Harmony to Holocaust the Portuguese Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2584 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature - African  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] As a result their culture flourished, becoming quite well-known for crafting gold/brass items, carving wood, making furniture as well as the famous brightly colored cloth known as kente ("Wonders").

Another important area affected by the slave trade was the Kingdom of Kongo (modern day Republic of Congo) which lay on the Congo River. It was a federation of provinces/cultures and was fully involved in the shipment of slaves northward to the Gold Coast. It affected this transfer through the island of Sao Tome which acted as a way station of sorts. Kongo was fully transformed by contact with the European slave traders, most particularly the Portuguese. The Portuguese sent carpenters, mason and other builders to rehabilitate their capital city of Mbanza Kongo. It was created in a more European style and renamed Sao Salvador. Even the people at the royal court of Kongo developed European habitats and dressed in the fashion of the continent. And in return for slaves shipped to the north, the court imported a wide variety of wares ("Sao Tome").

The final and also most important example of a kingdom affected by the Atlantic Slave Trade was the kingdom of Dahomey which was part of the Empire of Benin. Benin was formed between 1000 and 1500 CE from the consolidation of many villages which existed south of the Sahel region in the forestlands of west Africa. It eventually became the largest and most durable of the empires in the region (now Nigeria). The language and culture of this area was known as Edo, and Benin eventually became "known for the explosion of artistic creativity following its formation and throughout its entire history." ("The Forest Kingdoms").

But Benin, itself, did not fall prey to the European attempts to ensnare it. The kingdom simply did not take part in the slave trade even though it was often attacked by other kingdoms that were looking for slaves. In fact, it became one of the longest lasting civilizations in all of west Africa up until the nineteenth century, when the European powers moved in to carve up the continent (The Forest Kingdoms").

Yet the same cannot be said of other "Forest Kingdoms." The Oyo empire (Yoruba), the Manikongo kingdom and Dahomey all eagerly sought out the European slave traders and looked to benefit from the traffic in human bondage. Dahomey, the most important, became "a major exporter of slaves to the New World during the triangular trade between Africa, Europe and the New World during the 16-18th centuries." ("Part III"). This kingdom was based on the Fon or Aja culture and had started somewhere in the 1720s on the Bight of Benin (also known as the Slave Coast). Falling completely into the Western trap, Dahomey had an economy that was almost completely reliant on the trade of slaves and firearms ("Part III").

African Complicity?

Inevitably in a discussion of the Atlantic Slave Trade, the question regarding the complicity of African rulers in the entire process is raised. True, slavery did exist in all areas of Africa long before the Europeans arrived on the scene. In fact, in certain areas, the Europeans had an easy time garnering cargo because they could readily draw upon already extant supply routes ("Part II"). However, this attempt by white, Eurocentric cultures to place the blame on blacks does not hold up under any type of sustained scrutiny. Chattel slavery, the type found in the New World, was nothing like that which had existed on the home continent. In Africa, "indigenous slavery was relatively a marginal aspect of traditional African societies. Many forms of servitude and slavery were relatively benign..." ("Part II").

Also the Eurocentric viewpoint fails to take into consideration that slavery in Africa was almost completely "a demand-driven market out of Europe and America, not a supply-driven market out of Africa. We did not seek to sell captives to the Whites as an original act." (Beard). In essence, had there been no need for slaves on the European end, there would not have been chattel slavery.

The Problem Remains the Same

Tunde Obadina states the situation well when he complains that the problems of slavery hundreds of years ago still exist today. He does not refer to the slave trade itself, however. Instead, he indicates that the people who today run many of the African governments are shortchanging the people that actually live in the countries. In his words, "[t]he selfishness and disregard for the welfare of fellow humans manifest in the sacking of national resources by modern African leaders also motivated the pillaging of the human resources of the continent in times past." Too often the leaders of modern African governments have their own interests in mind rather than the good of the country and the larger society. The wealth obtained by selling slaves centuries ago was wasted on consumption goods and instant gratification. Clearly there were better uses for it. "Africa's contemporary history may have been different had its rulers and traders demanded capital goods for use in building the economy rather than trinkets and booze." These are the lessons for contemporary African leaders (Obadina).


Beard, Oscar L. "Did We Sell Each Other Into Slavery." Hartford-Hwp.com Web Site.

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Hooker, Richard. "The Forest Kingdoms." Washington State University Web Site. 6

June 1999 5 May 2003. http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/CIVAFRCA/FOREST.htm

The Maafa: A Holocaust of Greed." 5 May 2003. http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Classroom/9912/maafa.html

Obadina, Tunde. "Slave trade: a root of contemporary African Crisis." African

Economic Analysis. 5 May 2003. http://www.afbis.com/analysis/slave.htm

Origins of the trans-Atlantic slave trade." About.com. 5 May 2003. http://africanhistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa101101a.htm

Part II: African Empires." Central Oregon Community College Web Site. 5 May 2003. http://www.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/hum211/timelines/htimeline2.htm

Part III: African Slave Trade." Central Oregon Community College Web Site. 5 May 2003. http://www.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/hum211/timelines/htimeline3.htm

Reynolds, Jonathan T. et al. "Conversations with Colleagues: Africanist and Afrocentric

Reactions." West African Review. 5 May 2003. http://www.westafricanreview.com/war/vol1.2/reynolds.html

Sao Tome and the Slave Trade." About.com Web Site. 5 May 2003. http://africanhistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa120701a.htm.

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade." About.com. 5 May 2003. http://africanhistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa080601a.htm

Wonders: Ashanti Kingdom." PBS.org Web Site. 5 May 2003. http://www.pbs.org/wonders/Episodes/Epi3/3_wondr1.htm. [END OF PREVIEW]

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