It happened this year.
January 1, 2008.
The 200TH Anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in the United States of America. On March 2, 1807, the United States Congress, in accordance with the Constitution, banned the importation of African slaves, with the ban taking effect on January 1, 1808.
An Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves into any Port or Place Within the Jurisdiction of the United States, From and After the First Day of January, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eight:
Article 9, Section 2: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
United States Constitution
That this country had not the backbone nor the respect towards its black citizens to publicly honor or acknowledge this very important date in American history says very much, or better yet, very little about this country and its continued contempt and callous disregard for the presence and contributions of her black citizens.
From 1619 to 1808, for 189 years, black people went from indentured servitude to outright complete inhumane barbaric chattel slavery. But, before black people were branded with the stigma of slavery, before black people were assigned the caste and degradation of slavery not in spite of their black skin but because of their black skin, there was the enactment of the most brutal form of slavery the world has ever known, and that form of slavery was the creation of racist, white supremacy American slavery—-the so-called “peculiar institution.”
The kidnapping and enslavement of innocent black Africans who did nothing wrong to deserve such cruel mistreatment by white humans was found in the dreaded Middle Passage, a living nightmare of a voyage across the Atlantic—a voyage on a slave ship that could last upwards of up to three to four months.
- Map of Africa 1771 (copyright The University of Florida Map and Imagery Library) (13)
An interesting old map of Africa reflecting European understanding of the continent and its regions at the time. The engraving says ‘Engraved for Drake’s Voyages.’ Francis Drake set sail for Africa from England with 5 ships in 1577; however, research done by the University of Florida Map and Imagery Library indicates that the cartographic information on the map most likely depicts 18th century knowledge of Africa. Below Cape Verde to the west is ‘Negroland,’ and to the east is ‘Nubia.’ Below ‘Negroland’ is ‘Lower Ethiopia’ and then ‘Upper Guinea,’ which in terms of today’s Africa includes, from west to east, Côte D’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. Below ‘Upper Guinea’ is ‘Lower Guinea,’ about where Angola is today. To the east, below ‘Nubia,’ is ‘Abissinia’ and then ‘Upper Ethiopia,’ which is roughly where Ethiopia is today.
- Slave Ports in West Africa in 1750 (Slavery in America, an educator’s site made possible by New York Life) (15)
Slave ports in West Africa in 1750 are shown, identifying those held by the British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Danish. Gorée Island, the slave trading port opposite Dakar, Senegal, is only three kilometers from the coast and cannot be seen on this map. In addition to these ports were slave trading locations on the east side of Africa, at Mozambique, Zanzibar, and Madagascar.
- Slave Trade From Africa to the Americas (Slavery in America, an educator’s site made possible by New York Life) (17)
Slave trade routes from Africa to the Americas during the period 1650-1860 are shown. There were additional routes to the New World from Mozambique, Zanzibar and Madagascar on the east side of Africa. Most of the slaves from the east side were brought to Portuguese controlled Salvador in the state of Bahia, Brazil, along with many other slaves from Angola. Brazil received more slaves from Africa than any other country in the New World. The 500,000 African slaves sent to America represents 10% of the number sent to Brazil, and 11% of the number sent to the West Indies. According to the estimates of Hugh Thomas (12), a total of 11,128,000 African slaves were delivered live to the New World, including 500,000 to British North America; therefore, only 4.5% of the total African slaves delivered to the New World were delivered to British North America. Also from Hugh Thomas, the major sources of the 13 million slaves departing from Africa (see slave ports map, above) were Congo/Angola (3 million), Gold Coast (1.5 million), Slave Coast (2 million), Benin to Calabar* (2 million), and Mozambique/Madagascar on the east coast of Africa (1 million).
*Benin refers to the historic Kingdom of Benin (not to be confused with today’s country of Benin), in Nigeria just below the Slave Coast. Calabar is farther down the coast of Nigeria, close to the border with Cameroon, on the Bight of Biafra in the Gulf of Guinea (see Nigeria today map, below).
Defenseless black human beings were held on these filthy slave ships that were a testament of white man’s inhumanity to black women, men and children.
The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the transatlantic slave trade, was the trade of African people supplied to the colonies of the “New World” that occurred in and around the Atlantic Ocean. (I take offense at the use of the word trade used to describe this massive barbaric crime against black humanity. Transatlantic Massacre/Genocide is a more correct and truthful descriptor.) This massacre/genocide lasted from the 16th century to the 19th century. Most enslaves were shipped from West Africa and Central Africa and taken to the New World (primarily Brazil). Some enslaves were captured by European slave traders through raids and kidnapping, but most were obtained through coastal trading with Africans. Most contemporary historians estimate that between 9.4 and 12 million Africans arrived in the so-called New World, although the number of people taken from their homelands is much considerably higher. The slave-massacre is sometimes called the Maafa ( The word Maafa (also known as the African Holocaust or Holocaust of Enslavement) is derived from a Kiswahili word meaning disaster, terrible occurrence or great tragedy. The term collectively refers to the 500 years of suffering (including present times) of people of African heritage through slavery, imperialism, colonialism, invasions, oppression, and exploitation) by African and Black-American scholars, meaning “holocaust” or “great disaster” in Swahili. The enslaves were one element of a three-part economic cycle—the Triangular Trade ( the sick triangular trade in human history of the 18th century between West Africa, the West Indies, and Europe (alternatively: West Africa, the West Indies, and northern colonies in British North America). Of these, the sea lane west from Africa was the notorious Middle Passage; its cargo, abducted or recently purchased African enslaves and its Middle Passage—which ultimately involved four continents, four centuries and millions of innocent black African people.
An example of the three-way massacre in the North Atlantic.
Slavery is as old as the human race, from ancient Rome, Greece, Asia, the New World and Africa. But, it became a sadistic form of bondage race-based slavery, when Europeans entered into it, thus creating one of the most dehumanizing form of slavery that the world had never known, next to Muslim slavery.
In the beginning of the transatlantic massacre, whites bought prisoners of war from black tribes, but soon greed and lust for the traffic in human flesh became a reason for profit on both sides–European and African–to sell innocent humans away from their families into a lifetime humiliating slavery. Soon black people in the millions were stolen from the only home they had ever known and were sold for mere trinkets by greedy white Europeans and greedy black Africans. Men, women and children sold for mere beads, shells or cloth.
Soon millions upon millions of black human beings became nothing but commodities, chattel, less than an animal for over 500 years.
And the crossing of the Atlantic in the filthy holds of slave ships took its merciless toll on so many black African people.
The Portuguese in awe of the majesty of the Manikongo. The Portuguese were initially impressed by the Kingdom of Kongo. The ravaging decimation of native people from slave trading would eventually lead to disintegration and depopulation of the once mighty Kongo.
Black kings of tribes who went into this mass inhumanity with the Portuguese tried to stop the slave-raiding of the Portuguese.
In letters written by the Manikongo, Nzinga Mbemba Affonso, to the King João III of Portugal, he writes that Portuguese merchandise flowing into is what is fueling the trade in Africans. He requests the King of Portugal to stop sending merchandise but should only send missionaries. In one of his letters he writes:
“Each day the traders are kidnapping our people – children of this country, sons of our nobles and vassals, even people of our own family. This corruption and depravity are so widespread that our land is entirely depopulated. We need in this kingdom only priests and schoolteachers, and no merchandise, unless it is wine and flour for Mass. It is our wish that this Kingdom not be a place for the trade or transport of slaves.”
Many of our subjects eagerly lust after Portuguese merchandise that your subjects have brought into our domains. To satisfy this inordinate appetite, they seize many of our black free subjects…. They sell them. After having taken these prisoners [to the coast] secretly or at night….. As soon as the captives are in the hands of white men they are branded with a red-hot iron.” SOURCE
But, it was too late. The slave trade was established by then and nothing could stop it. Soon slave ships were bound to the New World for the next 500 years.
Photograph of the painting “The Slave Trade” by Auguste-Francois Biard, 1840. As of June 2007 it hangs at the entrance to the “From Slavery to Freedom” exhibit at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
During the horrific Middle Passage across the Atlantic on slave ships, many black men, women and children were destroyed on the altar of greed and lust for monetary profit in the enslavement of human beings. Many millions of black people suffered indignities and bestialities that even a dog or cat should never suffer. Degradations and defilements that would turn one’s stomach:
“When European slavers kidnapped black Africans and marched many of them from the interior down to the slave coasts to be packed onboard, black people went through what is called The Door of No Return in the House of Slaves, the final exit point of the enslaves from Africa. It is on Goree Island, off the coast of Senegal in West Africa, where, black women and men were herded like so many animals, crowded into filthy, unsanitary holding pens. Frightened beyond belief, with nowhere to use the bathroom, the floor on which they stood built up with up to two feet and more from human excrement due to the future enslaves having nowhere to relive themselves. Vomit as well would have been prevalent because of stomach-turning nausea and terror. Tears that would have been shed from the certain knowledge that HERE for the last time they would stand on African soil, would have washed the walls and floors of this reminder of man’s inhumanity to woman, man and children. Human beings were chained and shackled. As many as 30 men would sit in an 8-square-foot cell with only a small slit of window facing outward. Once a day, they were fed and allowed to attend to their needs, but still the house was overrun with disease. They were naked, except for a piece of cloth around their waists. They were put in a long narrow cell used for them to lie on the floor, one against the other. The children were separated from their mothers. Their mothers were across the courtyard, likely unable to hear their children cry. The rebellious Africans were locked up in an oppressive, small cubicle under the stairs; while seawater was sipped through the holes to step up dehydration.
Above their heads, in the dealer’s apartments, balls and festivities were going on. But even more poignant and heart wrenching than the cells and the chains was the small “door of no return” through which every man, woman and child walked to the slave boat, catching a last glimpse of their homeland.
“Am I not a woman and a sister?” Image of an antislavery medallion of the late 18th century, from the title page of abolitionist Anthony Benezet’s book Some Historical Account of Guinea, London, 1788 from the British Museum.
But, it was the British a year earlier in 1807, who would abolish slavery before America did.
Last year, they paid respect to and commemorated the hand they had in the annihilation and despoilment of the lives, bodies, cultures and centuries of traditions that were destroyed by the slave massacre due to English involvement in the trafficking in human bondage.
“Captured Africans”, Kevin Dalton Johnson’s, quayside work, Lancaster UK. (SOURCE)
Atlantic Slave Trade: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade
The Trans-Atlantic Slave trade resulted in a vast and as yet still unknown loss of life for African captives both in and outside of America. Approximately 8 million Africans were killed during their storage, shipment and initial landing in the New World. The amount of life lost in the actual procurement of slaves remains a mystery but may equal or exceed the amount actually enslaved. If such a figure is to be believed, the total number of deaths would be between 16 and 20 million.
The savage nature of the massacre, in which most of the enslaves were prisoners from African wars, led to the destruction of individuals and cultures. The following figures do not include deaths of African enslaves as a result of their actual labor, slave revolts or diseases they caught while living among New World populations.
After being captured and held in the factories, enslaves entered the infamous Middle Passage. Milton Meltzer’s Slavery: A World History research puts this phase of the slave trade’s overall mortality at 12.5%. Around 2.2 million Africans died during these voyages where they were packed into tight, unsanitary spaces on ships for months at a time. Measures were taken to stem the onboard mortality rate such as mandatory dancing above deck and the practice of force-feeding any enslaves that attempted to starve themselves. The conditions on board also resulted in the spread of fatal diseases. Other fatalities were the result of suicides by jumping over board by enslaves who could no longer endure the conditions. Before the shipping of enslaves was completely outlawed in 1853, 15.3 million “immigrants” had arrived in the Americas.
A database compiled in the late 1990s put the figure for the Transatlantic Slave Trade at more than 11 million people. Estimates as high as 50 million have been floated. For a long time an accepted figure was 15 million, although this has in recent years been revised down. Most historians now agree that at least 12 million slaves left the continent between the fifteenth and nineteenth century, but 10 to 20% died on board ships. Thus a figure of 11 million enslaves transported to the Americas is the nearest demonstrable figure historians can produce. (SOURCE)
In Britain and in other parts of Europe, opposition developed against the slave trade. Led by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and establishment Evangelicals such as William Wilberforce, the movement was joined by many and began to protest against the trade, but they were opposed by the owners of the colonial holdings. Denmark, which had been active in the slave trade, was the first country to ban the trade through legislation in 1792, which took effect in 1803. Britain banned the slave trade (but not slavery itself) in 1807, imposing stiff fines for any slave found aboard a British ship. The Royal Navy, which then controlled the world’s seas, moved to stop other nations from filling Britain’s place in the slave trade and declared that slaving was equal to piracy and was punishable by death. The United States outlawed the importation of slaves on January 1, 1808, the earliest date permitted by the constitution for such a ban. (SOURCE)
The British showed enough respect to acknowledge and own up to their role in the slave trade. On November 27, 2006, Tony Blair made a partial apology for Britain’s role in the African slavery trade. However African rights activists denounced it as “empty rhetoric” that failed to address the issue properly. They feel his apology stopped shy to prevent any legal retort. PM Blair again apologized on March 14, 2007. On January 30, 2006, President Jacques Chirac said that 10 May would henceforth be a national day of remembrance for the victims of slavery in France, marking the day in 2001 when France passed a law recognising slavery as a crime against humanity.
At the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, African nations demanded a clear apology for slavery from the former slave-trading countries. Some EU nations were ready to express an apology, but the opposition, mainly from the United Kingdom, Spain, Netherlands, Portugal and the United States (the biggest benefactors from slavery) blocked attempts to do so. A fear of monetary compensation/reparations was one of the main reasons for the opposition. Apologies on behalf of African nations, for their role in trading their own people into slavery, also remains an open issue. They too are just as guilty for their ancestor’s role in the enslaving of millions of innocent black people into a living nightmare.
Not to mention the Arab Muslim slave traders who destroyed countless millions of black lives:
America on the other hand gave not a damn to even acknowledge publicly in Congress or by words from the President of the United States the role this country had in the destruction of millions of lives due to the rapacious gluttony of enslaving their fellow sisters and brothers.
Not one word.
Not one utterance from a congressperson or senator all across America.
Then again that is not surprising considering how this country in its continued hypocrisy still refuses to come to terms with the legacy of racism of American slavery and American Jane/Jim Crow segregation against its black citizens.
Maulana Karenga states that the effects of slavery were “the morally monstrous destruction of human possibility involved redefining African humanity to the world, poisoning past, present and future relations with others who only know us through this stereotyping and thus damaging the truly human relations among peoples.” He states that it constituted the destruction of culture, language, religion and human possibility.
The vestiges of that 450 years of inhuman cruelty still live with us all in America.
The silence and disrespect shown towards black Americans is beyond callous. It is unfathomable. That this country shows such utter disregard towards the history of forced migration of black Africans to this country, enslavement for over 350 years of chattel inhumane slavery, 100 years of atrocities of mass rapes against black women and girls and the psychotic sick lynchings of black men and boys—-that America still has not reconciled itself with that part of its history still portends that this country never will acknowledge the legacy of slavery and segregation.
Two hundred years ago the government of America abolished the Atlantic Slave Trade.
Two hundred years later the present government showed nothing but disrespect towards its black citizens.
Not a Day of Atonement, not a Day of Recognition, not a Day of Reconciliation, not a Day of Remembrance.
America still harbors contempt and hatred for her black citizens, and that is constantly shown in her disregard, her ignoring, her treating with invisibility the existence of black citizens in her midst, especially where the issue of slavery is concerned.
Black life meant nothing then before January 1, 1808.
Black life still means nothing after January 1, 2008.
A MUST READ BY ERIC FONER: “FORGOTTEN STEP TOWARD FREEDOM“
SOURCE – 1-16:
Thomas, Hugh.The Slave Trade. Simon and Schuster, 1997.
Klein, Herbert S. and Jacob Klein. The Atlantic Slave Trade. Cambridge University Press, 1999. pp. 103-139.
- (1998) King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Houghton Mifflin Books. ISBN 0618001905.
- BBC QUICK GUIDE: THE SLAVE TRADE – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6445941.stm
- Klein, Herbert S. and Jacob Klein. The Atlantic Slave Trade. Cambridge University Press, 1999. pp. 103-139.
- Welcome to Encyclopædia Britannica’s Guide to Black History: http://www.britannica.com/blackhistory/article-24156
- Migration Simulation: http://www.worldhistorynetwork.org/migrationsim/
- Ronald Segal, The Black Diaspora: Five Centuries of the Black Experience Outside Africa (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995), ISBN 0-374-11396-3, page 4. “It is now estimated that 11,863,000 slaves were shipped across the Atlantic. [Note in original: Paul E. Lovejoy, “The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa: A Review of the Literature,” in Journal of African History 30 (1989), p. 368.]”
- Eltis, David and Richardson, David. The Numbers Game. In: Northrup, David: The Atlantic Slave Trade, 2nd edition, Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002. p. 95.
- Stannard, David. American Holocaust. Oxford University Press, 1993
- Quick guide: The slave trade; Who were the slaves? BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6445941.stm
- Stannard, David. American Holocaust. Oxford University Press, 1993
- Gomez, Michael A. Exchanging Our Country Marks. Chapel Hill, 1998
- Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800 Cambridge University Press, 1998
- Stride, G.T. and C. Ifeka. Peoples ad Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800. Nelson, 1986
- “Effects on Africa”. Ron Karenga: http://www.africawithin.com/karenga/ethics.htm
RELATED LINKS: http://www.liverpoolblackhistory.co.uk/
“NEW YORK OPENS SLAVE BURIAL SITE”: https://kathmanduk2.wordpress.com/2007/10/05/new-york-opens-slave-burial-site/
DIGITAL HISTORY – SLAVERY FACTS SHEET/WPA SLAVE NARRATIVES: http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/historyonline/slav_fact.cfm
INTERNATIONAL SLAVERY MUSEUM: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/