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The Complex History Of The Slaves Trade In Nigeria

 The Complex History Of The Slaves Trade In Nigeria  The history of the slave trade in Nigeria is a painful and complex narrative that spans...

 The Complex History Of The Slaves Trade In Nigeria 

The history of the slave trade in Nigeria is a painful and complex narrative that spans centuries and has left a lasting impact on the country's social, cultural, and economic landscape. This extensive exploration will delve into the various facets of slave trade, as it relates Nigerian regions - tracing its origins, development, and ultimate abolition.

It is essential to understand this history in its entirety, so as to appreciate the profound influence it has had on Nigeria's past and present.

A. The Origins of Slavery in Nigeria

The institution of slavery in area now identified as Nigeria predates the trans-atlantic slave trade by several centuries. Slavery was practiced among different ethnic groups across the region long before the arrival of European colonial powers. The reasons for enslavement varied and included debt repayment, punishment for crimes, and capture during intertribal warfare. Slaves in pre-colonial Nigeria were often considered the property of their masters and could be inherited by successive generations.

Ai. Indigenous Slavery:

Slavery was an integral part of the social fabric in many Nigerian societies, including the Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, and Benin kingdoms. In some cases, slaves held important positions within their communities, such as advisors, soldiers, or artisans. However, the status of slaves varied widely, with some experiencing brutal conditions and others enjoying relative privileges.

Aii. Trans-Saharan Slave Trade:

Long before the trans-atlantic slave trade, Nigeria was involved in the trans-Saharan trade, which saw enslaved Africans transported across the Sahara Desert to North Africa and the Middle East. This trade route was driven by the demand for labor in North African societies and the Middle East. 

B. The Trans-atlantic Slave Trade

The transatlantic slave trade, also known as the Atlantic slave trade, was a devastating chapter in Nigeria's history. It began in earnest with the arrival of Portuguese explorers on Nigeria's coast in the late 15th century and continued until the 19th century. Nigeria, with its extensive coastline, became a significant source of enslaved Africans for European colonial powers. Certain things that were obtainable at this time of such slavery were:

Bi. Capture and Enslavement:-

This very process of capturing and enslaving Africans was brutal and inhumane. Local African intermediaries, often from rival ethnic groups, played a role in capturing and selling enslaved individuals to European slave traders. These individuals were subjected to grueling marches to the coast and deplorable conditions in holding facilities known as "barracoons."

Bii. The Middle Passage:-

Enslaved Africans from Nigeria and other parts of West Africa were forcibly transported across the Atlantic Ocean in overcrowded and disease-ridden slave ships. The journey, known as the Middle Passage, resulted in the death of countless Africans due to disease, malnutrition, and mistreatment.

Biii. Destination:-

Enslaved Nigerians were taken primarily to the Americas, including the Caribbean, Brazil, and the United States, to work on plantations, in mines, and as domestic servants. The transatlantic slave trade had a devastating impact on the demographic makeup of Nigeria, as millions of its people were forcibly removed from their homeland.

C. Resistance and Abolition

Despite the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade, many enslaved Nigerians and African descendants in the Americas and the Caribbean resisted their oppressors and fought for their freedom. Their stories of resistance and resilience are a testament to the indomitable spirit of those who endured unimaginable hardships. That is how we have the stories on, 

Ci. Slave Rebellions:

Where enslaved Nigerians and their descendants were involved in various slave rebellions in the Americas. Notable examples include the Haitian Revolution led by Toussaint Louverture, which resulted in the establishment of Haiti as the first independent Black republic, and the Stono Rebellion in South Carolina.

Cii. Abolitionist Movements:

The 18th and 19th centuries saw the rise of abolitionist movements in Europe and the Americas, which advocated for the end of the trans-atlantic slave trade and the emancipation of enslaved individuals. Influential figures like Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer and abolitionist, played a crucial role in raising awareness about the horrors of the trade.

Ciii. British Abolition:

In 1807, the British Parliament passed the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, which made it illegal to engage in the trans-atlantic slave trade. The British Royal Navy played a significant role in enforcing this law along the West African coast, including Nigeria.

D. Post-Abolition Era and Colonialism

The abolition of the trans-atlantic slave trade did not bring an end to slavery in Nigeria. Instead, it marked the beginning of a new era characterized by European colonialism and the exploitation of African labor and resources, through some forms like, 

Di. British Colonial Rule:

Nigeria became a British colony in the late 19th century, and the British colonial administration continued to exploit Nigerian labor for various economic endeavors, such as the production of palm oil, cocoa, and rubber.

Dii. Indentured Labor:

Although the trans-atlantic slave trade had officially ended, a form of bonded labor known as indentured labor persisted. Nigerians were recruited and transported to work on plantations in the British colonies, including Trinidad and Tobago.

E. The Legacy of Slavery in Modern Nigeria

The legacy of slavery continues to impact modern Nigeria in various ways, from social and economic disparities to cultural influences.

Ei. Social and Economic Disparities:

Slavery left enduring social and economic disparities in Nigeria. Descendants of enslaved Africans in the Americas and the Caribbean continues to have cultural connections to Nigeria but may face economic and social challenges due to historical injustices.

Eii. Cultural Influences:

The trans-atlantic slave trade also resulted in cultural exchanges between Nigeria and the African diaspora. Elements of Nigerian culture, including music, religion, and cuisine, have influenced African diasporic communities, particularly in countries like Brazil, Cuba, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Eiii. Commemoration and Remembrance:

In recent years, there has been a growing effort to commemorate the victims of the trans-atlantic slave trade and honor their memory. Initiatives such as the Door of No Return in Badagry, Nigeria, serve as reminders of the trade's historical significance.

In conclusion the history of the slave trade in Nigeria is a complex narrative that encompasses indigenous slavery, the transatlantic slave trade, resistance and abolition, colonialism, and its enduring legacy in modern Nigeria. While the trans-atlantic slave trade represents a dark chapter in the country's history, it is essential to acknowledge and remember this painful past as to promote understanding, reconciliation, and social justice. Nigeria's history serves as a reminder of the resilience of those who endured unimaginable suffering and their enduring contributions to the global African diaspora.

Written by Obulose Chidiebere

 Edited by Ogah C S Maduabuchi

For Family Writers Press International

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