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Fighting the Slave Trade

West African Strategies

Sylviane A. Diouf

Publication Year: 2003

While most studies of the slave trade focus on the volume of captives and on their ethnic origins, the question of how the Africans organized their familial and communal lives to resist and assail it has not received adequate attention. But our picture of the slave trade is incomplete without an examination of the ways in which men and women responded to the threat and reality of enslavement and deportation.Fighting the Slave Trade is the first book to explore in a systematic manner the strategies Africans used to protect and defend themselves and their communities from the onslaught of the Atlantic slave trade a nd how they assaulted it.It challenges widely held myths of African passivity and general complicity in the trade and shows that resistance to enslavement and to involvement in the slave trade was much more pervasive than has been acknowledged by the orthodox interpretation of historical literature.Focused on West Africa, the essays collected here examine in detail the defensive, protective, and offensive strategies of individuals, families, communities, and states. In ch apters discussing the manipulation of the environment, resettlement, the redemption of captives, the transformation of social relations, political centralization, marronage, violent assaults on ships and ports, shipboard revolts, and controlled participation in the slave trade as a way to procure the means to attack it, Fighting the Slave Trade presents a much more complete picture of the West African slave trade than has previously been available.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Front Matter

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

The essays included in this volume were presented at a conference entitled “Fighting Back: African Strategies against the Slave Trade” held at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in February...

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pp. ix-xxv

Between the early 1500s and the late 1860s, an estimated twelve million African men, women, and children were forcibly transported across the Atlantic Ocean.1 About seven million were displaced through the Sahara desert and the Indian Ocean, in a movement that started in the seventh....

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Chapter 1

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pp. 3-14

The prominent role played by Dahomey (Benin) in the supply of captives for enslavement in the Americas is illustrated by the abundant literature on this old West African kingdom.1 Ouidah (Whydah in the English documents), its port of trade, is a familiar name to students and...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 15-30

Between the sixteenth century and the close of the nineteenth, the outskirts of Lake Chad were characterized by long-standing violence. This situation was due to the polities of central Sudan, situated at the...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 31-49

Although mythologies surrounding slave raids and the slave trade in Africa would have it that slavers were all but invincible, enjoying superiority in numbers and technology, the reality for both the Atlantic and Muslim commerce was often...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 50-61

Throughout the Senegambian kingdoms the European presence gave rise to a new era, leading to the disruption of the economic, political, and social life of most of the states of this region. After the rerouting...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 62-78

Historians looking at Africa during the period of the Atlantic slave trade have generally focused on the growth of slave-trading states and the extension of slave trade routes into the far interior. Writers like Patrick...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 81-100

In June 1829 a caravan left Timbo in Futa Jallon and headed south toward Monrovia, Liberia, carrying $6,000 to $7,000 in gold to be remitted to Ibrahima abd al-Rahman Barry, a son of the late ...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 101-118

Resistance by enslaved Africans to their status has been an important theme in the literature on transatlantic slavery. Most attention has focused on rebellion and other forms of resistance by slaves in...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 121-131

Igboland is among the areas of West Africa that experienced the most intensive slave-trading activities during the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Although the total number of Africans enslaved remains...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 132-151

Contemporary European observers and regional oral traditions allude to large-scale slave revolts and numerous fugitive enclaves in the Upper Guinea Coast in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 152-169

Historians have been much more concerned with explaining questions surrounding how Africans produced, transported, and sold captives than with exploring African strategies against the...

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Chapter 11

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pp. 170-198

The first recorded shipment of captives from western Africa over the Atlantic by Europeans occurred in 1441 (Blake 1977, 5). These were victims of raids by the Portuguese in the small coastal...

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Chapter 12

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pp. 199-218

Violent and nonviolent resistance by Africans against their enslavement by Europeans has during the last half century been a constant theme in the literature on transatlantic slavery. That literature has helped...

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pp. 219-226

The historiography of Africa has yet to capture the horror and terror that accompanied the African dimension of the slave trade. Within world history it is the narrative of those who became African American...


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pp. 227-230


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pp. 231-242

E-ISBN-13: 9780821441800
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821415177

Publication Year: 2003