Henry Gates and slavery
I read Carina Ray’s “Inverting the slavery blame game” (NA June) with great dismay and consternation. I wholeheartedly agree with Carina’s critique of Professor Henry Louis Gates’ trying to shift the blame for transatlantic slavery to continental Africans. I hoped that Carina would have expounded more on continental African resistance to transatlantic slavery.
I went to school in the Caribbean and learnt something about resistance to slavery in the Caribbean, but nothing about continental African resistance. It is very important to highlight continental African resistance in order to promote pan-African unity between continental Africans and diasporan Africans.
The Oba of Benin in the 16th century refused to sell male African prisoners as slaves to the Europeans. Queen Nzinga of Matamba mounted stiff opposition to slavery in the 17th century. Matamba occupied the area now known as Angola.
Between 1724 and 1726, King Agata Trudo of Dahomey pursued a policy of proactive resistance. He burnt and looted European forts and slave camps. King Trudo at one time reduced the trade from the Slave Coast to a trickle by blocking the paths leading to the sources of the supply of slaves in the interior. There are many more examples of continental Africans countering slavery.
It must be noted that without European demand for slaves, there would have been no African slaves sitting on the beach by the million waiting to be transported across the Atlantic. The passage of African slaves to the so-called New World was the total responsibility of Europeans.
It is sad to see an “intellectual” like Prof Gates being used to shift the blame for transatlantic slavery from Europeans to Africans. Whatever next!
Trevor Johns. Bromley, England