Tuesday, July 4, 2023

A Realistic View of Slavery & Slave Trading, by Richard Knight - The Unz Review

 White people commonly respond to demands for reparations for slavery and slave trading by pointing out that it was whites who abolished these things.[1] I don’t know whether they notice that this doesn’t get them the credit from their antagonists that they seem to expect; they certainly don’t appear to see why this is.

The reason they get no credit is that black people don’t see the abolition of slavery and slave trading as quite the boon for humanity that white people do. If Africans had wanted slavery and slave trading to be abolished, they could have abolished them themselves very easily, just by ceasing to indulge in them. Instead, they met white attempts at abolition with fierce resistance. This was quite natural. Slavery was their way. As for slave trading, it gave them a good profit, and they saw nothing wrong with it.

No, the reason black people go on about slavery and slave trading is not that they deplore them but that they see that white people deplore them, who might therefore be made to feel so guilty about their forefathers’ involvement as to give black people large amounts of money in restitution.

Indeed, if we set the white record on slavery and slave trading against the black record, it stands out as a shining example. The transatlantic slave trade lasted only a fraction of the time that Africans spent selling each other to Arabs, and the number of slaves bought by whites — perhaps ten or 12 million — was a fraction of the number bought by Arabs. As for the length of time Africans spent selling each other to other Africans, and the numbers involved, these were much greater still. The intra-African slave trade still predominated in the nineteenth century, when a European explorer reported that slave-hunting in Africa went on far more to supply the domestic than the foreign market.[2]

I am no expert on slavery in the Americas, but I get the impression that it could have been worse. Although Frederick Douglass mentions slaves being flogged, he doesn’t say that he was flogged himself.[3] Rather, as a boy he had to help look after farmyard animals, which can be quite an agreeable task, and he was later transferred to a mistress for whom he had nothing but praise. Olaudah Equiano was abducted as a child by Africans in his home country before being bought and sold by other Africans, then shipped to America, where he was bought by an English couple, who treated him like their own son. He wrote that he was “very warmly attached” to his master, who was in the Navy, and told him that “if he left me behind it would break my heart.”[4] As for Twelve Years a Slave, according to the historian Simon Webb this was written not by Solomon Northup, who could hardly write his name, but by a white abolitionist named David Wilson, who wanted to make slavery sound as bad as possible.[5]

Coming to the treatment of slaves in Africa, according to Herbert Ward, a nineteenth-century English explorer, in the Congo it was customary for feuding chiefs to mark the settling of their scores by buying a slave, breaking his bones, and burying him with just his head sticking out so that all could see him slowly starve to death. The same fate lay in store for anyone who gave him food or water.[6] The Portuguese explorer Francisco Valdez reported that when the chief of a certain tribe died, no one was allowed to mention the fact for a month or two on pain of being immediately decapitated and his family sold into slavery.[7] If no buyer could be found for his family, they too would be decapitated. The King of Dahomey had to honor his ancestors. To do this, he periodically killed a few hundred slaves so that their blood could be poured on his forebears’ graves. As the victims were slaughtered, the crowd shouted out in delight.[8]

To give two more examples, according to the adventurer Hugh Murray, writing in 1853, after the King of Coomassie died 200 slaves were sacrificed each week for three months.[9] Another writer stated that at the death of a King, large numbers of his favorite wives and slaves were put to death to keep him company.[10] We hear nothing comparable about the treatment of slaves in America.

According to two independent estimates by nineteenth-century Scottish explorers, about three-quarters of the sub-Saharan African population were slaves.[11] Another observer put the proportion at four in five.[12] The slave was the unit of currency in Africa. Fines were paid in slaves, wives were bought in slaves. All the way from the coast to the remotest point in the interior, wrote the French-American anthropologist Paul Du Chaillu, the commercial unit of value was the slave. “As we say dollar, as the English say pound sterling, so these Africans say slave.”[13]

Africans did not object to slavery or slave trading, and this included slaves. In the 1800s the English explorer Richard Lander was surprised to see “the most perfect indifference” in Africans as they lost their liberty.[14] In the 1820s, a Frenchman who passed a group of women being put up for sale in the street noted that they “did not appear in the least mortified at being exhibited” for this purpose.[15] Male slaves, although shackled at the ankle, laughed, wrote two authors in 1826, and the females sang with the utmost glee as they worked in the fields.[16]

When an African slave obtained his liberty, he saw it as no cause for celebration. The naturalist Samuel Baker wrote that abolition only proved that Africans did not appreciate the blessings of freedom, nor did they show the slightest gratitude to the hand that broke the rivets of their fetters.[17] An African might even seek to become a slave, since then he would not have to fend for himself.[18] It was not unknown for former slaves in America to petition to be reenslaved.[19] In 1901, the black nationalist Booker T. Washington wrote that many emancipated slaves returned to their former owners asking to be taken back.[20]

It was only white people, with their elevated concept of the rights of man, who disapproved of slave trading, such as Francisco Valdez, who found it “detestable,”[21] and James Bruce, another explorer, who found it a “horrid practice.”[22] White people proceeded to impose their high-flown concept on those in whose minds it had never appeared.

Black people’s affinity for slavery can still be seen today, as in the many African countries where it still flourishes. For a second example, the Black Lives Matter activist Sasha Johnson reportedly said, “We don’t want to be equal, we want white people to be our slaves.”[23] Consistent with this, when I lived in a black part of London, I was quite often treated by the sort of young black man who in Africa would have been a slave owner as though I might be his slave. Finally, a senior black police officer was recently found guilty of, among other things, telling junior officers that he owned them and bellowing at them to make his porridge.[24] To many black people, today as in the past, the urge to enslave appears irrepressible.

According to Francis Moore, a Briton writing in 1738, a certain African King would amuse himself by going out with some troops from time to time to set fire to parts of the town. As people ran out of their burning huts, the troops caught them, tied them up, and took them off to be sold as slaves.[25] In 1870, Samuel Baker reported that when a slave hunt in East Africa netted some old women who could not keep up on the return march, they were clubbed to death.[26]

Nothing satisfied an African like witnessing a brutal killing. A missionary observed a group dancing round the mangled corpse of a beheaded female slave “at the very zenith of their happiness.”[27] In 1857, an explorer wrote that Africans appeared to take pleasure in cruelty: “The sight of suffering seems to bring them an enjoyment without which the world is tame.”[28] According to Sir Richard Burton, an English traveler, during fires in Zanzibar in the 1860s black people were seen adding fuel and singing and dancing, wild with delight.[29] In 1867, Paul Du Chaillu recalled seeing a young African woman’s corpse covered in lacerations into which red peppers had been rubbed, a “common mode of tormenting with these people.”[30] He could only hope that the woman, who had presumably been accused of witchcraft, had died of her wounds and not had to endure “the slower process of agonized starvation to which such victims are left.”

When I was at college, a lecturer told us that when he had staged Shakespeare’s tragedies in Soweto, the audience had laughed at the grimmest scenes. He thought that they were expressing pleasure at not being the victims. It seems possible that they were simply enjoying the sight of human suffering.

When Herbert Ward witnessed Africans walking among the putrefying bodies of victims of a mass human sacrifice, appearing to think nothing of it, he commented that the white man would never be able to conquer his repugnance at the callous indifference to human suffering found everywhere in Africa.[31] To us this seems strange, for we have been brought up to believe that no one’s indifference to human suffering could be more callous than a white person’s.

Yet, the old explorers thought that the life of a child could have intrinsic and not just economic value. Africans were different. In 1847, John Duncan wrote, “So little do they care for their offspring, that many offered to sell me any of their sons or daughters as slaves.”[32]. Sir William Cornwallis Harris wrote in 1843 that Africans would sell their children for the sordid love of gain.[33] All over Africa, according to Mungo Park, writing in 1815, parents might sell their children.[34]

Also in 1815, John Campbell wrote of seeing a child of about eight standing in the dust weeping and looking almost like a skeleton:[35] “Neither the men, women, nor children present seemed by their countenances to express the least sympathy or feeling for this forsaken, starving child”; instead, they laughed and told Campbell that he was welcome to take her with him if he wished. He felt sure that in London the sight of the girl would have excited pity in the hearts of thousands.[36] Think of that: White people feeling sorry for a strange black girl! But perhaps Campbell was right.

What a shame it is that our intellectuals have made such a thorough job of suppressing facts such as those mentioned above, leaving us to seek moral instruction from black people as we ask them how much money they require! They peddle their tales in the name of the idea of racial equality, yet this is not the idea that they drive at, which is one of extreme racial inequality, where blacks, pure and innocent, are being incessantly mistreated by their psychopathic white persecutors.

I wonder what it will take to set the record straight.


[1] For example, the point is made that from the early nineteenth century until the end of the British Empire 250 years later, the British expended vast resources attempting to wipe out slavery and slave trading. In the 1830s or 1840s, a full 13% of the manpower of the Royal Navy was devoted to stopping slave ships leaving West Africa for the Americas, quite apart from stopping slavery elsewhere. (Triggernometry, March 26, 2023, “The Truth About Colonialism with Nigel Biggar.”)

[2] This note and others below refer to Hinton Rowan Helper (“HH”), compiler of The Negroes in Negroland (New York: G. W. Carleton, 1868). Helper’s notes give abbreviated references, such as her, to Barth’s Africa, Vol. I., page 12. Where possible these references have been expanded to give the author’s full name and the title and date of the book presumably referred to. In this case, on page 40 HH quotes Johann Barth, 1857, Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa, Vol. I, p. 12, stating that slave-hunting went on “not only for the purpose of supplying the foreign market, but, in a far more extensive degree, for supplying the wants of domestic slavery.”

[3] Frederick Douglass, Narrative of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (New York: Penguin, 1986). Originally published 1845.

[4] History Debunked, Nov. 1, 2020, “An authentic account of slavery in West Africa.” The book is available here.

[5] See History Debunked (1), July 24, 2020, “Multicultural Education,” and (2) March 13, 2022, “The Twelve Years a Slave hoax revisited.”

[6] Herbert Ward, Five Years with the Congo Cannibals (Ostara Publications, 2019), p. 73. Originally published 1891.

[7] On page 31 HH quotes Francisco Valdez, Six Years of a Traveller’s Life in Western Africa, Vol. 2, 1861, p. 331.

[8] On page 19 HH quotes Hugh Murray, The African Continent: A Narrative of Discovery and Adventure, 1853, p. 199.

[9] On page 20 HH quotes Hugh Murray 1853, op. cit., p. 204.

[10] On page 21 HH quotes “Wilson’s Africa,” p. 219.

[11] On page 87 HH quotes Mungo Park, The Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa in the Year 1805, 1815, p. 216. On page 39 he quotes Sir William Cornwallis Harris, Major Harris’s Sports and Adventures in Africa, 1843, p. 314.

[12] On page 109 HH quotes “Lander’s Africa,” Vol. I, p. 377, which could be The Travels of Richard Lander into the Interior of Africa (1836) by Robert Huish or Lander’s Travels in Africa by Richard Lander.

[13] On p. 44 HH quotes Paul Du Chaillu, Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa or A Journey to Ashango-Land, 1867, p. 380.

[14] On page 37 HH quotes “Lander’s Africa,” op cit, p. 208.

[15] On page 43 HH quotes René Caillié, Travels through Central Africa to Timbuctoo, Vol. II, 1830, p. 63.

[16] On page 38 HH quotes Dixon Denham and Hugh Clapperton, Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa, Vol. IV, 1826, p. 184.

[17] On page 123 HH quotes Samuel White Baker, Great Basin of the Nile, 1870, p. 197.

[18] On page 40 HH quotes “Wilson’s Africa,” p. 156, saying that the African “not infrequently by his own choice places himself in [the] condition” of slavery.

[19] HH gives several examples of freed slaves petitioning to be reenslaved in his book Nojoque: A Question for a Continent (New York: George W Carleton, 1867), available here, p. 195.

[20] In “The Day Freedom Came” (1901), Booker T. Washington wrote of the feeling of gloom that descended on many emancipated slaves when they realised that freedom meant that they would have to provide for themselves. “Gradually, one by one, stealthily at first, the older slaves began to wander from the slave quarters back to the ‘big house’ to have whispered conversations with their former owners as to the future” (quoted by Christopher Ricks and William A. Vance [eds.], The Faber Book of America [London: Faber and Faber, 1994], pp. 198-99).

[21] On page 43 HH quotes Valdez 1861, op. cit., p. 293.

[22] On page 15 HH quotes James Bruce, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768–73, Vol. I, 1790, p. 393.

[23] The New Culture Forum, April 26, 2022, “The War on Whiteness & The West: Murray’s Brave New Book Exposes How We’re Taught to Hate Ourselves.”

[24] MailOnline, Jan. 17, 2022. “Two senior police officers are kicked out of Met after Commander shouted at juniors, called pregnant colleague a ‘f******* nutter’ and approved £5,500 of his own invalid expenses, including alcohol and flight upgrade.”

[25] On page 80 HH quotes Francis Moore, Travels into the Inland Parts of Africa, 1738, p. 87.

[26] On page 34 HH quotes Baker 1870, op. cit., p. 405.

[27] On pages 21-22 HH quotes “Freeman’s Africa,” op cit., p.47.

[28] On page 29 HH quotes Thomas Henry Hutchinson, Impressions of Western Africa, 1858, p. 283.

[29] On page 142 HH quotes “Burton’s Africa,” p. 493, which could be any of Burton’s books about Africa, most of which were published in the 1860s.

[30] On page 57 HH quotes Paul Du Chaillu, 1867, op. cit., p. 156.

[31] Ward 2019, op. cit., p. 186.

[32] On page 39 HH quotes John Duncan, 1847, Travels in Western Africa, Vol. I, p. 79.

[33] On page 39 HH quotes Harris 1843, op. cit., p. 314. Also, on p. 153 he quotes Richard Lander noting that an African parent would sell his child for the merest trifle (“Lander’s Africa”, p. 348. This could be Robert Huish, The Travels of Richard Lander into the Interior of Africa, 1836, or there could be a book by Richard Lander himself.)

[34] On page 87 HH quotes Park 1815, op. cit., p. 216.

[35] On page 93 HH quotes John Campbell, Travels in South Africa, 1815, p. 266.

[36] This racial difference has been described in terms of “r/K theory.” Animals with an “r” strategy, such as rabbits, have many offspring after a short gestation and put little effort into looking after them. Those with a “K” strategy, like kangaroos, have fewer offspring after a longer gestation and invest more time in raising them. Compared to white and Asian people, people have an “r” strategy. (The gestation period in black women is slightly shorter than in others.) This was illustrated by the Scottish explorer Robert Moffat, who in 1842 wrote that African children “cease to be the objects of a mother’s care as soon as they are able to crawl about in the field.” (On page 92 HH quotes Robert Moffat, Missionary Labours and Scenes in South Africa, 1842, p. 49, quoting Kicherer.)