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You will often, particularly online, hear people say something like this; the African slave trade was a ‘racist, white, patriarchal colonialist institution’, it was the white man’s hatred of the black man that fuelled the slave trade.

Now, putting aside the fact that the word ‘slave’ developed from ‘Slav’, the white eastern Europeans who were taken as slaves so often their names became synonymous with the institution of slavery in Europe, this idea that the African slave trade was a ‘white, patriarchal, colonial institution’ is both ahistorical and ridiculous.

Did Colonialists engage in it? Yes. Did racists engage in it? Yes. Did white Europeans start the African slave trade? No. Long before white Europeans engaged in the African slave trade, Muslims, and prior to that Arab slave traders were heavily involved in running Slaves to and from Africa. How far does this go back? Well at least a few thousand years actually. Genesis 37:25-28 says this:

25 Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.

Who are the Midianites/Ishmaelites in this passage? The ancestors of the Arabs, from whence Islam developed in the 7th century AD. What are they doing? They are engaging in the African (Egyptian at this time) slave trade. And Joseph’s wicked brothers participate in it with them, selling their own brother as a slave.

The African slave trade, in all its various forms, existed long before England even existed as a nation, let alone set their sights on the evil trade. How long were these proto-Arabs involved in this trade before this passage? We cannot know, but here we have a clear indication that it has a long history in their culture.

Tomb of Horemheb of XVIII Dynasty (before 1348 BCE) in Memphis. Kemetic officials are here taking a head count of Nubian slaves, likely to be sent back to Kemet as required by the tribute due the latter. The image recalls a scene on a Middle Passage slave ship. In Museo Civico Archeologico, Bologna.

As the image above shows, the African slave trade dates back far into ancient times. This picture represents Nubians, a north African people and an ancient and at times powerful kingdom, being transported as slaves by Egyptian slave traders. Indeed, sadly this African slave trade still exists today, long after Colonial rule has been removed from the continent. With open slave markets in Libya and other parts of Africa. And we can safely predict, that sadly, it will probably go on for some time yet.

For most of early European history, various European people’s made slaves of each other. Greeks made slaves of other Greeks and non-Greeks, Romans of Thracians, Germans of Slavs, Romans of Celts and Gauls, etc, etc. But regarding our specific topic here, yes, Europeans, got involved in the evils of the African slave trade, and yes it corrupted us for a time. But we also put an end to it in the West.

To blame the West for the institution of the African slave trade is ahistorical, and blaming it on the idea of “white patriarchy” is just plain ridiculous. History always makes a mockery of bad arguments. If you don’t know where to start, begin with the most well-read history ever written, the Bible.


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