Short Video on the African Enslavement of Other Africans

I found this video yesterday on YouTube on History Revealed’s channel. It’s part of a series of videos he’s done on fact you weren’t taught in schools. He seems to be refuting the assertion that White Europeans and Americans are the ultimate source of all Africa’s problems, as he’s put another one up today on Nguema, the mad dictator of Equatorial Guinea, who managed to kill or chase out 47 per cent of his country’s population.

This video briefly discusses the role of the Ashanti and Dahomey in the transatlantic slave trade, and states that the Europeans were junior partners because climate, disease and geography prevented them getting any further inland. This is absolutely correct, although we were also prevented from conquering Africa by the strong states in the region. Dahomey and Ashanti weren’t the only African kingdoms involved in the slave trade. Slavery itself had been widely practised in Africa for over three thousand years and very many African societies had slaves, ranging from 30%-70% of their populations. As well as Europeans, they were also supplying the Arab and Asian slave trades.

All this is factual history and should be taught in any objective discussion of the slave trade. I’m putting this video up, however, because it includes something I wasn’t aware of. A few years ago an African chief went down on his knees to beg forgiveness from a congregation of Black Americans for his family’s role in the slave trade. The chiefs’ role in the trade is now hotly discussed in African countries like Ghana and Nigeria, but you don’t hear this in America or Britain, where the attitude seems to be that the slave trade was solely conducted by Whites.


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8 Responses to “Short Video on the African Enslavement of Other Africans”

  1. Mark Pattie Says:

    Is he not the same as our favourite right-wing Tube “historian”?

  2. Que? Says:

    Where does the ‘African societies had slaves, ranging from 30%-70% of their populations’ come from?

    I tried searching for this statistic on google but I couldn’t find anything on it. I’m not denying that many pre-colonial African societies and states had a lot of slaves but nothing about the proportion or percentages.

    The only thing that comes close to a statistic on a certain part of Africa is Mungo Park:
    “The slaves in Africa, I suppose, are nearly in the proportion of three to one to the freemen. They claim no reward for their services except food and clothing, and are treated with kindness or severity, according to the good or bad disposition of their masters. Custom, however, has established certain rules with regard to the treatment of slaves, which it is thought dishonourable to violate. Thus the domestic slaves, or such as are born in a man’s own house, are treated with more lenity than those which are purchased with money. … But these restrictions on the power of the master extend not to the care of prisoners taken in war, nor to that of slaves purchased with money. All these unfortunate beings are considered as strangers and foreigners, who have no right to the protection of the law, and may be treated with severity, or sold to a stranger, according to the pleasure of their owners.”

    However, even this is just an estimation. Furthermore, many take what he says about slavery (and other customs about the parts of Africa he explored) and apply it to the whole continent.

    While I agree that more should be taught about slavery in Africa, this has to be done correctly and not for tit-for-tat reasons. Plus, why stop with Africa? Let’s go all the way in exposing slavery in general.

    • beastrabban Says:

      Hi Que?, I took the statistic from ‘Slavery and Slaving in African History’ by Sean Stillwell (Cambridge University Press 2014). As for teaching slavery generally, I agree with you. Way back in the ’90s it was estimated that there were 20 million slaves around the world. One of the books I came across on it when I was a volunteer at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum was ‘Disposable People’, which covered slavery across the modern world. It’s really grim stuff, covering enslavement and sex slavery in Brazil, Thailand and parts of southeast Asia, servants kept as slaves by Arab masters in Paris and London and so on. The best treated were traditional slaves in societies like Mauretania. Everyone really thinks slavery is a thing of the past, but there are more slaves on Earth now than in previous centuries.

  3. Brian Burden Says:

    Spreading the guilt doesn’t make those involved any the less guilty. Doesn’t make the use of thumbscrews on young children any the less abhorrent. Free discussion of the issue is a fair enough, though it’s only a matter of time before fascists in PC clothing demand a ban on repeats of Up Pompeii on the grounds that it makes slavery seem acceptable or libels the ancient Romans!

    • beastrabban Says:

      No, Brian, discussing the involvement of Black Africans and others in the slave trade doesn’t absolve White Americans and Europeans of their guilt. No-one, as far as I am aware, is saying that it does. And I’m definitely not justifying the children’s thumbscrews or any of the other barbarities used on slaves. But it is does attack the received wisdom that somehow western society is uniquely responsible for slavery, when it was a part of societies the world over. And there is a question of guilt – if we are guilty, then they are too. And this does affect present day activism. The Postcolonial Theorists concentrate on the atrocities committed by White imperialists, but they will not criticise traditional abuses in non-Western societies, to the disgust of liberals and feminists in those societies.

      • Brian Burden Says:

        I’m not accusing you of justifying the white slave-buyers and slave owners, but the facts you present tend to be used by the baddies to absolve them altogether. Slavery, and the barbarities employed to enforce it, is an abomination whatever the colour of those involved. Futhermore, would I not be right in saying that the majority of slavers were simply criminals, whereas the majority of slave owners were upright citizens by the standards of the time, and had to delude themselves with dogma about racial superiority, even claiming approval in holy writ to justify their behaviour?

      • beastrabban Says:

        Depends on the level you’re talking about, Brian. I think the people who owned the ships and financed the trade were probably considered respectable merchants, but at the level of ships’ crews you’re absolutely right. A lot of them were criminals fleeing justice or bankrupts.

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