Slavery in Africa
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Since ancient times slaves had been bought and sold in Africa. When two tribes fought against each other, the victorious tribe would make the people of the defeated tribe their slaves. Slavery differed from one part of Africa to another, but in most places slaves were released when they had served their masters for a certain number of years, or else they could buy their freedom by good behaviour and hard work. Slaves were free to marry. This meant that their children might marry the children of their masters or of other local people, and so within a short time, there was nothing in their looks to make them seem different from the local people, and so within a short time, there was nothing in their looks to make them seem different from the local people or to show that their ancestors had been slaves. However, when the white Europeans became involved in the slave trade they changed it dramatically. They wanted to take strong slaves to work on the sugar plantations in their new lands in America and the West Indies. The Europeans could not gather all the slaves they needed just by kidnapping Africans from the coast, so they made strong links with the African chiefs. The European traders took goods to Africa which were of great value there. These included fine cloth, metal bars, alcohol, guns and gunpowder. In return, African traders brought men, women and children from inland to the coast, to be handed over to the Europeans as slaves. What few Europeans knew – or wanted to know – was that the Africans had built up many remarkable kingdoms over hundreds of years. One of the greatest was the Empire of Songhai, far inland. In 1525, an Arab visitor described the capital city of Timbuktu: “Here are many shops of craftsman and merchants. The region yields corn, cattle, milk and butter in great abundance. Salt is brought he from over eight hundred miles away. The king has much gold and rides upon a...
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