THE AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE: What You Know — and Perhaps Don’t Know

Written by Andrew Linn on February 16, 2015

Last week, I discussed Obama trying to downplay the threat of Isis when he mentioned the Crusades, slavery, and climate change. I also pointed out that the African slave trade was not limited to the Atlantic.

The African slave trade actually consisted of four slave trades (or routes): the Atlantic slave trade, the Portuguese slave trade, the Trans-Sahara slave trade, and the Indian Ocean slave trade. I will now elaborate on each of them.

The Atlantic slave trade began during the Fifteenth Century in West-Central Africa, particularly along the Slave Coast, a.k.a. the Gold Coast (the latter name being a reference to trading slaves for gold). The slaves were transported to the Americas, where they would either work on plantations or become servants. The number of slaves taken to the New World has been estimated at around ten million (some say eleven million). Some of them died along the way, mainly from disease or being thrown overboard. The conditions of slavery in the Americas varied from region to region and even from household to household (although the conditions in Latin America were harsher than in the United States).

The Portuguese slave trade began during the Seventeenth Century in East Africa, in which the slaves were taken to Brazil. Since this route is sometimes considered part of the Atlantic slave trade, the number of slaves transported to Brazil are included as well. Nonetheless, the number of slaves taken from East Africa is estimated to be from around 400,000 to around 500,000.

The Trans-Saharan slave trade started during the Middle Ages, and it extended from West Africa to the Mediterranean Sea. Most slaves were taken to North Africa, but many were transported to the Middle East (in both regions, they would become household servants). A few were even taken to Europe, where they were used as laborers. The number of Africans enslaved is estimated to be from ten million to eighteen million (supposedly even higher). Whereas the conditions for slaves in Europe varied, in the Middle East and North Africa the conditions were perhaps the harshest, especially in the Middle East, in which male slaves were castrated.

The Indian Ocean Slave Trade began in East Africa during the Middle Ages. From there, African slaves were taken to the Middle East or India (where they would work as laborers or on plantations). Estimates for the number of slaves transported is hard to determine, since the Indian Ocean slave trade is sometimes combined with the Trans-Saharan slave trade (hence the Arab slave trade). And the conditions were just as cruel as the Trans-Saharan slave trade.

It should be noted that slavery had been going on in Africa well before the establishment of the aforementioned routes, nor was slavery confined to Africa. In addition, Africans themselves participated in the slave trade.

During the Nineteenth Century, the Transatlantic and Portuguese slave trades were done away with (as well as slavery itself throughout the Western World). But the Trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean slave trades would continue. Africans (and Asians) are being enslaved to this day.

The reason? Slavery is condoned in Islam. Muslims have enslaved people from Asia, Africa, and Europe throughout the centuries. So it is no surprise that Muslims (particularly Arab Muslims) continue to engage in this despicable practice. In fact, in the case of African slaves, the Arabic word “abd” means both “black” and “slave.” Not surprisingly, Africans are more likely to face prejudice from Arabs than anyone else.

So, as horrible as slavery was in the United States, it was mild compared to the rest of the world (especially the Muslim world).



Andrew Linn
Andrew Linn is a member of the Owensboro Tea Party and a former Field Representative for the Media Research Center. An ex-Democrat, he became a Republican one week after the 2008 Presidential Election. He has an M.A. in history from the University of Louisville, where he became a member of the Phi Alpha Theta historical honors society. He has also contributed to and Right Impulse Media.