Resistance and Complicity
It is impossible to understand or write about Africa’s history without considering its relationship with continents like Europe and America. It is imperative that a discussion of the subject concentrate on Africans’ pivotal shaping of world history (Lindsay, 2007). Europeans (i.e., Englishmen, Dutchmen, the Portuguese, and the French) contributed only superficially to shaping Africa’s history during the Atlantic era’s first two centuries, engaging in merchandizing and goods transportation between sea coasts. Only after 1640 did the Europeans, in what is known as the 2nd Atlantic Era (1640-1800s), begin demanding slaves and raw materials, commencing their cruel influence on the economic freedom of the continent. They effectively influenced or overpowered particular communities on the continent through several layers of partnerships strategically created with natives, rather than through military strength. African currency’s gradual devaluation attained by introducing European currency in the form of copper coins, Gatling guns and repeating rifles paved the path for Europeans’ subsequent domination over Africa (Ehret, 2002).
Europeans’ transatlantic slave business was the very first time in human history that people were actually utilized as ships’ ‘cargo’; it bore the comparison of various worldwide commercial networks. Unlike other goods that guide cross-cultural communication and trade, slaves were actual humans, implying they were vulnerable to distress and agony, and could put up resistance (Lindsay, 2007).
Nature of African Involvement
Researchers have addressed three key themes in their works on the topic, namely (Lindsay, 2007):
1. The slave trade’s African context,
2. Its history, and
3. The resultant change in the meaning of racism and race.
African nations didn’t exactly separate politics from religion, and kings’ conversion had mixed motives: sincerity and efficiency were compatible, in both age-old African religions and the Iberian Catholic Church. In the area of sex and business, African kings contributed significantly to forming and strengthening relationships with European colonialists, and were usually led to believe they were enjoying the better part of the bargain. Northrup has concentrated on particular areas like textiles, metals, guns, politics, inland trade, spirits and tobacco in Sierra Leone; slavery only served to form new African identities. (Northrup, 2002). Meanwhile, Ehret, who looks at African civilizations up 1800 AD, has addressed the broad array cultural, economic, social and technological changes on the continent, resulting from slave trade (Ehret, 2002).
Complicity within African Natives
Commonly examined aspects of African relations with South and North America, and the European continent include the former’s cultural impact on colonial and even modern America and the economic contribution of Africa, right from initial trade relationships to the barbaric 2nd Atlantic-Era slave business. What is usually overlooked in European colonialism discussions is the fact that Portugal’s rulers significantly endeavored to honor as well as sustain their positive relationship with Africa (Northrup, 2002).
Western African nation, Benin, was one of the foremost nations to provide support to the barbaric slave trade, cruelly and enthusiastically bartering its very own low-class citizens for new materials and goods. The Portuguese could easily purchase Benin’s poor as slaves every now and again. However, state policy continually resisted allowing human trade to dictate its relationship with other parties (Ehret, 2002).
The Kingdom of Kongo and surrounding regions showed interest in engaging in trade with Portuguese merchants in the second half of the fifteenth century. Religion was their key cause for interest. The decentralized kingdom’s rulers had no sound ideological foundation and Catholicism’s focus on saints seemed to provide them with a novel class of spirit, having the capacity to be appropriated as the ruling class’s religious sphere. The religious link became even more tempting for Kongo’s kings as Iberian Christianity legitimized the sort of monarchy they aimed for — centralized monarchy over subordinated hierarchical aristocracy (Ehret, 2002).
Between the 1570s and 1620s, Luanda-based Portuguese slowly and randomly extended power over the kingdoms of Matamba and Ndongo. Initially their relation with these kingdoms was largely combative; however, slowly, they were able to gain purchase in the coastal area and develop political influence, especially at Ndongon king, Ngola’s court. Beginning around 1611, the Portuguese started increasingly adopting a fresh tactic, of allying with Kasanje, an Imbangala kingdom situated upcountry along upper Kwango, to Ndongon and Matamban kingdoms’ east. Kasanje, owing to its organization around battle chases to a level no earlier African kingdom reached, was a steady source of required slaves. The kingdom of Ndongo fell under this fresh arrangement in the course of the succeeding two decades. The bigger kingdoms having direct coastal business access were typically strong and autonomous till the 1640s, with trade relationships, perhaps commonly, reinforcing central authority. It was only in places where separate Portuguese explorers influenced internal politics (e.g. Mutapa) or successfully allied with a single African kingdom or nation against other states (e.g., Angola) that foreigners seriously disrupted large kingdoms’/states’ autonomy (Ehret, 2002).
Impact on Societal Structure, particularly Women
The chief differences in transatlantic and internal African slavery were three: coercion, abuse of human rights, and dispossession. Via coercion (abduction, rape, and raiding), the Europeans captured Africans from every tribe they could and shipped them off to America; of these, roughly 33% were women. An estimated overall 10.7 million people were displaced from their home continent, had their human rights violated, and were forced into slavery, with females accounting for roughly 3.5 million slaves (Lindsay, 2007).
Considering the Atlantic Slave Business database’s lowest figures, from 1801 to 1866, Cubans and Spaniards captured and shipped 784,639 Africans, across the Atlantic, to America, and around 2.5 million to Brazil. Overall Cuban imports of slaves range between 700,000 and 1.3 million. To sum up, out of the approximately 12.5 million intercontinental slave business from 1440 to 1878, a fourth (more than three million) were shipped during the 19th century (Lindsay, 2007).
Africans all over the continent were already hearing news regarding the cruel intercontinental slave business and associated brutalities. People dreaded personal capture and abduction as well as the prospect of having their kith and kin separated from them and shipped off across the ocean, lost to them forever. African communities traditionally established a native court for hearing internal conflicts and took precedence over tribal and inter-state wars. Elders, who made up the council, were regarded by community members as wise, practical people who could competently differentiate right from wrong. These individuals possessed thorough knowledge of standard behavioral codes. People who looked up to them expected them to impartially judge cases. Exile was counted among the harshest punishments, meted out to serious criminal offenders. The colonialists’ slave business introduced a novel, more brutal kind of punishment: being sold off as slaves and banished to a different continent altogether (Lindsay, 2007).
Individuals who weathered the voyage over the Atlantic had to forge novel cultural and individual identities. Robbed of their loved ones and motherlands, the roughly 11 million survivors hailed from different ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups. When within their home continent, they knew none but their tribe, families and friends. The only common bond between them was their surviving the horrors of the transatlantic passage. Central Africans shipped like cargo goods to Brazil forged extremely strong bonds with one another, despite not being relatives. ‘Malungu’ was the word utilized to describe these people, who became close like family on account of the suffering and troubles they endured together. Hence, a fresh family identity was forged, with some ties lasting for generations. Following their landing in America, they were coerced into abruptly changing their cultures, traditions, and even their names. Such acculturation occurred quickly, owing to the system that demanded a swift transformation of their African identity and customs. Slaves who failed to adhere to their novel identity had slim chances of survival (Lindsay, 2007).
African acculturation and the intermixing of non-African and African peoples gave rise to new identities, cultures, beliefs and traditions. Among the strongest indicators of such transformation and colonizers’ influence was name preservation which served to retain ethnicity. Traditional Africans disliked the thought of losing their original identity and held on to their original names, together with the Christian names the Europeans gave them. This traditional name would be subsequently passed on to their offspring born on American soil (e.g., Sam Barbara, Louis Congo, etc., whose surname is conspicuously African, despite an English Christian name). To this day, the state of Louisiana continues to witness such names, indicating a modern-day slave trade legacy (Lindsay, 2007)
Resistance to Slave Trade
The 18th-century’s end witnessed an acceleration of trade and profounder African ties with the emergent world economy across most of Africa. Although the cruel human cargo transport from Africa’s West Coast, across the Atlantic, thrived for half a century more, the resistance to slave trade began to win out slowly and progressively. From the drives against slave trade emerged a novel form of cultural effect of Europeans in the West Asian region, via the institution of colonies initially inhabited by liberated ex-slaves from the North American region and, subsequent to the year 1807, by individuals aboard slave ships who gained freedom owing to the ships’ capture. (Ehret, 2002)
Ehret, C. (2002). The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800. University of Virginia Press.
Lindsay, L. (2007). Captives as Commodities: The Transatlantic Slave Trade. Prentice Hall.
Northrup, D. (2002). Africa’s Discovery of Europe: 1450-1850. Oxford university Press.
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