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  • Hubert Marlin

It is imperative to stop blaming Africans in the history of slavery


Some African authors like Leonora Miano, believe that Africans do not have to be ashamed of having actively contributed to the triangular trade, they should behave like the Germans who have since accepted their share of responsibility for Nazism. A sordid posture that once again see some blacks in an exercise of self-flagellation that serves only the philosophy of Western domination on Africa and African descendants, the horror cannot be white but black in general, because only a people of savage and idiots would have sold its kin on slavery for trinkets. Yet even when one would be an indigenous the love of its fellows is not strictly related to its degree of social and economic development. Although poverty can dehumanize, Africans during the slavery period are rather like the Jews during the Nazi period, because in Africa as in the Jewish community in Europe in the 30s and 40s, were found scattered cases of Jews who contributed to the horror by ignorance or fear of reprisals, but this does not mean that all Jewish were collaborators of choice for Nazi crimes as some tend to make African collaborators by excellence of slavery. As Jews collaborators, who did not know the existence of concentration camps or even what was happening there, African who collaborated didn’t know what was happening beyond the ocean. there will always be traitors and that's not a reason to cast aspersions on an entire community which today continues to suffer the consequences of slavery.

The very serious accusations against the African community by a certain class is an odious attempt to manipulate historical facts, an unhealthy attempt to clear those who systematized and sustained this despicable trade for 500 years, making valuable profits. criminalizing the victims, is a logic in vogue in the tactics of defense of the West. How many times in the United States and France, victims of racism, and police violence, are presented in the media as criminals who deserved what happened to them? Whereas, in the rules of justice one crime does not justify another crime.

The beginning of slavery has often been overshadowed, it’s placed in line with the voyage of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492, yet even in this Spanish expedition there were already black sailor’s descendants of the Moors as well as the blacks who had been captured in Africa and sold into slavery by the Arabs in Spain by the 7th century.

Arabs indeed began to scour the coast of Africa in search of slaves during the 7th century in the form of religious proselytism. Also it is important to note that, in the countries further south where Islam didn’t spread, it has never been easier to submit people to slavery, the greatest collaboration Africans if one can use that term, is related to religious proselytizing. Before the papal bull of Nicola V, January 8, 1454 the Catholic pope, who died barely a year later, Muslims had understood that the trade of faith could manipulate the conscience of individuals.

Slavery was an exclusively racist institution that relied on religion to spread like a trail of powder, the least some were looking Negroid, the more their chances to escape, also countries such as Sudan and Mauritania, slavery practiced was done by the Arabic and Muslim populations with fair skin, these latter undertook to kidnap the mainly black population in Gambia in Senegal and south of the current Sudan. This heinous trade is one of the main root of the war between the north and south Sudan, and slavery that seems to persist in Mauritania date from this period. Similarly further south in Cameroon, the animosity between Arabic choas and Kotoko which today continues is strictly related to the secular kidnapping of Arab choas of the dark skinned Kotoko populations.

Whole sections of the untold story of African slaves in the Middle East are yet known, when one takes the trouble to look hard, as the different Zanj revolt of slaves kidnapped on the black continent in 689, 694, and for 14 years from 869 to 883 are well established in the archives of Bahrain and Iraq of today. It's well established that the town of Basorah was put under siege and taken by slaves who where under the leadership of Ali Ibn Muhammad nicknamed "the Master of the Zanj" (Sahib al-Zanj), who will have the audacity to build a state with former slaves and create a currency for the purpose.

Ethiopia, apart from the color of its population, was not also enslaved because of its secular beliefs, it proved the opposite of Africa, where God was somehow unknown at least in the form of Islam or Christianity, and removed the alibis of salvation of souls by whites and Arabs slavers.

However it should be noted that African Islam, directly inspired by the local maraboutism has often protested against the corruption of the slave trade, in regards of this, in Senegal the imam of Adrar, launched in 1673 the Toubenan movement (a term derived the Wolof word Tabwa which means the "Repentance") with the aim to fight against despotism and corruption of some local leaders, who contributed to the trade of shame. For over a year, the imam and his army managed to restore order in the region but local supporters of slavery once again received the support of Western slavers who supplied them with weapons and mercenaries to push back this movement that threatened their economic interest. The movement will be defeated when the leader of the Toubenan movement the Imam of Adrar, Awbek Ashfaga from the tribe Banu Dayman, who later called himself Nasir al-Din "Protector of the Faith" died in a battle against Hassan warriors who had at their head Heddy, the future Vizir of the Emirates of Trazas. Some Toubenan warriors will be taken captive and exiled to the Americas where they will contribute to several other revolt in the "new world".

The accusations often go even further when speaking of remuneration paid in this heinous trade. It is customary to hear here and there, racist aberrations. African would have received in exchange junk to sell their fellows. how is it possible that peoples who could produce rare minerals like gold diamond were fooled by junk? metallurgical production in sub Saharan Africa, predates Europe production by several centuries. However, and better records exist detailing minutely the activity of this trade on the African coast, all the books relating to this trade have not proven that a remuneration had been donated to Africans for the slave trade. In these accounting books of slavery, shipments are carefully listed the number of slaves, who embarked and the number who arrived, the sale of slaves and their buyer’s names, the cost of renting slave ships and salaries of mercenary sailors, profit of owners, and many other poignant details as the name given to the slaves, their gender and approximate age and origins. How essential partners in the slave trade like Africans locals, are not in the books of that period?

The story of the winner, which is better known, did not put forward the epic battles against the invading hordes that took place on the African coasts. whenever people are lead to think that Westerners arrived and took men, women and children, without encountering the least resistance but rather collaboration by corruption. A Manipulative fib since, in Africa, in the Americas, and in the seas during the travel, there were fierce revolts that often left in the lurch slavers. Some epic battles leaked in the archives anyway.

In those years of slavery, the West African coast was a war zone, where villages were burned and looted constantly both by slavers mercenaries, and by local people who practiced the technique of scorched earth, refusing to yield their harvest, their livestock and of course their fellows, they burned down everything they could not carry, and took refuge in the depths of the forest once they had wind of the presence of the enemy.

There is another relevant fact that is never specified, the African mercenaries enlisted in the slave army were in general coming from different countries and even from Europe, some were born there as descendant of the slaves sold by the Arabs in Europe since the 7th century. Also as in the colonial army later slave masters were using blacks from other countries to fight with them against the black of the countries where they had no ethnic connection. When coming out of emotionalism that removes all rational judgment one must ask the question of whether local slavers could continue to live without fear of vendetta with parents of those they have sold into slavery? Logically there should have been retaliation unless it is estimated that families were happy to part so violently with their members. This assumption in any case prove that slavers were generally foreigners, who came in these lands do their dirty work and were leaving after.

The decline of all African empires began in the 15th century with the beginning of intensive slavery. Between the 7th and 15th century, Africa was not enclosed but rather a stronghold of the trans-Saharan Afro-Asian and Mediterranean trade, Sicily had even diplomatic relations with Mali, which was the largest producer of gold, copper and salt.

The anti-slavery philosophy is not foreign to Africa, the Mandingo charter in 1222 already exhorted to the respect of the lives of others and the end of slave labor.

History knows to repeat itself, the Islamic State and Boko Haram that we know today had their twin in the Oyo Empire, which became a hub in the trade of shame, whites and Arabs slavers helped to build this Muslim kingdom turning it to their local base, an area where they could trade in relative peace. Oyo was a tool of their international relations with Africa. This fort of enslavement disappeared with the end of the slave trade.

Wrongly African nobility has often been accused to have contributed to the filthy trade and even if there have been isolated cases of treason, in their great majority African dignitaries paid a heavy price and were fiercely opposed to the deportation of their countrymen in the logic that no king can rule without people.

In 1526, King Nzinga Mbemba Kongo noting the declining number of people of his kingdom, sent a protest letter to the King of Portugal, where he stated: - "Every day slavery mercenaries kidnap our people. The children of this country, sons of our nobles and vassals, including members of our own family, corruption and depravity that this activity entails have completely depopulated our land "

In 1655, Princess Aqualtune of Kongo led a troop of 10,000 men during the Battle of Mbwilia which opposed the Kongo kingdom versus Portugal. Following the defeat of the Kongo, Aqualtune was deported to Brazil. Aqualtune became one of the leading figures in the creation of free black communities (Quilombo) who challenged the imperial authority of Portugal in Brazil until the end of the colonial period.

African people were not behind, they have often defeated slave militias, it must be remembered they did not come to Africa to trade, but to make economic war for profit.

In 1751, at the time of his departure, the Willingmind, under British flag, moored on a river in Sierra Leone, an epic rebellion started; the boat was taken and burned by the captives who returned to the African mainland.

In 1767: After 4 days of navigation, the British Ship The Industry, carrying African slaves who were to be sold in Carolina, witnessed a revolt of captives, who massacred the crew, took control of the ship and sailed back to Africa. They managed to sink the boat when reaching the shore of Sierra Leone.

In 1770: The Ave Maria, bound for Guadeloupe, is stormed by the people of the West African coast, they free the captives and spare the lives of the crew.

In 1769: Alerted by the gunfire aboard the Nancy Liverpool, who just sailed, local residents of New Calabar, (in Nigeria of today) approached the boat on canoes to rescue peoples in captivity. The fight was victorious and the natives who were destined to slavery returned to the mainland. (See: www.nofi.fr )

These facts are known today because they were listed by the owners of vessels who of course took the trouble to ensure their properties, so they can get their insurance. It was necessary to support their claims by investigating the circumstances in which their ships disappeared; and sometimes there were trials when insurers were reluctant to pay, and these trials also left traces in the archives.

A people that does not keep the memory of the past and enter into the future without vision based on its antecedent experiences, is destined to commit the same mistakes. Today many are watching what is happening in Africa without understanding. Yet, these terrorist hordes who definitely have the support of the same forces that once plunged the continent into an age of darkness are back. The morbid tandem Muslims Arabs allied to western capitalists, is back with a new look and the same objective, inflicting suffering and desolation in the continent, for domination, plunder and slavery-like exploitation. ( bombing of Libya and enslavement of Africans) It is possible that in 100 years, as was the case, history will be rewritten by blaming the current terrorism, to Africans who are the first victims and who, to the limit of their means ardently fight it. No offense to the French president, who believes that France alone was able to succeed to rout out Boko Haram, yet local armies where essential. In this context it is clear that there will soon be many who will support again the thesis of Africans fundamentally bad for their fellows and unable to succeed without the white man. And as usual, they will try to make a generalized issue, yet Africa is over a billion of souls and Islamist groups like Boko Haram and Ansar Dine, are a few thousand men North to South.

When African descendants in the Americas seem to point fingers at Africans condemning their supposed cooperation in this heinous trade, they forget very quickly that they are doing the politics of those who once oppressed their ancestors. If Africa was greatly involved in this trade it would also have enriched in one way or another, unless of course like it is estimated by racist pettiness, that Africans sold their own brothers for nothing because of the idiocy related to their color. If the slavers power could impose terror and subdue the slaves who generally outnumbered white settlers during centuries in the Americas, this prove what they could also impose through terror this odious traffic in Africa for centuries.

The struggles for independence will prove later that Africa as a whole has never agreed to live under the Western yoke. Westerners during the colonial period were able to use the same methods, using foreign expeditionary forces in occupying countries as colonial army to fight independence movements. Thus in Cameroon it is the Chadian and Central African expeditionary forces which were employed to quell the rebellion in Yaoundé May 25, 1955. That day Cameroonians upset by yet another affront decided to demand justice for the heinous crime of a Cameroonian manservant by his white boss, they will perish by hundreds chopped by gunshots of Chadian and Central African mercenaries paid by the colonial administration. The colonialists have always played interests of some against the others, dividing and opposing to manipulate at will.

It is imperative to understand that one can not accuse Africa for not being a perfect society where thieves, traitors, and liars should never have existed, therefore, the reunion between Africans and Afro descendants are sometimes dramatic, imagine for a moment a mother who has lost her children and who suffered martyrdom in their loss, accused by these same children of selling them by collusion with the oppressor once she finds them. It becomes a second separation just as poignant and dramatic, and this moral torture suggests that some really want to inherit the place of the white oppressor.

Also, when the same Afro descendants accuse Africans of collaboration they forget that even in the Americas there have been cases of ignoble collaboration. Some black communities of the Americas, particularly the Cimarron composed mostly of black that once inhabited Europe, some by secular immigration dating from Roman times, others by Arabs slavery that deported Africans there from the 7th century. The Cimarron who were forcibly deported to the Americas by Spain and Oliver Cromwell because of Negrophobia during the 17th century of light, formed themselves into communities refusing slavery, they ended up collaborating with farmers accepting to hunt and to return escaped slaves to their white masters to live in peace with them. Alas these agreements with white farmer’s owners of slaves, lasted only a few seasons, because in the end they were invaded by western armies and forced into slavery.

Also there are cases where African Americans also had slaves besides emotive stories of freedmen who redeemed the freedom of some of their loved ones, there are also unfortunately quite wealthy blacks who bought slaves for capitalist reasons and even contributed to the sale of their kind. Also R.Halliburton Jr in his research proves that some free blacks owned slaves "in each of the thirteen original states of the American Union, and later in every state where slavery was tolerated," at least according to the archives, Anthony Johnson and his wife Mary both black, seized the court in Virginia in 1654 for the services of their servant in a contract for life, a young black man named John Beaver.

And better in the same archives for some time, free blacks could even "own" services white servants in Virginia. In Boston in 1724 several free blacks owned slaves, as in Connecticut in 1783. In 1790, 48 black people living in Maryland owned 143 slaves. Nat Butler a black man, big farmer in Maryland "regularly bought and sold slaves in the southern United States."

Later in 1865 during the War of Secession, which opposed the North versus the South of the United States, many black soldiers enlisted in the army of the Confederate States advocating slavery, which fought the northern union army that was abolitionist, because being a soldier was source of significant incomes. Archives cite for example the case of Luke Hebron one of the founders of the city of freed slaves of Sugarland in Maryland, who enlisted with the Confederate States army of the South, which recruited black soldiers in Rockville, Maryland, right in the North. This paradox highlights the complexity of the history of slavery. A black freedman living in the North fighting for the racist slavery advocate Southern army. However it gets worse, because at Natchez in Mississippi in 1860 tens of thousands of freed slaves died in concentration camps run by the union army which yet, purposefully, was advocating the struggle against slavery and inhumane treatment.

World history proves that traitors and bad apples, have been on the 4 corners of the globe and at any time, however, when some Afro American , Afro English, Afro French, or Afro Dutch, recognize that slavery, despite the racism that they experience in their respective countries, has enabled them to have a standard of living higher than their African counterpart. It is not illogical to say, that to those who have become French, Americans or Canadians, by endorsing these nationalities, the privileges they receive in their lives are also the fruit of slavery. If some will logically answer that they are entitled since their ancestors have suffered, they forget that some of their ancestors for nothing in this the world, would never have accepted anything from the white masters, how many would dine at the table of their worst enemy?

When one inherits a nationality he, (she), should know that now, he, (she), also bears the sins of this nation even if we do not always choose to be born in one place or another, and worse for Africans born in the continent who are struggling once in the west just to endorse the nationality of those who once committed crimes against their peoples , while they can choose not to do so, they become too, beholden to the eyes of natural justice for crimes committed by their illustrious countries of adoption.

One can only recall history, because if it was not for the conscious or unconscious collusion of some opinion leaders of the black cause in the West that led their fellows in houses on fire, the alternative of having independent black countries in America was possible without returning to Africa. In Brazil for example Quilombos founded by the rebellious slaves were big and influential enough to found independent States. In Martinique, Césaire voted against the independence of the Island March 19, 1946. In the United States, the movement which advocated separation of black from white with the hope of founding a nation under black red green banner was quickly overwhelmed by the integrationist movement which Martin Luther King became the leading figure in the 60s. Some black diasporas, at a certain time in history have had the opportunity to have their own states, but chose to sleep in the same bed with their enemies; and now with the miscegenation some people are just as descendants of the worst white slavers, as well as of blacks who suffered martyrdom during the period of slavery, and in the end what memory should they honor?

The question is posed to them, but the answer can only be theirs. When they speak about reparation isn’t it normal that the land that suffered a big lost from the horrors of slavery, the forced labor of colonization that claimed millions of lives as well and which continue to suffer from chronic underdevelopment as a direct consequence can receives at least a symbolic compensation with the recognition by the world institutions of slavery as a crime against humanity? A perfect reparation of all this horror is impossible because one can never go back in time, to give life and smile to the millions of souls who were torn from their land, perished during the journey of the impossible, and suffered unspeakable abuse in distant lands. Local treason or not, things are such that there would have been slavery in any case, because the dominant forces ruling by evil, had so decided.

By Hubert Marlin Jr. Elingui

journalist Writer


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