The rise of the slave trade

Europeans did not introduce slavery to Africa. As African rulers rose and fell, their political opponents, people of high social status, and their families were sold to promote internal political stability. Poor people were sold to reconcile debts owed by themselves or their families. Chiefs sold people as punishment for crimes. Gangs of Africans and a few marauding Europeans captured free Africans who were also sold into slavery. Domestic slaves were resold and prisoners of war were sold. Africans themselves carried out the capture and sale of other Africans for enslavement — few Europeans ever actually marched inland and captured slaves themselves.

At the same time, had Europeans not wanted African slave labor for their American colonies, there would not have been any market for African slaves. African wars fed the slave trade, and the slave trade, in turn, fueled internal Africal wars. A. Adu Boahen, an African scholar, argues that “the greatest sources to supply slaves were raids conducted for the sole purpose of catching men for sale and above all, inter-tribal and inter-state wars which produced thousands of war captives, most of whom found their way to the New World

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