Slave Origins Of The Caribbean, Latin America & USA

In this post I will attempt to bring awareness to the origins of slaves who came to the New World, Caribbean, Latin America & USA.

Instead of trying to pinpoint a certain country I will give you a general overview of the world these Africans left behind.

Let me first bring your awareness to an idea that has shaped western society since the beginning of the Trans Atlantic slave trade. The idea that Africans are an inferior race was born out of this era and was propogated by the European slave trading countries. (This idea makes it nearly impossible to take any studies about Africa from the 17th century till the latter part of the 20th century, by Europeans, serious because they approached their studies with this bias.)

In 1949, Surinamese sociologist, R.A.J. Van Lier did a study about slavery in the colonies in the New World. In his book “Frontier Society”, Van Lier writes concerning the formation of the new colonies in the Americas:

The slaves underwent a process of dehumanization…They came to be regarded less as human being than as instruments used in the production process. As, moreover, the slaves were “different” because of racial and cultural characteristics,  the estrangement of their fellow man, upon which the process of this development was conditional, was even more marked in this case.

NEW ideology was evolved which made it easier to forget that they were human; this was the ideology of the lazy, depraved heathen who for his own benefit and that of the world had to be subjected to strict discipline and be drawn into the process with the severest possible means.

In other words in order for the European colonies to soothe their conscience they adopted this new ideology. Because if they did believe that the Africans were their equals, what would that say about the European countries who participated in the most inhumane slavery system ever developed?

You undoubtedly have heard this sentiment expressed in different ways: Sure slavery was bad, but aren’t you glad you are not in Africa? In other words, even though your ancestors were raped, dehumanized & abused, we did you a favor.

I wonder if the slaves felt they were being done a favor?

This is therefore the context through which African History was approached in Europe from th 16th century till around the mid 20th century, and in many cases still remains the believe of many.

Since the 17th century, Western European Scholars tried to prove this New Ideology “scientifically”.
philosophers like David Hume could state that Africans were ‘naturally inferior to the whites’. It was widely believed that Africans and Europeans had developed separately. Many, like Sir Thomas Herbert, writing in 1634, believed that Africans must be descended from apes and were part of a separate and inferior race.
source: http://discoveringbristol.org.uk/slavery/after-slavery/wider-world/black-white-in-britain/racist-ideas/

No, indeed Darwin’s ideas were not really new. A full two centuries before Darwin, Western Europeans already tried to convince themselves of the validity of their new ideology. Darwin’s approach to “proving” this new ideology however was new, and at the time of this writing it is still merely a theory in search of facts!

In Darwin’s own words:

(Kill savages. I wonder who Darwin taught were the savages)

“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian aborigine and the gorilla.” – Darwin “The Descent Of Man” –


Let me be clear that slavery was not new by any means in the 16th century. But until than the slaves in the Middle East, Africa, had opportunity to progress out of slavery and become leaders and even a rulers. It was not uncommon for slaves before the transatlantic slave trade to be absorbed into the family of his owner through marriage or merrit! This was simply impossible in the European version of slavery.

Since the Atlantic Slave trade this New ideology of inferior Africans, was(is?) reinforced by rewriting history and/or ignoring ancient African cultures in school text books.


The view of Africa before the trans Atlantic Slave trade:

Here is a European drawn map of Africa before the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 14th century West Africa. Notice this African king of Mali, Mansa Musa is portrayed as a person of great importance and stature and no inferiority is assumed:

Leo Africanus, an Andalusian Berber diplomat wrote the following about Timbuktu in the 16th Century: “Here are great stores (quantities) of doctors, judges, priests, and other learned men who are bountifully maintained at the king’s cost”


Here are two videos that will explain first the attitudes of Western Europeans from the 16th century till pretty much this present day.

Video 1. Evidence in plain sight, but ignored!:



Early European notions about Africans:
1. Friererich Hegel, the great philosopher once said about Africa,
“This is the land where men are children. A land lying beyond the daylight of self-conscious history and enveloped in black color of the night. At this point, let us forget Africa for Africa is no historical part of the world”

2. An English explorer Richard Burton wrote:
“The study of the Negro is a study of man’s rudimentary mind. He would appear rather degeneracy from the civilized man than a salvage rising to the first step were it not for his total incapacity for improvement. He has not the ring of true metal. There is no rich nature for education to cultivate. He seems to belong to one of those childish races never rising to man’s estate who fall like worn out links from the great chain of animated nature”.

3. Samuel Baker, an early explorer in Africa wrote in his memoir:
“Human nature viewed in its crudest state as seen amongst African savages is quite on the level of that of the brute and not to be compared with the noble character of the dog. There is neither a great pity, love nor self-denial. No idea of duty, no religion, nothing but covetousness, ingratitude, selfishness and cruelty”.


 Video 2. West Africa before the trans Atlantic slave trade. The area was dominated by successive empires of Ghana, Songhay and Mali.

Ghana_successor_map


 What happened to these Kingdoms?

Due to a combination of attacks from the Islamic Ottoman Empire and drought, many people from those kingdoms migrated further south ward to the coast.

The modern country of Ghana is named after the ancient empire, though there is no territory shared between the two states. There are traditional stories that the survivors of the Ghana Empire migrated to the region of modern Ghana, and there is sufficient evidence to prove this. Some inhabitants of present Ghana had ancestors linked with the medieval Ghana. This can be traced down to the Mande and Voltaic people of Northern Ghana—Mamprussi, Dagomba and the Gonja.

Anecdotal evidence connected the Ashanti/Akans to this great Empire. Certainly they, too, were legendary for their gold ornamentation and wealth. The evidence lies in names like Danso shared by the Akans of present Ghana and Mandikas of Senegal/Gambia who have strong links with the Empire. If the Ashanti did originate from the area of the Ghana empire, then there is a link between ancient Ghana and the modern nation-state of Ghana, since in 1902 when the British Empire dissolved the Ashante Empire, they incorporated it within their colony of Gold Coast (now Ghana), where the titular and largely ceremonial office of the high king of the Ashanti continues. Source:http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Ghana_Empire

See also this Wikipedia entry of the people of West Africa, the Mande. 


In an earlier post I wrote about the origins of Surinamese slaves. While it is specific to Suriname, most slaves in the new world came to the New World from those same regions, howbeit in different numbers by region.
For example Surinamese African culture is mostly Ghanaian related, while Cuban African culture is mostly Yoruba & Congo related.


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