White Slaves, African Slave Traders, and the Hidden History of Slavery

White nations and the banning of the slave trade

Lynn H. Nelson from Kansas University has pointed out that it was the Western nations who became committed to ending the slave trade.

    "There are various estimates of the number of Africans who were taken into slavery in the Americas, but fifteen million is perhaps the highest number that has been put forward. Of course, one must remember that some 20% of the captives died on their way to a trading station, and another 20% died while being transported to the plantations. So it would seem that over twenty million Africans were consumed by the slave trade to the Americas."

    Most of these went to Brazil and the Caribbean islands. Only about half a million were carried to North America, and the new United States, in 1808, was one of the first Western nations to outlaw the importation of slaves. By the early nineteenth century, most Western naval powers were committed to ending the slave trade, and many were considering ways of eliminating slavery from their possessions. The United States did so only after a bloody civil war was fought, at least partly over this issue. In 1888, Brazil was the last Western nation to outlaw slavery. The slave trade continued but was restricted to commerce with the Muslims as it had been in the beginning."

Lawrence James, in his review of Hugh Thomas' The Slave Trade, pointed out that there were Africans who were not happy with the ending of the slave trade to the West.

    "African kings were glad to provide a steady flow of men, women and children, who they said were criminals or prisoners of war doomed for execution. Many were not, but this did not prevent partisans of the trade from posing as philanthropists who were rescuing the Africans from death and offering them a better and, of course, more productive life. An African chief, dismayed by the news that the slave trade was on the verge of abolition, insisted that his "oracle and priests" had told him that their god wholeheartedly approved of it. The Christian and Muslim gods agreed, or so their clerics proclaimed."[43]

Thomas Jackson also noted Black resistance to the end of slavery.

    "In the nineteenth century, when France and Britain outlawed slavery in their territories, African chiefs who had grown fat on the slave trade sent protest delegations to Paris and London. As Dinesh D'Souza in "The End of Racism" explains, Africans never developed a principled opposition to slavery; they denounced it when they were slaves but practiced it happily when they could. Slavery can still be found in Africa. In America too, by 1830, some 3,500 free blacks in the South owned approximately 10,000 slaves."[44]

In 1808 the United States of America banned importation of slaves, although this did not affect those already in the United States nor those yet to be born; however, slavery finally ended in the USA in 1865.

It was Great Britain that was the prime mover in ending the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The British navy stopped and searched ships for slaves, freeing them when found. Mark Steyn recognised the importance of this fact, one that would be rarely mentioned in schools or in the media.

    "What no one in their delegations (to the Durban Racism Conference) will say is this - that the West has nothing to apologize or pay for, least of all Britain. London abolished slavery in the British Isles in 1772 and within the Empire in 1833, in the teeth of fierce opposition from Arab and West African traders. If one had to single out one institution that did more to end the trade in human beings than any other, it would be the Royal Navy, whose ships enforced the ban at great risk to themselves. Yet the reflexive shame in their inheritance is such that no British, or Canadian, delegate in Durban would dream of standing up for the historical record." [45]

Tunde Obadina, a director of Africa Business Information Services, has acknowledged the importance of Britain, and other Western countries, in ending the slave trade.

    "When Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 it not only had to contend with opposition from white slavers but also from African rulers who had become accustomed to wealth gained from selling slaves or from taxes collected on slaves passed through their domain. African slave-trading classes were greatly distressed by the news that legislators sitting in parliament in London had decided to end their source of livelihood. But for as long as there was demand from the Americas for slaves, the lucrative business continued.

    ...The slave trade business continued in many parts of Africa for many decades after the British abolished it. For as long as there was demand for slave labour in the Americas, the supply was available. The British set up a naval blockade to stop ships carrying slaves from West Africa, but it was not very effective in suppressing the trade. Thousands of slave ships were detained during the decades the blockade was in operation. One Lieutenant Patrick Forbes, a British naval officer, estimated in 1849 that during a period of 26 years 103,000 slaves were emancipated by the warships of the naval blockade while ships carrying 1,795,000 slaves managed to slip past the blockage and land their cargo in the Americas.

    ... Slave trading for export ended in Nigeria and elsewhere in West Africa after slavery ended in the Spanish colonies of Brazil and Cuba in 1880. A consequence of the ending of the slave trade was the expansion of domestic slavery as African businessmen replaced trade in human chattel with increased export of primary commodities. Labour was needed to cultivate the new source of wealth for the African elites.

    Had Europe not decided to end the slave trade and the New World ceased demanding chattel labour, the transatlantic trade might still be rolling today. The ending of the obnoxious business had nothing to do with events in Africa. Rulers and traders there would have happily continued to sell humans for as long as there was demand for them."

David Horowitz has also noted this point.

    "Slavery existed for thousands of years before the Atlantic slave trade was born, and in all societies. But in the thousand years of its existence, there never was an anti-slavery movement until white Christians - Englishmen and Americans - created one. If not for the anti-slavery attitudes and military power of white Englishmen and Americans, the slave trade would not have been brought to an end. If not for the sacrifices of white soldiers and a white American president who gave his life to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks in America would still be slaves."[47]

As Thomas Sowell, a Black conservative, has pointed out, the efforts of the European nations to wipe out slavery have been virtually ignored.

    "Incredibly late in human history, a mass moral revulsion finally set in against slavery - first in 18th century England and then, during the 19th century, throughout Western civilization. But only in Western civilization. ...Africans, Arabs, and Asians continued to resist giving up their slaves. Only because Western power was at its peak in the 19th century was Western imperialism able to impose the abolition of slavery around the world -- as it imposed the rest of its beliefs and agendas, for good or evil."[48]

    "The widespread revulsion which the hideous institution of slavery inspires today was largely confined to Western civilisation a century ago, and a century before that was largely confined to a portion of British society. No one seems interested in the epic story of how this curse that covered the globe and endured for thousands of years was finally gotten rid of by the West - not only in Western societies but in other societies conquered, controlled, or pressured by the West.

    The resistance put up by Africans, Asians and Arabs was monumental in defense of slavery, and lasted for more than a century. Only the overwhelming military power of the West enabled it to prevail on this issue, and only the moral outrage of Western peoples kept their government's feet to the fire politically to maintain the pressure against slavery around the world.

    Of course, this is not the kind of story that appeals to the multiculturalists. If it had been the other way around - if Asian or African imperialists had stamped out slavery in Europe - it would still be celebrated, in story and song, on campuses across America."

The well-known Indian author Dinesh D'Souza makes a very pertinent point in his book The End of Racism:

    "Was slavery a racist institution? No. Slavery was practised for thousands of years in virtually all societies: in China, India, Europe, the Arab world, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Americas. In the United States, slave-holding was not confined to whites: American Indians and free blacks owned thousands of slaves. Thus slavery is neither distinctively Western nor racist. What is uniquely Western is the abolition of slavery." [50]

White Slaves, African Slave Traders, and the Hidden History of Slavery