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Slaves out of Africa...


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Were the slaves from Africa centuries ago bought from their tribes, voluntary emigrated or abducted ?

All the above, none, or how did it work ?  Conquerors just disembarked as planned business and captured whoever found fit and force taken to Americas/elsewhere  ?   Were violent conflicts capturing them ?

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That is a big topic and it all depends on which slaves are and time frame you are looking at. However, chattle slavery was, as the name implies, certainly not a voluntary emigration process (there are folks that try to frame it that way, but that is basically insane). Edit to add: I think  the Spanish had some theoretical protections for the indigenous in place, including banishing their enslavement sometime in the 16th or so century. But instead they had "coerced labour" which basically was mandatory unpaid labor with dubious benefits like converting them to Christianity. 

I suspect that what you have in mind is the trans-Atlantic slave trade which roughly happened between ~ 16th and 19th century. Considering the huge time span the details of the trade have changed quite a bit as has the volume throughout the periods. Also, the how slaves were viewed. increasingly as commodity has changed somewhat over the centuries. Partially because initially slavery was not something associated with a specific population (but rather with bouts of misfortune, such as losing a conflict) and often routes of freedom were built into the system to some degree. That at some point vanished for the victims of the trans-Atlantic trade.

One other  thing to keep in mind is that Africa as a whole was not just an assembly of primitive tribe, as it is often present in the European imagination. Rather there were different kingdoms and empires present who had their own history of conflict. I.e. African history is not just one of white conquest, though especially in the years of colonization the influence of Europeans at some point became a dominant shaping force.

Some of earliest reports involve maritime raiding, where a Portuguese Captain (Gonçalvez) kidnapped Berbers, and negotiated their freedom in exchanged for slaves. Around the same time, the church basically sanctioned slavery of "pagans". While the Portuguese conducted raids in West Africa, it was replaced mostly (I think) by a trade network involving African nobility. The slaves were baptized and transported to Portugal but were later also sold to Spain for their colonies

There is a huge amount of literature in this area and my knowledge is basically non-existent. However, I think the first step is to acknowledge that the history of slavery is complex (as is basically everything) and that there are no simple narratives that would do the subject justice. One would need to dissect what is happening in a given time frame. As a kind of overarching narrative one could haphazardly argue that what initial started as "normal" European customs with regard to slavery (which tapered out by the mid 16th century) grew over time to a quite different system, driven by the demands of the new colonies and the profitability of the trade. But again, the details are quite complex and I am not sure whether they can be properly answered in a short post format (perhaps an expert could).


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3 hours ago, Externet said:

Were the slaves from Africa centuries ago bought from their tribes

Generally, they were bought - bartered - from other tribes. Some had been captured in standard warfare, and if they had not been transported across (or under) the ocean, might have been won back or ransomed by their own people, or traded on to yet other tribes (so the captors might see nothing amiss in selling them on to white trading partners), worked off their own ransom and let go, or assimilated (esp young women and children) into the victorious tribe. 

1 hour ago, CharonY said:

As a kind of overarching narrative one could argue that over time the profitability of the trans-atlantic slave trade did increase the demand for slaves, which in turn changed how they were acquired.

  Yes!! Once the capture of one's enemies and rivals becomes a commercial enterprise, profiteering and corruption set in; people are kidnapped simply for their monetary value.

Many European prisoners and debtors were transported to do mandatory servitude. While that's not exactly voluntary emigration, they at least were viewed as human beings with basic (very!) rights, and some hope of gaining their freedom through legal means. Other Europeans - half or more of the early immigrant population - signed up voluntarily for indentured servitude of a specified period (normally 4-7 years), to work off their passage. These people were often treated like property by their employers, but they had a superior legal status to African and native American captives.   


Edited by Peterkin
one missing word
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Externet. You may find this BBC article of use - It's about somebody's Nigerian great grandfather who dealt in slaves with white slave traders:


CharonY is correct in that this subject is massive and complicated... you can't tell the story with one sweep of a general brush covering 3+ centuries.

Edited by StringJunky
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One of the best descriptions of the Africa/US slave trade I've read came from a British author, Neil Gaiman,  as a fictional historical interlude in American Gods.  Based on other nonfiction accounts I've read,  Gaiman seems to have done some research,  and captured the brutality and misery and death involved in the abduction,  sale,  and transport (as densely-packed human cargo,  belowdecks) of slaves to the Southern US and Carribean. 

In none of my readings have I found any mention of voluntary emigration or anyone leaving their village and family in ways other than at the point of a sword or barrel of a gun.   It's possible,  however,  there were varying degrees of coercion,  and in earlier phases of the trade some routes to freedom (as there were with the poor in Britain who were "transported" to the colonies and had in theory a path to purchasing emancipation).   





I see several closely spaced posts made mine a bit redundant.  Ah well. 

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