July 29, 2016 – Jack Kerwick
Ask yourself this: In all of the gazillions of lectures and tirades (there have, as to date, been no genuine conversations) on slavery, have you ever heard of the names of John Currantee and Ephraim Robin John?
Such names—and there are many, many more—belong to a racially incorrect history of slavery, an historical account that threatens to rip asunder the ideological foundations of the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC), or Big Racism.
For centuries and centuries, courtesy of both Arabs and its indigenous peoples, slavery was endemic throughout the continent of Africa. Contrary to what contemporary mythical portraits like Roots would have us think, when Europeans began enslaving Africans in the 16th century, they—unlike Arabs—would not invade villages to obtain slaves. Rather, they would have to trade with the African flesh peddlers.
John Currantee, of the Fante people, was one such “caboceer” or trader. Ephraim Robin John, who the Europeans called “King George,” was another. The latter was the leader of the Efik people. Both had reputations for being particularly “canny and ruthless dealers” of human beings. Both were representative of African slave traders in two respects: They could communicate in several European and African languages, and they exploited the divisions between the Dutch, the English, and the French to maximize their profits.
These African traders invariably hailed from the most powerful tribes, tribes that would prey upon and conquer weaker peoples—who they would then sell off across the Atlantic. About 50 percent of all such enslaved Africans were prisoners of war. Roughly 30 percent were criminals or in debt. The 20 remaining percent consisted of those who African slave traders would kidnap.
Yet the enslavers exerted as well considerable power over their European partners, for in addition to getting the price that they wanted for the product that they were peddling, these black merchants of black bodies would also compel Europeans to pay “gifts” or “customs fees” (“dashee”).
In The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Rebecca Shumway writes that “in the very territory where the majority of fortified European castles were built, giving the appearance of European control, the Africans residing under those structures were actually exercising greater control over trade than was typical for coastal West Africa in this period.” The Fante, as one reviewer aptly put it, “maintain[ed] the upper hand in their dealings with Europeans.”
As an indication of just how wide of the mark is the popular notion that whites “stole” Africans from their homes, it is worth noting that the British government, in order to strengthen their trading partnerships with Africans, even invited the sons of African slave traders to come to England so as to study English! Moreover, friendships developed between some European and African dealers.
The enslavement of Africans by Europeans was made possible by the fact that Africans first enslaved—and then sold—Africans to these Europeans. Nor is it the case, as Big Racism would like for us to believe, that Europeans were uniquely cruel to their captives. In point of fact, African slave traders not infrequently subjected those who they kidnapped to treatment that had few peers anywhere as far as mercilessness and savagery are concerned.
Dr. Alexander Falconbridge was a European who served as a surgeon aboard multiple slave ships that sailed from West Africa to the Caribbean during the last quarter of the 18th century. He would eventually become an abolitionist. In 1788, he supplied the world with an all too rare account of the African participation in the slave trade.
Since “the black traders” take “extreme care” “to prevent the Europeans from gaining any intelligence” regarding the logistics involved in capturing slaves, Falconbridge drew his impressions—namely, that many, if not most, of the latter were abducted—from what he did observe directly as well as from the testimony of those Africans who had been captured.
One black captive, a man, told Falconbridge that he had been invited to drink with traders. As he proceeded to walk away, they seized him. He broke free, but only to be hunted down by a “large dog” that “compelled him to submit.” Dogs were used with regularity by African slave catchers. As the man struggled in vain against the animal, his abductors, “being trained to the inhuman sport,” appeared to delight in his suffering.
A pregnant woman explained that she was returning home one evening from visiting with neighbors when traders seized upon her. Since those Africans involved in slave trading increasingly traveled further and further into the interior to find human beings, this woman, like so many others, “had passed through the hands of several purchasers before she reached the ship.”
Falconbridge tells of a father and his son who, while tending to crops, were attacked, captured, and dragged off to be sold. Another unsuspecting black man was invited by his companion to behold the gigantic European ships that were parked along the coast. Intrigued, he accepted the invitation. Yet before he could realize that he had been manipulated, the soon-to-be slave was ambushed and taken on board the vessel.
It would be a mistake to think that the Africans didn’t have a sophisticated operation. Falconbridge reports that traders would sail “up country” to “the fairs” in 20-30 canoes “capable of containing thirty or forty Negroes each” to purchase slaves. The canoes would be packed with “such goods” as were necessary for this purpose. As the traders embarked, Falconbridge could see “colors flying” and “music playing;” it was a festive affair.
When the canoes return with their cargo, “the purchased Negroes are cleaned, and oiled with palm-oil [.]” Then they are shown to the Europeans.
If, however, for whatever reasons, the captains passed on what the Africans were trying to sell, the latter would “beat those Negroes…and use them with great severity.” In a passage that is particularly revealing of the inhumanity of the treatment to which Africans would subject their own, Falconbridge writes: “It matters not whether they [the African slaves] are refused on account of age, illness, deformity, or for any other reason.” Off the coast of New Calabar, what is today known as Nigeria, “the traders, when any of their Negroes have been objected to, have dropped their canoes under the stern of the vessel, and instantly be headed them, in sight of the captain” (italics added).
To repeat: Slaves that Europeans didn’t want African traders swiftly decapitated.
Don’t expect to hear about this in that “honest conversation” of race that the left assures us we need to have.