The Impact of Slavery on African Society Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:25:56
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Slavery has played a strong role in African society from as early as prehistoric times, continuing to the modern era. Early slavery within Africa was a common practice in many societies, and was very central to the countrys economy. Beginning around the 7th century, two groups of non-African slave traders significantly altered the traditional African forms of slavery that had been practiced in the past. Native Africans were now being forced to leave the country to be used as slaves. The two major slave trades, trans-Saharan and trans-Atlantic, became central to the organization of Africa and its societies until the modern era.

Slavery and the slave trade strongly affected African society, and left long term impacts on the development of the entire continent due to the dehumanization of Africans and the high demand of labor causing the slow decline and dismantling of African states. From the 7th century, extending to the 20th century, Arab Muslims raided areas of West, Central, and East Africa, transporting thousands of Slaves to North Africa, the Middle East and India. The trans-Saharan slave trade increased between the 10th and 15th centuries, as Empires such as Songhai, Ghana, Mali, and Kanem-Bornu evolved south of the Sahara, guiding the slave trade.

Over a period of more than a thousand years, the trans-Saharan slave trade directed the movement of over 10 million enslaved men, women, and children. The trans-Saharan slave trade led to the blossom of powerful African states in the inner parts of East Africa, and southern fringes of the Sahara. Although the trans-Saharan slave trade prompted the expansion of slavery within Africa, it was greatly outdone by the large trans-Atlantic trade that followed after the 15th century. The initial group of European slave traders in West Africa were the Portuguese, which was then followed by the British and French.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, these three European Colonial Powers initiated the movement of slaves to their growing possessions in the New World. Slaves were sent across the Atlantic Ocean to North, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean Islands to establish and maintain consistent plantation and agriculture. As European desire grew for products including sugar, cotton and rice, the demand for plantation labor also increased. African slave labor was cheap among European standards, leading to the influx of such a large number of African slaves in the New World.

European and American slave-traders acquired roughly 12 million slaves from West and west central Africa. People may argue that the practice did not become dehumanizing until white Europeans came along and took slaves to the Americas. Slavery had existed in Africa as it had in other parts of the world, for centuries, but it was not based on race and it did not result in dehumanization and death, as did transatlantic slavery. This statement is claiming that because the economies of Africa did not depend on slave labor, the number of enslaved people was small until European traders arrived.

I am convinced that the African slave trade led to the dehumanization of Africans because it was focused on the legal institution created by law in America, which allowed white American settlers to actually own Africans. This type of slavery was severe and brutal, and also degenerated Africans. The rise of industrialization in America brought the demand for large amounts of labor which Americans took advantage of to gain profit. The only group of Africans benefiting from the trans-Atlantic slave trade was the Elites.

These were political members of the ruling class who would capture slaves and take them to markets along the coast. These wealthy slave dealers would use their riches to then identify with other wealthy families through marriage. This created a gap between the prosperous elite, and the struggling lower class. Throughout the continent, slavery had become a major element in African life. As the demand for slaves increased, slave raids became more prevalent, leaving parts of Africa dismantled and unorganized. Other practices such as enslavement as discipline and punishment for crime began to be introduced.

Society was constantly changing in reaction to what was happening in slave trade. The slave trades caused political instability, led to much social fragmentation, and resulted in a decline of legal institutions. The countries from which the greatest number of slaves were taken, are the same areas that had the least developed political structures when the slave trades ended. These are the same countries that are the most ethnically fragmented in modern era Africa. These areas include states such as Angola, Chad, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone.

When the slave trade came to an end, the African continent was strongly affected. Societies that for many years based their economy on slave labor, and slave trade, had trouble with creating new forms of gaining riches and organizing labor. Upon the ending of slavery and the slave trade in Africa, many governments that once had slaves, still were in desperate need of cheap labor. Due to this demand, African leaders and former slave owners created new methods of forcing Africans to work without pay or for very small amounts of compensation.

Slavery has been a significant practice throughout the continent of Africa since pre-historic times. The trans-Saharan and trans-Atlantic slave trades changed the face of slavery in society throughout Africa. The impacts of slavery and the slave trade generated the disruption of the economy resulting in Africa becoming the poorest continent on earth. Slave trades have left Africa very separated, and most importantly underdeveloped and Africans dehumanized.

Even though large empires such as Dahomey, Asante, and Benin expanded and prospered because of the slave trade, the successive abolition of the trade led to the fast downfall of all these states. The huge loss of population suppressed economic, social and political advancement. However, the transfer of Africans to the Americas has led to a cultural diversity unseen in world history. Today African Americans play predominant roles in the arts, sports, and music industry of society. Their contribution to and influence on world culture is incomparable.

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