A Brief History of West African Slavery for the Woke
Slave [sleyv] from Middle English, from Old French sclave, from Medieval Latin sclāvus (“slave”), from Late Latin Sclāvus(“Slavic Person”), from Byzantine Greek Σκλάβος (Sklábos), from Proto-Slavic slověninъ …
The seminal image many 50+ year old Americans have regarding the West African slave trade’s operating model can be traced back to the 1977 television miniseries Roots. Some of you may recall sitting in front of your CRT television screen unknowingly watching the roots of a future social justice movement unfold before your eyes as a gang of European men magically appear deep within the Heart of Darkness wielding nets, superior numbers, and incredible brutality and snatch up a young and happy Kunta Kinte from his ancestral homeland.
Like me, I bet the knot in your gut got tighter at each stage as Kunta Kinte was first shipped off in chains to a slave depot, sold at auctioned, and finally sent to America where his foot got cut off and he was renamed Toby. The miniseries was a monumental success at implanting those first seeds of suburban white guilt into what had previously been infertile terrain. Afterwards, many Americans could never innocently watch OJ Simpson run through airports in quite the same way.
Roots was the initial vector that dug its pernicious roots into the formerly oblivious white collective consciousness. It succeeded where back in the 1960s continuous years of three minute lead story action clips on the Six O’clock Evening News showing groups of helpless southern Negroes getting pummeled by police truncheons and slammed with water cannons had failed. Thus those January nights back in 1977 unleashed the power of humanized myth that unequivocally proved superior to the old ways of cold impersonal facts. It was through this new found power of myth and the visceral emotions it conjured that a primordial wokeness was spawned.
Today, when discussing even the most oblique references to slavery in America, the emotions ignite, misguided passions reign supreme, facts equate to racism, and the phenomenology of history devolves into one where history becomes but a construct derived to aid and abet a white supremacist patriarchy. Case in point – according to current woke orthodoxy, evil cis-male Europeans just up and sailed 3,500 miles south to forgotten lands like Zenaga, trekked hundreds of miles inland without roads, maps, or logistic support, and – according to some extraordinary unverified estimates – kidnapped up to six million innocent Africans.
But was this the reality on the ground in West Africa circa 1619, or did Europeans instead rely on intermediaries to conduct their dangerous, high opex dirty work and if so, who were these intermediaries? Do Americans have an accurate understanding of the West African slavery supply chain, or have they instead meekly decided to go along to get along and ingest without question a toxic narrative that is an antipathy encumbered product tainted by a combination of pop culture and political agenda? And last, did slavery in West Africa materialize out of thin air with the first appearance of Europeans, or did it exist long before their arrival?
The answer to this last question is both morally and legally significant, as it could nullify any and all claims to both tangible and ethical debts of reparation borne by ancestral liability. For if Caucasian Americans are collectively guilty – including those who immigrated here after the Civil War – as a result of their ancestors’ theoretical participation in the West African slave trade, would not a basis be equally established to extend slavery’s collective culpability to African Americans if it were shown that their ancestors too participated to an equal degree in the West African slave trade? Would not equal culpability on both ancestral sides of the Atlantic nullify any and all claims by one party against the other? Further still, if slavery in West Africa was shown to be prevalent long before the arrival of Europeans, based on the premise of hereditary culpability, then slavery in America could no longer exist as some kind of alleged “Original Sin”.
The forthwith exposition can be considered a template for countering the unreasonable and fanciful woke dogma surrounding the realities of West African slavery and specifically, the false claims regarding Europe’s and America’s sole complicity in this industry. It is an attempt – described here in broken wokespeak – to deconstruct the prevailing narrative derived to aid and abet a People of Color aligned, non-binary, trans-supremacist heterarchy. Let us begin our journey of enlightenment.
The Songhai Empire as Gateway to Europe’s Appetite for African Slaves
Between the 4th and early 16th centuries AD, through a succession of kingdoms that included Wagadou (Ghana), Mali, and Songhai, the West African Sahel was among the wealthiest regions on earth during a period when most of Europe wallowed in medieval feudalism. Prior to the discovery of the Americas, West Africa was the world’s largest source of gold – so much gold in fact that when the Malian king Mansa Musa visited Mecca during his 14th century hajj, his 60,000 strong retinue (including 12,000 slaves) distributed so much gold that he crashed its value and created a decade of economic chaos on the Arabian peninsula.
The Niger River during this time possessed six times more arable land than the Nile. In the adjacent Sahara to the north, Africans operated extensive salt mining operations. With the arrival of the Arabs in the 8th century AD, a prodigious iron smelting and blacksmithing industries occupied entire villages from one end of the Sahel to the other. The West African political economy was such that no king ever enforced strict ownership over the entirety of his realm, so after the millet harvest an African peasant could earn good extra income panning for alluvial gold, mining iron ore, harvesting trees to make charcoal fuel for iron smelting, or travelling north to labor in the salt mines.
The Sahel during this period was awash in food and gold and large prosperous cities like Gao grew into architectural wonders. So what happened that would drain not only the wealth of an established long-standing power center yet leave nothing behind but piles of dirt from what were formerly majestic structures of timber and adobe brick? The short answer is that it all fell to pieces due to horses.
In the 9th and 10th centuries AD, trade caravans from what are today Morocco and Algeria began regularly making their way south through the Sahara desert during the winter months. These caravans initially brought with them manufactured goods and luxury items to exchange for gold, ivory, specialty woods, animal skins, and salt. But during the 13th century these caravans started supplying a vital military component to the various competing rulers of the Sahel – Barb horses. Ownership of horses gave each ruler a cavalry, and ownership of large herds could facilitate military superiority over rivals.
The Malian, Hausa, Mossi, Bornu, Kanem and Songhai cavalries regularly battled each other for over three hundred years to what could be considered an equilibrium sometimes punctuated with transient victories and an occasional ebb or flow of juxtaposed borders. Continuous combat was made possible only by a steady supply of Barb horses from the Maghreb, a market that traders were happy to oblige as the supply of gold from the Sahel appeared endless.
But with its monsoonal climate and tropical diseases like trypanosomiasis, the Sahel Africans found it difficult to breed horses – the local Dongola sub-breed had a short life expectancy – and thus a steady flow of imported Barb horses were required to both replenish the high equine mortality rates and maintain at least military parity with the surrounding kingdoms. These imported horses were expensive and were initially paid for with alluvial gold, which was starting to go into productive decline during the 15th century at about the same time the Songhai king Sonni Ali Ber led a successful campaign to defeat his enemy Mali and consolidate rule over the Sahel from Lake Chad to the Cap-Vert peninsula. So the height of Songhai power coincided with maximum operating costs to retain that power just as alluvial gold production from the Niger River went into decline.
Saddled with the mounting expense of maintaining many cavalry regiments stretching across an 1,800 mile expanse, the Songhai lords began to launch slave raids upon the various Sahel peoples. So as the 15th and 16th centuries progressed, slaves rather than gold became more and more the medium of exchange between the Songhai lords and the horse traders of the Maghreb. As these traders brought more and more slaves to the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, most were purchased by Arabs but many were sold on to Europeans where they were employed as domestic servant in wealthy cities like London and Antwerp and were considered a high status symbol – the “negars and blackmoores” of 16th century Elizabethan England. So it was not the Europeans that first procured slavery in West Africa, but the Songhai themselves that introduced Europe to African slaves via Arab and Berber intermediaries. Europeans at this time were a minor end customer, where the primary slave demand was provided by Arabs.
As the 16th century ground out successive years, the gold really began to play out. Continuous and devastating slave raids depopulated the Niger River goldfield regions – crashing not only gold but also food production – and drove its inhabitants onto marginal lands that had been earlier deforested to manufacture charcoal for the formerly prodigious iron smelting industry. Over a period of 200 years the once prosperous Sahel was transformed into a land inhabited by subsistence food scavengers and all powerful cavalry lords where the incessant demand for horses laid economic waste to this once prosperous region.
With Songhai power in the late 16th century at its nadir as a result of internecine strife and succession wars among the dead king Askia Daoud’s many sons, the Sultan of Morocco, Ahmad al-Mansur, took advantage of the ensuing political instability and sent a military expedition across the Sahara and in 1591 these 4,000 Moroccans and their cannons defeated the Songhai at the battle of Tondibi.
Thus with the defeat of the powerful Songhai Empire the coast of West Africa south of the Arab stronghold Nouakchott was left wide open to European maritime exploitation. By 1625 the Dutch had established a permanent settlement at Gorée and the Portuguese likewise at Portudal, both located in modern day Senegal. These initial European forays onto West African soil provided the vital resupply anchorage that enabled further permanent settlements along the entirety of the Gulf of Guinea and as far south as Namibia. And it is at this point where the Kunta Kinte mythology begins with the permanent settlement of Europeans on African soil who allegedly trekked hundreds of miles inland into dangerous areas they did not control to randomly kidnap happy Africans into slavery. Was this the reality on the ground in Africa back in 1619? The Angolan experience provides the answers.
The Angolan Model of Contracted Slave Procurement
The gradual encroachment of European settlements down the Atlantic coast of West Africa did not lead to immediate mass colonization as malaria and tsetse flies kept out all but the hardiest and most rapacious adventurers. But how did these Europeans procure so many slaves to service the burgeoning and incredibly profitable sugar and tobacco charters of the Caribbean? The Kunta Kinte procurement model would have eventually led to depopulation of the local areas as the traditionally semi-mobile Africans would have just up and moved out of reach like they did to avoid the Songhai lords, and Africans were beginning to adopt European weapons in their defense. So – how did so many Africans end up as slaves in the Americas despite their overwhelming numbers back in Africa?
The answer lies in the Angolan model which was by no means confined to this region alone. During the first half of the 16thcentury the Portuguese established a permanent trading station at the port of Soyo, a province within the Kingdom of Kongo on the south bank at the mouth of the Congo River. The significance of Soyo was it established the first European occupation in West Africa outside the provenance of the tsetse fly, and with trypanosomiasis absent, colonists could settle and import European livestock for the first time on the African Atlantic coast. Entire families of Portuguese colonists began to arrive and by 1575 the city of Luanda was founded, followed by Benguela in 1587. With Angola’s drier, more temperate climate, these early European colonists got to the business of building homes, clearing land, farming, fishing, and raising their livestock. But one thing they did not do was get to the business of travelling hundreds of miles inland to hunt down and capture slaves. They left that to others – and these others weren’t Europeans.
Soon after the Portuguese planted their flag at Soyo, they granted a trade monopoly to the Kingdom of Kongo which ruled over what is now northwestern Angola. But as Portugal established colonies to the south of Soyo, these new colonies were located in lands claimed by Kongo but occupied by Ambundu peoples of the N’Dongo and Kisama states within the Kwanza River valley. Because of the trade monopoly specifics granted to Kongo, the Bakongo could sweep through the Kwanza River valley and capture the local Ambundu and sell them into slavery to the Portuguese, but the Ambundu could not capture these Bakongo raiders and sell them into slavery to the same customer. This egregious injustice incensed the N’Dongo king to the point of declaring war on – not the Portuguese – but the Bakongo in an attempt to break the discriminatory trade monopoly. The Ambundu were successful and in 1556 they defeated the Bakongo in a war fought not to end the enslavement of their fellow Africans, but to extend to themselves the right to capture, enslave, and sell their Bakongo neighbors to the Portuguese.
Despite the N’Dongo victory and elimination of Kongo influence in the Kwanza River valley, the Portuguese insisted on upholding their original trade agreement, so the Kongo trade monopoly remained in place with the Ambundu still cut out of all commercial activity with the Portuguese. Realizing they had prosecuted a war for nothing, the N’Dongo spent the next several decades threatening colonists and harassing Portuguese interests up and down the Kwanza River valley without any penetration into the colonial economy. In 1590 N’Dongo had had enough of the commercial status quo so it allied itself with its eastern Ambundu neighbor Matamba and together they declared war on all Portuguese interests across Angola.
This war led the Portuguese to construct a network of fortalezas up and down the Angolan coastline and after years of protracted violence the Portugal finally defeated the N’Dongo in 1614. Portugal’s first act after victory was to invite their old trading partner – the Bakongo – to commence mop-up operations across the Kwanza River valley in order to clear out the defeated Ambundu and bring them in chains to the new network of fortalezas, which not only served as troop garrisons and acropoli for the local inhabitants, but also as slave depots that accommodated the swelling numbers of captured Ambundu before being auctioned off and sent to Brazil.
With the defeat of the Ambundu the N’Dongo matriarchal dynasty fled east to their ally Matamba. There, a royal refugee named N’Zinga M’Bandi betrayed the hospitality shown her by Matamba and began secret negotiations with Luanda for a return of the Ambundu to the Kwanza River valley. N’Zinga M’Bandi secured agreements that not only deposed the sitting Matamban queen – handing her the crown by subterfuge – but also convinced the Portuguese to nullify their long standing trade monopoly granted to the Kingdom of Kongo which, in effect, established the Ambundu peoples in the slave procurement business.
The new Matamban queen made haste regarding her political and business affairs and quickly consolidated N’Dongo and the neighboring Kasanje states under her rule. By 1619, Queen N’Zinga had grown her realm into the most powerful African state in the region using the wealth generated from her industrial scale slave procurement undertaking. Within a few decade of Queen N’Zinga’s ascension, the regions surrounding central Angola were depopulated of not only the rival Bakongo peoples, but of its Ovimbundu, Ganguela, and Chokwe peoples too.
The lucrative Angolan slave trade not only flourished under female African leadership, but grew scientific and efficient and continued unabated until the Portuguese crown outlawed the colonial slave trade in 1869. However, avarice and ingenuity always prevail so after this slavery prohibition a vibrant slave black market continued unabated as abolition only served to drive up the price of slaves and therefore the incentive to procure them in the field. These lucrative smuggling operations from Angola lasted up until the day its primary customer Brazil abolished slavery in 1888.
Today the dominance of the Ambundu peoples in the business, political, and military affairs of modern day Angola is directly traced to the business acumen, organizational skills, and operational efficiency that the Ambundu peoples’ developed during their 269 year monopoly over slave procurement in Angola. From the tens of thousands of their fellow African “brothers” and “sisters” that the Ambundu sold into slavery, they accumulated incredible wealth that enabled them to occupy a position of respect, influence, and near equality in colonial Angola unparalleled anywhere in colonial Africa. They became, in a sense, the “Master Ethnicity” of the region.
Twilight of the Woke Idols
The irony behind the etymology for the word slave, lost upon the woke and the allies of Critical Race Insanity, is that slavederives from ancient words describing Caucasian Slavic peoples. If slavery were at the core of the “American Experience”, America long ago would have adopted a word for slave that describe African peoples just as the Romans employed Sclāvusto describe a Slav. But in the 402 years since 1619, Americans have not made this linguistic transition because there is an older and deeper collective history of slavery that can be traced back millennia to Eastern Europeans who constitute a large proportion of the American population.
Yet somehow this deeper history has not affected Caucasians of eastern European descent – even the generational poor – in the same way it has tormented the collective psyche of African Americans. Maybe these demons are not so much the product that African Americans were once slaves, but instead a manifestation of the incessant bombarded of acerbic messages from the Academia-Media-Technocracy Complex demanding that African Americans play the role of perpetual victims and that they deserve some abstract redress from those who themselves have never benefitted from systemic anything.
Or is there a deeper pathological diagnosis, a sepsis of personal ontology whereby the current woke narrative is a desperate attempt at mass cognitive dissonance to blot out the humiliating reality that one’s ancestors were traded in bulk by one’s own kind for the likes of a horse?
Africans were one of many peoples in a long line of slaves procured by Europeans but they are the last group before the prohibitions of the Utilitarian campaigns of universal human rights put an end to the practice. Thus it is this ‘Last In, First Out” queuing that gives African Americans claim to their title of “systemic victims” without regard to the broader history of European slavery during the preceding two millennia – including Medieval feudalism. The reality on the ground for centuries in Europe was that slave relations were between Caucasian Master and Caucasian slave.
And with the advent and maturing scientific efficiency of institutions such as central banking, nation states, denominational religions, non-governmental organizations, together with the application of mass psychology, one finds upon further scrutiny that this predominant relationship between Master and slave has changed little over the millennia. We Americans are, in a sense, all slaves – caught in a systemic nexus of control with few options of escape. Therefore, claims of “systemic injustice” and demands for redress are nothing more than demands to be promoted from field hand to domestic slave unless the true, invisible system of enslavement is abolished for all Americans.
Slavery existed for millennia throughout the entirety of the Bantu populated African continent prior to the arrival of Europeans. African slaves were captured, worked hard in the millet fields, scolded, beaten, sold multiple times, raped, and murdered well before the first European footprint was impressed on a West African beach. Slavery was the natural African social condition, it continued as Europeans colonized the continent, and in some places it continues today after most Europeans have left. Thus any conception of an “Original Sin” borne by Americans through ancestry lies not with Caucasians, but with those of African ancestry as Africans themselves were the origination point for the West African slavery supply chain where they occupied the roles of contractor, planner, procurer, and transporter to distribution hubs.
The indigenous Africans were, in modern terms, the Chief Operating Officers of the West African slave trade. Europeans played the roles of wholesale customer, clearing house, and retail distributor of a product offered to them by brazen and entrepreneurial local rulers who amassed great wealth from their endeavors and whose ancestors today are the beneficiaries of an “ethnic privilege” derived from this wealth and societal status as former Masters.
The truth is that this seminal enduring image created with Kunta Kinte’s abduction is a fraud and was fabricated to not only impugn the Caucasian audience and henceforth brand them evil and complicit through ancestry, but was also consciously constructed to expiate the guilt surrounding the ugly and brutal truth that Africans themselves were the culpable party. Had indigenous Africans not captured and sold so many of their brethren into slavery, there would likely be very few African Americans today.
The woke will never mention the 800 years of an East African slave trade conducted by Arab merchants up and down the Indian Ocean coast. The woke won’t utter a word regarding present day slavery across the Sahel countries of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Sudan. One hears only silence from the woke when one mentions the “Systemic Ethniscism” that permeates every Bantu nation where wealth and power are concentrated into the hands of a dominant ethnic group.
The woke ignore the 3,000+ freed African slaves who show up in the ante bellum US census who were granted manumission, inherited plantations from their former owners, and kept the slaves. No woke person ever admits that American Indians owned African slaves nor will they / them accept that slavery permeated Nahuatl culture even as they / them espouse the virtues of Greater Aztlán. And the woke will never accept that it was Europeans who eventually stamped out slavery within the Bantu cultural world despite it being the natural human condition there for centuries.
And, most importantly, the woke will never acknowledge that all Americans are trapped in a nexus of corporate, bureaucratic, technological, and psychological control where the true “American Experience” has devolved into one where everyone is a slave serving invisible Masters. Until these Masters’ hands are removed from every lever of power and influence in our nation – by any means necessary – abstractions like “equality” and “equity” are nothing more than job promotions on the American plantation. The woke will never become unwoke because they love their servitude, it has opened the door for them to serve an irresponsible existence free of rationality, logic, true meaning in their existence. Through their wokeness, they have essentially been freed from Freedom – they can place no hope in death, and their blind lives are so abject that they are envious of every other fate. The world should let no fame of theirs endure; both true Justice and Compassion must disdain them.
One final comment about those 4,000 Moroccans at the Battle of Tondibi. The invading Moroccan army was commanded by a one Judar Pasha, but he was not always known by this name. Judar was born Diego de Guevara, an inhabitant of the Spanish region of Andalusia who as a boy was captured by Arab slave raiders, packed off in chains to Morocco, and sold into slavery to the Moroccan Sultan. And just like Kunta Kinte, Diego’s name got changed, but where Kunta Kinte had his foot cut off, Judar was castrated and forced to serve this foreign Sultan as a eunuch. But we will never see a TV miniseries where an Arab slave wrangler hangs one Diego de Guevara upside down by his ankles, thrashes him with a bull whip, and screams repeatedly, “Your name is not Diego, your name is Judar!”
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