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Chapter 26: Africa and the Atlantic World

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Title: Chapter 26: Africa and the Atlantic World


1
Chapter 26 Africa and the Atlantic World
Before you get started It would be a good idea
to recall the slave labor systems discussed in
earlier chapters, such as Mesopotamia, Egypt,
Greece, and Rome. Also, review what you know
about the rise of savannah states in west Africa
as well as the advent of Islam into African
societies. Suffice it to say that the trade
interactions of Europeans with Africans in the
Atlantic trade system were more forceful than
what happened on the trans-Saharan routes. This
is not surprising if you remember that conditions
existing in the Americas increased the demand for
African slaves. Remember, that since this is a
big history course, it is more important to look
at origins and outcomes of the Atlantic slave
trade than to dwell on specific people or
tactics. AFRICAN POLITICS SOCEITY IN EARLY
MODERN TIMES By 1000 C.E., Bantu speakers had
spread through most of Africa establishing
villages and clans governed by kinship groups. As
their population increased, they went on to form
small states and regional kingdoms and with the
Muslim trade across the Sahara, empires formed in
west Africa. With the Indian Ocean trade in east
Africa, city-states were created by the Swahili.
After west African maritime trade increased in
importance when Europeans arrived on the coast,
kingdoms replaced the larger empires while the
city-states of east Africa fell to the
Portuguese. Stronger trade networks also led
regional kingdoms in central and south Africa
with Islam and Christianity gaining more
influence. The States of West Africa and East
Africa (Themes Political Structures) As you may
recall from Chapter 19, Ghana and its successor
Mali were large empires in west Africa that
existed between the 5th 16th centuries. Based
in the trading city of Gao, Songhay had been a
small kingdom during the same period but
increased its dominance as Mali weakened. In 1464
the Songhay ruler Sunni Ali conquered the regions
that included Jenne and Timbuktu.
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2
The States of West Africa and East
Africa (Themes Political Structures) Ali built
an elaborate bureaucracy and professional
military that proved to be very effective. His
military might combined with the prosperity of
the Niger River valley allowed his successors to
further expand the empire toward Lake Chad. All
the Songhay rulers were Muslims who encouraged
the building of schools and mosques yet
maintained components of indigenous religion by
consulting diviners. Prosperity from
trans-Saharan trade made the Songhay
extraordinarily wealthy and they dominated the
region for a century until Moroccan armies with
muskets defeated them in 1591. As the empire
crumbled, it devolved into small kingdoms such as
Kanem-Bornu and Hausa city-states to the east
with the Oyo and Asante in the forested areas and
Mande traders along the coast. As Atlantic trade
with Europeans increased, the smaller kingdoms
prospered but west African nations did not unite
into an empire again. In east Africa, Portuguese
explorer Vasco da Gama skirmished with local
forces in Mozambique and Mombasa on the first
journey and demanded tribute from Swahili
city-states on the second trip. In 1505, the
Portuguese sent naval forces to conquer the
cities and went on to build governmental
buildings and forts to secure trade routes for
themselves. Although the Portuguese were
ultimately unsuccessful, the Swahili states had
suffered a mortal blow and they never recovered
their prominence in Indian Ocean trade. The
Kingdoms of Central Africa and South
Africa (Theme Political Structures) As
sub-Saharan trade networks increased, new
kingdoms came to power. Chief among those in
central Africa was the kingdom of Kongo which was
described extensively in Portuguese records. It
emerged in the 14th century as a strongly
centralized state with a large bureaucracy. By
the late 15th century Kongo was so successful
that it encompassed the present-day countries of
the Republic of Congo and Angola. The Portuguese
worked closely with the government once it
established trade in the region. Eventually,
Portuguese missionaries managed to convert the
kings of Kongo to Christianity. Christianity
appealed to the rulers by reinforcing the power
of monarchs, Christian saints were akin to
spirits of the local religion. King Nzinga
Mbemba, also known as Alfonso I, became an
exceedingly devout Catholic and the Kongo capital
had many churches.
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3
The Kingdoms of Central Africa and South
Africa (Theme Political Structures) The Kongo
rulers enjoyed the wealth and foreign recognition
but their relationships with the Portuguese
actually led to their downfall. Initially, the
Portuguese traded weapons, textiles, and craft
expertise for gold, ivory, and slaves. Not much
later, slaves became the main focus of Portuguese
trade leading the Portuguese to ally with and
depend on other kingdoms in the interior when the
Kongo attempted to limit the slave trade. At
first, the Portuguese helped the Kongo defend
itself but, eventually they joined other states
to defeat the Kongo in 1665. In their quest for
better trade, the Portuguese moved south while
the kingdom of Kongo disintegrated behind them.
The southern state that had diverted Portuguese
attention form Kongo was known as Ndongo or
Angola from the title of its king, ngola. It had
grown in power by trading directly with the
Portuguese rather than through the Kongo. As they
brought more war captives for the slave trade,
Angola allied itself with other states in the
interior. However, the Portuguese became
determined to control the slave trade themselves
and sent military forces to defeat the Angolese.
A very spirited defense was put up by Queen
Nzinga (1623-1663), the descendent of a
distinguished warrior family. In battle, she led
troops and dressed as a male. She even
accentuated her male persona by traveling with
a group of men dressed as her female concubines.
One even provided seating for her while in
conference with the Portuguese. She allied with
states from the interior as well as Dutch
mariners who had followed the Portuguese. She was
largely successful in controlling Portuguese
expansion but was unable to eject them from the
country. When she died, her less capable
successors were unable to maintain her position,
so Angola became the first European colony in
Africa. Portuguese records are much less
informative on the regional kingdoms of south
Africa. However, it is apparent that they grew in
response to the Swahili trade with the interior.
Great Zimbabwe would be an example from the
earlier chapter that dominated trade in the
region. By the 16th century, Portuguese and Dutch
mariners upset the balance of powers by making
alliances with less powerful states and
intervening in disputes. After Dutch built a
trading post in Capetown in 1652, they conquered
and virtually enslaved the hunter-gather khoikhoi
people. By 1700, large numbers of Dutch colonists
were settling in south Africa and defeating the
local peoples.
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4
Islam and Christianity in Early Modern
Africa (Theme Religious Development) Indigenous
religion continued to be important in African
societies despite the active missionary work of
Islam and Christianity. While there was a belief
in a supreme deity, the major religious concern
was with the spirit world of nature - a belief
known as animism - as well as the spirits of
ancestors who could be benign but were often
punishing their descendents. Most Islamic
converts continued to observe their indigenous
beliefs as well. Although troubling to Muslim
travelers such as Ibn Battuta, most African
Muslims were content with their syncretic
religion and saw no problem with female nudity
and social activity. However, the Fulani herders
of west Africa became extremely devout Muslims
and attempted to stamp our the heresies. They
created powerful states in todays Guinea,
Senegal, Mali, and northern Nigeria where a more
devout form of Islam is practiced to this
day. As for Christianity, many Africans believed
a Christian priest to be some form of magician
with crosses as amulets. However, it was often
accepted as a syncretic blend with indigenous
beliefs. One interesting development happened in
the early 18th century with the Antonian Movement
in the Kongo which centered around an aristocrat
named Dona Beatriz. She claimed to be the prophet
of 13th century Saint Anthony of Padua - the
patron saint of the Portuguese - who regularly
communicated through her. She became known for
performing miracles and promoted a unique brand
of Christianity in which Jesus Christ had been an
African. She urged the Kongolese to ignore
Portuguese Catholicism and sought to end the
widespread warfare in the Kongo. Her movement was
such a threat to the Portuguese missionaries that
they convinced the king of Kongo to arrest her
for heresy for which she was convicted and burned
at the stake. But her cult continued to exist
after her death and demonstrates the African
tendency to blend new religions into their own
faith framework. Social Change in Early Modern
Africa (Themes Social Development and Changes
and Continuities) Although there was
considerable nation-building in Africa, kinship
groups still remained important for political and
social organization. Within larger states, they
administered affairs at the local level, but
outside of the states, they allied with each
other to control large areas of land. European
interaction also affected change in African life
and culture.
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5
Social Change in Early Modern Africa (Themes
Social Development and Changes and
Continuities) Although there was considerable
nation-building in Africa, kinship groups still
remained important for political and social
organization. Within larger states, they
administered affairs at the local level, but
outside of the states, they allied with each
other to control large areas of land. Interaction
with Europeans brought changes to this social
system as well as many other areas of African
life and culture. European manufactured goods
became a part of African life while new food
crops became a part of the African diet. From the
Americas came manioc, maize, and peanuts that
supplemented the African staples of rice,
bananas, yams, and millet. In particular, manioc
was valuable for its adaptation to soils
unsuitable for other crops. Bread made from
manioc flour led to steady population growth in
west and central Africa between 1500 and 1800. It
almost doubled in size from thirty-four million
to sixty million. The population growth was all
the more remarkable since it coincided with the
forced migration of millions of Africans into
slavery in the Caribbean and the Americas. THE
ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE The key link in the
Atlantic trade world of the 15th to 19th
centuries was the African slave trade which
provided millions of workers for large
plantations in the Americas. The Africans
received manufactured products, primarily
firearms, in return for their slaves, and the
weapons were often used to dominate other
societies while seeking more slaves. Foundations
of the Slave Trade (Themes Economics and
Trade) Slavery appeared in numerous societies
since antiquity as it had in Africa after the
Bantu migrations. As in other cultures, most
slaves were obtained through warfare but
criminals and peoples rejected by their clans
also made up the ranks of slaves. A slave lost
all legal rights and could be sold and punished
at will. Most slaves were cultivators but they
were also used as soldiers and administrators.
Since the rulers of Songhay did not trust their
nobility, they preferred slaves in high places of
authority. However, African beliefs about
property affected their view of slavery. Rather
than private ownership of land which belonged to
the community, Africans controlled the labor on
that land. Thus, individuals with large numbers
of slaves would harvest more crops and attain
more prosperity. Africans also purchased slaves
to enlarge their families and those slaves could
be assimilated into the kinship group where they
could earn freedom and kinship rights.
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Foundations of Slave Trade (Themes Economics and
Trade) After the 18th century, Muslim traders
from Persia, Arabia, and North Africa began to
purchase African slaves for distribution in the
Middle East and Mediterranean world and as far
away as India and China. To keep up with the
large demand, merchants began to raid villages
and sometimes they were even supported by African
governments. The Islamic slave trade across the
Sahara lasted into the 20th century and may have
involved as many as ten million slaves. By the
time Portuguese ventured to west Africa, the
slave trade was well established so they only had
to tap into an existing system. Nevertheless,
extraordinary labor demands by the western
hemisphere resulted in the massive forced
migration of millions more into the Atlantic
basin in the next four centuries. Human
Cargoes (Theme Trade) The Portuguese slave
trade began in 1441 with the seizure of twelve
Africans who were taken to Portugal. Fierce
resistance to capture made the Portuguese
reconsider their methods and soon they joined the
more established trade networks. By 1460, they
were importing five hundred slaves per year into
the fields, mines, and parlors of Iberians.
Slaves were also delivered to the island colonies
of Portugal off the coast of Africa where sugar
planters in the Azores, Canaries, Madeiras, and
other islands relied on slave labor. By the 1520s
the number was two thousand annually, and this
was soon followed by the expansion of African
slave labor to the Americas. Imported diseases
of the Columbian exchange had devastated the
indigenous population and those who remained
revolted or fled the labor force so the Spanish
and Portuguese turned to Africans who were more
resistant to Old World diseases and would have no
knowledge of where they could to escape. The
first shipment of human cargo arrived in 1518,
and the first shipment to the English colonies in
North America was in 1619. The importation of
African slaves made up the second leg of what
became known as the triangular trade. The first
leg was the manufactured goods from Europe to
Africa, the second was African slaves to the
Americas, and the third leg was American
commodities like rum and molasses taken back to
Europe. The Atlantic slave trade was a brutal
and inhumane process infused with violence from
start to finish. Most slaves were captured by
organized raiding parties that relied on
surprise. Then they were force-marched to the
coast and held in pens until they were
transported.
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7
Human Cargoes (Theme Trade) The middle
passage was made in filthy, crowded cargo holds
of slave ships. Conditions were so bad that
slaves attempted to starve themselves or throw
themselves overboard. Occasionally, revolts were
attempted. The crews used brutal means to keep as
many slaves alive as possible since profit of two
to three times the initial cost of buying a
slave. Most trans-Atlantic trips took around five
weeks which took a toll on the cramped slaves
below decks. In the early period of the slave
trade, more than fifty percent of the slaves
died. As volume grew and it became more
profitable, slaves were treated more humanely so
mortality rates fell to about five percent. Over
the entire time period of the Atlantic slave
trade, it is believed that one-quarter of the
slaves perished on the middle-passage. The
Impact of the Slave Trade in Africa (Theme
Demographics, Political and Social Structures,
and Changes and Continuities) In the 15th and
16th centuries, it is estimated that two thousand
slaves were transported every year. By the end of
the net century, it was twenty thousand per year
and at the height of the slave trade in the 18th
century, more than fifty-five thousand slaves per
year made the middle passage. In the 1780s up to
one hundred thousand were imported in a single
year. Altogether, it is estimated that around
twelve million slaves made the involuntary
journey and of that number, some four million
died. The impact of slave trade varied according
to society. The interior of central Africa
largely escaped its effects while other societies
flourished from active participation in it. The
Asante, Oyo, and Dahomey peoples were able to
build powerful kingdoms with the firearms that
they obtained from the slave trade. Most African
societies were adversely affected by the slave
trade as they were deprived of millions of
individuals. This was especially acute in west
Africa between Senegal and Angola. Surprisingly,
as already mentioned, population growth continued
despite the losses but it often distorted gender
ratio. Since young men were the most prized
slaves due to their work potential, African
societies became skewed toward large female
populations. The gender imbalance pushed Angola
to promote polygamy and gave women more duties
than in earlier times. The slave trade also
encouraged warfare and violence within and
between societies. For instance, as Dahomey
obtained Portuguese weapons, it enabled them to
attack their unarmed neighbors with great
success. The Dahomey armies, with a female
regiment, became a slave-raiding force in west
Africa. And while not in your textbook, societies
even made minor criminal offenses punishable by
slavery.
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THE AFRICAN DIASPORA While some African slaves
worked in mines or as domestic servants, most
were agricultural workers in the cultivation of
American cash crops. Passive resistance to
slavery was common and active resistance less so.
Despite the horrors of slavery, Africans blended
new cultures out of their different backgrounds
and the cultures they encountered in the
Americas. By the 19th century, first the slave
trade and then slavery itself was abolished. By
that time the dispersal (Diaspora) of African
peoples across the western hemisphere had
established itself as a vibrant part of American
life. Plantation Societies (Theme Demographics,
and Economic and Social Development) The first
Spanish plantation was established in 1516 on the
island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. It was
soon followed by plantations in Mexico whole the
Portuguese organized plantations in Brazil in the
1530s. By the early 17th century, the Dutch,
English, and French had followed course in North
America. Most Caribbean and South American
plantations grew sugar but North American tobacco
became as profitable in the 17th century while
rice and indigo became the crops of Carolina
plantations. By the 18th century, cotton and
coffee began to emerge as cash crops. All were
highly profitable and in high demand. Plantations
depended almost exclusively on slave labor with a
small number of European or Euro-American
supervisors directing numerous African
slaves. While plantations themselves were
similar, plantation societies differed by region.
Caribbean and South American plantations were so
harsh due to climate, disease, and an excessively
male labor force that they ewer unable to sustain
their slave populations. They depended on regular
importation of Africans. One-half of all African
slaves went to the Caribbean while another third
went to Brazil. Only five percent went to North
America where there was less disease and where
more females were imported. The North American
planters also encouraged slaves to form families
and have children, especially as slave prices
went up in the 18th century. Slaves were not
entirely compliant and resisted slavery with slow
work in the fields or occasionally by sabotaging
plantation equipment. Runaways known as maroons
formed their own communities in wilderness areas
and raided plantations for goods they could not
supply themselves. Some maroon societies
flourished in several regions of the Americas and
persisted for generations. Plantation owners
lived in fear of the slave revolt since slaves
outnumbered other members of the society. The
revolts were violent and destructive but rarely
resulted in an end to slavery itself. Only the
inhabitants of the French sugar colony of Saint
Domingue managed to overthrow its masters and end
slavery in 1804. The Haitian revolution pushed
other slave-holding regions to tighten control on
their slaves at the same time it inspired slaves
to attempt their won unsuccessful revolts.
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9
The Making of African-American Cultural
Traditions (Theme Cultural Development) Africans
in the Americas maintained some traditions but
often had to blend their won with some other
African and European traditions. Their experience
in the middle passage and on the plantation
forced them to associate with other African
societies since the cultures were mixed on
plantations. Additionally, there were cultural
standards enforced by the Euro-American masters
and community. The resulting culture they was
uniquely African-American. While some
communities held on to their language, usually
Creole languages developed as a combination of
African and European languages. In the coastal
areas of Georgia and South Carolina where
three-quarters of the population were slaves, tow
languages (Gullah and Geechee) developed.
Religions were syncretic with a basic belief in
Christianity fused to African traditions. They
met in parish churches and followed Christian
ritual but associated saints with African deities
and used drumming, dancing, and animal sacrifices
in their services. African religious traditions
of magic, sorcery, and spiritual possession
played a large role. Brazils Candombe, Cubas
Santeria, and Haitis Voodoo attracted numerous
followers and continue to this day. American
communities adopted other African cultural
influences such as foods and basketry. New hybrid
cuisines developed that produced creole dishes.
Okra and its spicey stew, gumbo, are African
words. The low country of Georgia and South
Carolina as well as Louisianna proved suitable
for rice cultivation, a traditional crop of west
Africa. African musical traditions persisted in
plantation life as well and its descendent,
blues, and jazz, are considered to be the most
American musical forms. Despite early beliefs,
African slaves brought their culture, and it has
influenced American society widely. The End of
the Slave Trade and the Abolition of
Slavery (Theme Economic and Social Change) The
cause of abolition was stimulated by the American
and French Revolutions with their calls for
equality and freedom. Abolition had advocates
before that time but they had been solitary
voices of dissent. Increased slave revolts of the
18th and 19th centuries added to the clamor for
reform. Some freed slaves wrote books of their
experiences that further popularized the
abolitionist movement. One of the most famous was
west African Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797), who may
have been born in Benin, who was captured and
worked as a slave in the West Indies, Virginia,
and Pennsylvania. A seaman, his accounts of the
middle passage experience captivated his
audiences and he went on to give speeches and
lobby Parliament for abolition. His efforts and
other slave narratives strengthened the
anti-slavery movement enormously.
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10
The End of the Slave Trade and the Abolition of
Slavery (Theme Economic and Social
Change) However, the economics of slavery
contributed enormously to its abolition.
Basically, slavery was not very profitable. It
was a high-risk venture because of slave
rebellions and ocean transport. Also, the slaves
were unenthusiastic workers. When sugar prices
fell in the late 18th century due to
overexpansion of plantations combined with the
high prices changed for African slaves, slave
labor became less economically feasible.
Furthermore, as Europeans began to shift into new
manufacturing industries, they found that wage
labor was less expensive than slave labor. In
addition, the free laborers had money to spend on
the manufactured goods. Leaving Africans in
Africa to harvest raw materials made more sense
than transportation to new sites. In 1803,
Denmark became the first European nation to give
up the slave trade. They were followed by Great
Britain in 1807, the United States in 1808,
France in 1814, the Netherlands in 1817, and
Spain in 1845. However, abolition of the slave
trade did not stop slavery itself and illegal
transport across the Atlantic continued until
plantation society disappeared. The last
documented slave ship arrived in Cuba in 1867.
Emancipation of the slaves themselves occurred
over a long period with Great Britain in the lead
in 1833. The United States engaged in a civil war
to resolve the issue in 1865 and it was not until
the 1880s that Cuba and Brazil abolished slavery.
The slave trade persists in Africa to this day
but the last countries to officially ban slavery
were Saudi Arabia and Angola in the 1960s.
Millions still live in servitude illegally
through devices such as debt bondage, contract
labor, sham adoptions, and servile marriages. The
influence of the slave trade on the Americas and
Africa was profound and its vestiges are apparent
in both regions.
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11
Finished Reading the Chapter?
  • Compare the rise of Songhay with earlier Ghana
    and Mali and other empires in the world.
  • Identify the origins of the African slave trade.
  • Analyze the demographic effects of the Columbian
    exchange on Africa.
  • Describe one African kingdom in detail (choose
    Kongo or Songhay)
  • Compare and contrast African governments
    responses to Portuguese slave trade.
  • Compare and contrast American slave plantation
    systems.
  • Identify the changes in African society due to
    the Atlantic slave trade.
  • Describe the effects of the African Diaspora on
    the Americas.
  • Analyze the causes of the abolition of slavery.

12
Primary Source Questions
  • Read, Alfonso I Protests Slave Trading in the
    Kingdom of Kongo, 1526, on page 701.
  • What is his point of view?
  • What is his major concern as to the type of slave
    that is taken?
  • What problem did the law passed by the Kongo try
    to resolve?
  • Examine the bronze plaque of a Portuguese
    soldier, Benin, 16th century, on page 708.
  • What is the point of view?
  • How would you know that this was African in
    origin?
  • What makes the figure represented appear to be
    European?
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