Friday, November 13, 2009

Should Africans Apologize for Slavery?

That's the question asked in a BBC article. A Nigerian Civil Rights Congress has called on traditional African rulers to apologize for their role in the slave trade.

"We cannot continue to blame the white men, as Africans particularly the traditional rulers, are not blameless," said the Civil Rights Congress.
As the organization points out, African rulers collaborated in the slave trade, selling other Africans to Europeans.

I have talked with people who have a picture of advanced Europeans swooping down on Africans, capturing them, and taking them off into slavery. But such was not the case. At the beginning and through the height of the slave trade, Europeans held mostly coastal enclaves in Africa, many of which existed at the mercy of local rulers. Europeans didn't have the manpower to seize the massive numbers of slaves that would be transported to the Americas, nor did they have the drugs that would later allow them to penetrate the African interior without being struck down by tropical diseases against which they had little resistance. Slaves were procured through local rulers, many of whom sold their captured enemies, or hunted down less advanced people from the interior and sold them to the Europeans.

It is interesting that an African organization has the courage speak out on the shared complicity of Africans in the slave trade. It's obviously a touchy subject, and it would be far easier to just blame Europeans. I applaud the intellectual honesty of the Nigerian Civil Rights Congress.

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