SLAVE TRADE

3년 전

Portuguese adventurers who sailed southeast along the Gulf of Guinea in 1472 landed on the coast of what became Nigeria. Others followed. They found people of varying cultures. Some lived in towns ruled by kings with nobility and courtiers, very much like the medieval societies they left behind them. More than a century earlier Benin exchanged ambassadors with Portugal. But not all African societies were as developed. Some enjoyed village existence in primeval forests remote from outside influences.slave2.jpg

The first African slaves landed in the Portugese port of Lagos in 1442. The old slave market now serves as an art gallery.

Economics was the driving force

From the outset, relations between Europe and Africa were economic. Portuguese merchants traded with Nigerians from trading posts they set up along the coast. They exchanged items like brass and copper bracelets for such products as pepper, cloth, beads and slaves - all part of an existing internal Nigerian trade. Domestic slavery was common in Nigeria and well before European slave buyers arrived, there was trading in humans. Black slaves were captured or bought by Arabs and exported across the Saharan desert to the Mediterranean and Near East.

During my visit to Nigeria in December, 2001 I toured the town of Badagry and learned that Badagry was an important slave route in West Africa. Badagry is one of five divisions created in Lagos State in l968.

A darker historical era saw many people of West Africa leave their shores for plantations in Europe, North and South America and the Caribbean. The infamous slave trade in Nigeria is not known to many people like the slave trade in Ghana, Senegal, Togo and Benin. Nigeria and Ghana were former British colonies. Senegal, Togo and Benin were former French colonies.

This ancient town of Badagry was founded around l425 A.D. Before its existence, people lived along the Coast of Gberefu and this area later gave birth to the town of Badagry. It is the second largest commercial town in Lagos State, located an hour from Lagos and half hour from the Republic du Benin. The Town of Badagry is bordered on the south by the Gulf of Guinea and surrounded by creeks, islands and a lake. The ancient town served mainly the Oyo Empire which was comprised of Yoruba and Ogu people. Today, the Aworis and Egun are mainly the people who reside in the town of Badagry as well as in Ogun State in Nigeria and in the neighboring Republic du Benin.
During my visit to Nigeria in December, 2001 I toured the town of Badagry and learned that Badagry was an important slave route in West Africa. Badagry is one of five divisions created in Lagos State in l968.
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A darker historical era saw many people of West Africa leave their shores for plantations in Europe, North and South America and the Caribbean. The infamous slave trade in Nigeria is not known to many people like the slave trade in Ghana, Senegal, Togo and Benin. Nigeria and Ghana were former British colonies. Senegal, Togo and Benin were former French colonies.

In 1492, the Spaniard Christopher Columbus discovered for Europe a 'New World'. The find proved disastrous not only for the 'discovered' people but also for Africans. It marked the beginning of a triangular trade between Africa, Europe and the New World. European slave ships, mainly British and French, took people from Africa to the New World. They were initially taken to the West Indies to supplement local Indians decimated by the Spanish Conquistadors. The slave trade grew from a trickle to a flood, particularly from the seventeenth century onwards.

Portugal's monopoly in the obnoxious trade was broken in the sixteenth century when England followed by France and other European nations entered the trade. The English led in the business of transporting young Africans from their homeland to work in mines and till lands in the Americas.

Most slaves sold by Nigerians

At the initial stage of the trade parties of Europeans captured Nigerians in raids on communities in the coastal areas. But this soon gave way to buying slaves from Nigerian rulers and traders. The vast majority of slaves taken out of Nigeria were sold by Nigerian rulers, traders and a military aristocracy who all grew wealthy from the business. Most slaves were acquired through wars or by kidnapping. " Olaudah Equiano, an ex-slave, described in his memoirs published in 1789 how African rulers carried out raids to capture slaves. "When a trader wants slaves, he applies to a chief for them, and tempts him with his wares. It is not extraordinary, if on this occasion he yields to the temptation with as little firmness, and accepts the price of his fellow creature's liberty with as little reluctance, as the enlightened merchant. Accordingly, he falls upon his neighbours, and a desperate battle ensues...if he prevails, and takes prisoners, he gratifies his avarice by selling them.

In the early 1500's, slaves were transported from West Africa to America through Badagry. It is reported that Badagry exported no fewer than 550,000 African slaves to America during the period of the American Independence in l787. In addition, slaves were transported to Europe, South America and the Caribbean. The slaves came mainly from West Africa and the neighboring countries of Benin and Togo as well as others parts of Nigeria. The slave trade became the major source of income for the Europeans in Badagry.

The town of Badagry wants to enlighten the world to its historic sites, landscapes, cultural artifacts and relics of human slavery. Badagry wants to share this world heritage site with others. They are preserving buildings, sites and memories of this iniquitous period so those tourists can unearth the dark impact of this era. Places of interest include the Palace of the Akran of Badagry and its mini ethnographic museum, the early missionaries cemetery, the District Officer's Office and Residence, the First Storey Building in Nigeria constructed by the Anglican missionaries, relics of slave chains in the mini museum of slave trade, cannons of war, the Vlekte slave Market, and the Slave Port established for the shipment of slaves before the l6th century.

A profitable trade

European slave buyers made the greater profit from the despicable trade, but their Nigerian partners also prospered. Many grew strong and fat on profits made from selling their brethren. Tinubu square, commercial centre of today's Lagos and home to Nigeria's Central Bank, is named after a major nineteenth century slave trader. Madam Tinubu was born in Egbaland and rose from rags to riches by trading in slaves , salt and tobacco in Badagry. She later became one of Nigeria's pioneering nationalists.

Nigeria's rulers, traders and military aristocracy protected their interest in the slave trade. They discouraged Europeans from leaving the coastal areas to venture into the interior of the continent. European trading companies realised the benefit of dealing with Nigerian suppliers and not unnecessarily antagonising them. The companies could not have mustered the resources it would have taken to directly capture the tens of millions of people shipped out of Africa. It was far more sensible and safer to give Africans guns to fight the many wars that yielded captives for the trade. The slave trading network stretched deep into the Africa's interior. Slave trading firms were aware of their dependency on African suppliers. The Royal African Company, for instance, instructed its agents on the West coast "if any differences happen, to endeavour an amicable accommodation rather than use force." They were "to endeavour to live in all friendship with them" and "to hold frequent palavers with the Kings and the Great Men of the Country, and keep up a good correspondent with them, ingratiating yourself by such prudent methods" as may be deemed appropriate.

Nigerians faced with a new world

Contact with Europe opened new images of the world for the Nigerian elite and presented them with products of a civilisation which as the centuries passed became more technologically differentiated from their own. The slave trade whetted their appetite for the products of a changing world. Sadly it was not only tinpot rulers who were mesmerised by the glitters of western artefacts.

European traders saw the advantages of helping Nigerian kings and chiefs realise their desire to acquire western culture, if not for themselves then for their children. Hugh Crow, who commanded the last British slave ship to leave a British port, wrote "It has always been the practice of merchants and commanders of ships to Africa, to encourage the natives to send their children to England as it not only conciliates their friendship, and softens their manner, but adds greatly to the security of the traders." With their children in Europe, African chiefs were likely to be more accommodating, knowing full well their offspring could be held as ransom.

African traders resist abolition of obnoxious trade

When Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 it not only had to contend with opposition from white slavers but also from Nigerian rulers who had become accustomed to wealth gained from selling slaves or from taxes collected on slaves passed through their domain. Nigerian 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.

British efforts to suppress the trade made it even more profitable because the price of slaves rose in the Americas. The numerous wars that plagued Yorubaland for half a century following the fall of the Oyo empire was largely driven by demand for slaves. Reverend Samuel Johnson wrote of the subjugation of neighbouring Yoruba kingdoms by Ibadan war-chiefs in the 1850s: "Slave-raiding now became a trade to many who would get rich speedily." It took the intervention of British colonialism to impose peace in Yorubaland in 1893. 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 Nigerian businessmen replaced trade in human chattel with increased export of primary commodities. Labour was needed to cultivate the new source of wealth for the Nigerian elites.

Abolition of the Slave Trade

In 1807 the Houses of Parliament in London enacted legislation prohibiting British subjects from participating in the slave trade. Indirectly, this legislation was one of the reasons for the collapse of Oyo. Britain withdrew from the slave trade while it was the major transporter of slaves to the Americas.

Between them, the French and the British had purchased a majority of the slaves sold from the ports of Oyo. The commercial uncertainty that followed the disappearance of the major purchasers of slaves unsettled the economy of Oyo. Ironically, the political troubles in Oyo came to a head after 1817, when the transatlantic market for slaves once again boomed. Rather than supplying slaves from other areas, however, Oyo itself became the source of slaves.

British legislation forbade ships under British registry to engage in the slave trade, but the restriction was applied generally to all flags and was intended to shut down all traffic in slaves coming out of West African ports. Other countries more or less hesitantly followed the British lead. The United States, for example, also prohibited the slave trade in 1807 (Denmark actually was the first country to declare the trade illegal in 1792).

The Royal Navy maintained a prevention squadron to blockade the coast, and a permanent station was established at the Spanish colony of Fernando Po, off the Nigerian coast, with responsibility for patrolling the West African coast. Slaves rescued at sea were usually taken to Sierra Leone, where they were released. Apprehended slave runners were tried by naval courts and were liable to capital punishment if found guilty.

Still, a lively slave trade to the Americas continued into the 1860s. The demands of Cuba and Brazil were met by a flood of captives taken in wars among the Yoruba and shipped from Lagos, while the Aro continued to supply the delta ports with slave exports through the 1830s. Despite the British blockade, almost 1 million slaves were exported from Nigeria in the nineteenth century. The risk involved in running the British blockade obviously made profits all the greater on delivery.

The campaign to eradicate the slave trade and substitute for it trade in other commodities increasingly resulted in British intervention in the internal affairs of the Nigerian region during the nineteenth century and ultimately led to the decision to assume jurisdiction over the coastal area. Suppression of the slave trade and issues related to slavery remained at the forefront of British dealings with local states and societies for the rest of the nineteenth century and even into the twentieth century.

Lagos, where the British concentrated activities after 1851, had been founded as a colony of Benin in about 1700. A long dynastic struggle, which became entwined with the struggle against the slave trade, resulted in the overthrow of the reigning oba and the renunciation of a treaty with Britain to curtail the slave trade. Britain was determined to halt the traffic in slaves fed by the Yoruba wars, and responded to this frustration by annexing the port of Lagos in 1861. Thereafter, Britain gradually extended its control along the coast. British intervention became more insistent in the 1870s and 1880s as a result of pressure from missionaries and liberated slaves returning from Sierra Leone. There was also the necessity of protecting commerce disrupted by the fighting. The method of dealing with these problems was to dictate treaties that inevitably led to further annexations.
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