu, Fante Confederacy, Ashanti Confederacy, Aro Confederacy and the kingdom of Dahomey. Europeans rarely entered the interior of Africa, due to fear of disease and moreover fierce African resistance. The slaves were brought to coastal outposts where they were traded for goods.
Denmark was the first European country to ban slavery. In 1807 Britain declared the slave trade to be illegal. One year later the United States of America followed, Sweden in 1813, The Netherlands in 1814, France in 1815 and Spain in 1820.
However the constant demand for slaves in the Caribbean and in the Southern States of America continued. Huge profits could still be made with the slave trade. In the years that followed, dozens of illegal slave transports took place between Africa and those destinations. Britain on an international level made great efforts to stop this illegal trade. It made agreements with other countries, and British marine ships were authorized to ransack ships leaving Africa. They patrolled along the African coast to stop illegal slave transports. When a slave trader was caught, the ship was confiscated and the captain punished. The punishments England imposed in 1811 was deportation or the death penalty.
But it was not from a humane point of view that England suppressed the slave trade; rather, it was to protect its own sugar colonies against dishonest competition from other countries that could still count on new supplies of cheap slave labor. The British and French ships patrolling along the African coast also had some unintended consequences; It was not unusual for a slave ship to toss her human cargo into the sea when confronted with a British or French slave hunter. There were also rumors about mass slaughters of slaves onshore along the African coast by African slavers, when British or French ships prevented the slave ships from reaching the shore to pick up their human cargo.
The most important markets for illegal slavers was Cuba and Brazil. From Cuba the African slaves were illegally transported on fast clippers to the southern states of America, often with false documents to prove the slaves originated from other Caribbean colonies and not from Africa. British, American, French and Dutch ships took part in the illegal slave transports that happened until 1870. At a rough estimation, about 1,898,400 slaves have been transported over the Atlantic Ocean between 1811 and 1870. Sixty per-cent of these slaves wore transported to Brazil, 32 percent to Cuba and Puerto Rico, 5 percent to the French West Indies and only 3 percent straight to the United States, but many slaves were brought to the United States through Cuba.
Reformers campaigned during much of the 19th century for the United Kingdom to use its influence and power to stop the traffic of slaves to Brazil. Besides moral qualms, the low cost of slave-produced Brazilian sugar meant that British colonies in the West Indies were unable to match the market prices of Brazilian sugar, and each Briton was consuming 16 pounds (7 kg) of sugar a year by the 19th century. This combination led to intensive pressure from the British government for Brazil to end this practice, which it did by steps over several decades.
First, foreign slave trade was banned in 1850. Then, in 1871, the sons of the slaves were freed. In 1885, slaves aged over 60 years were freed. The Paraguayan War contributed to ending slavery, since many slaves enlisted in exchange for freedom. In Colonial Brazil, slavery was more a social than a racial condition. In fact, some of the greatest figures of the time, like the writer Machado de Assis and the engineer André Rebouças had Black ancestry.
Brazil's 1877-78 Grande Seca (Great Drought) in the cotton-growing northeast led to major turmoil, starvation, poverty and internal migration. As wealthy plantation holders rushed to sell their slaves south, popular resistance and resentment grew, inspiring numerous emancipation societies. They succeeded in banning slavery altogether in the province of Ceará by 1884. Slavery was legally ended nationwide on 13 May by the Lei Aurea ("Golden Law") of 1888. The Portuguese in Brazil were the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery.
However, in 2004, the government acknowledged to the United Nations that at least 25,000 Brazilians work under conditions "analogous to slavery." The top anti-slavery official puts the number of modern slaves at 50,000. More than 1,000 slave laborers were freed from a sugar cane plantation in 2007 by the Brazilian government, making it the largest anti-slavery raid in modern times in Brazil.
Distribution of slaves in the Americas (1519–1867)
Destination - Percentage
|British America (West Indies)||18.4%|
|British North America||6.45%|
|Dutch West Indies||2.0%|
|Danish West Indies||0.3%|
Ambassador Cyrille Oguin of Benin said:
Benin President Mattieu Kerekou has made reconciliation a priority, Oguin says. "The president of Benin, the people of Benin have asked me to come here and apologize for the government, for the Benin people and for Africa for what we all know happened," Oguin says. "Where our parents were involved in this awful, this terrible, trade."
Zanzibar was once East Africa's main slave-trading port, and under Omani Arabs in the 19th century as many as 50,000 slaves were passing through the city each year. Some historians estimate that between 11 and 18 million black African slaves crossed the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara Desert from 650 AD to 1900 AD, compared with the 9.4 to 12 million Africans who were taken to the Americas.
During the Age of Exploration, the Portuguese Empire was the first European power to gain control of Zanzibar, and the Portuguese kept it for nearly 200 years. In 1698, Zanzibar fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman, which developed an economy of trade and cash crops with a ruling Arab elite. Plantations were developed to grow spices, hence the term Spice Islands. Another major trade good for Zanzibar was ivory. The Sultan of Zanzibar controlled a substantial portion of the East African coast, known as Zanj; this included Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, and trading routes that extended much further inland, such as the route leading to Kindu on the Congo River.
Sometimes gradually and sometimes by fits and starts, control of Zanzibar came into the hands of the British Empire; part of the political impetus for this was the 19th century movement for the abolition of the slave trade. The relationship between Britain and the nearest relevant colonial power, Germany, was formalized by the 1890 Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty, in which Germany pledged not to interfere with British interests in insular Zanzibar. That year, Zanzibar became a protectorate (not a colony) of Britain. From 1890 to 1913, traditional viziers were appointed to govern as puppets, switching to a system of British residents (effectively governors) from 1913 to 1963.
Hamoud bin Mohammed Al-Said became sultan with the support of the British consul, Sir Basil Cave, upon the death of Hamad bin Thuwaini. Before he could enter the palace, another potential contender for the throne, Khalid bin Barghash, seized the palace and declared himself sultan. The British responded the next day, August 26, 1896, by issuing an ultimatum to Khalid and his entourage to evacuate the palace by 9:00 a.m. on August 27. When he refused, British warships fired on the palace and other strategic locations in the city, destroying them and causing Khalid and his group to flee.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records the resultant Anglo-Zanzibar War was the shortest war in history, and the same day Hamoud was able to assume the title of sultan, more indebted to the British than ever. Later Hamoud complied with British demands that slavery be banned in Zanzibar and that all the slaves be freed. For this he was decorated by Queen Victoria and his son and heir, Ali bin Hamud, was brought to England to be educated.
Click Next to continue on to Arab and Berber paintings pertaining to Slavery