Slavery in Africa dates back during mid 15th Century when Portuguese came to Africa and introduced the Trans – Atlantic slave trade. The Portuguese initial interest in Africa was gold mines that were in abundant especially in southern Africa. However this precious deposit of resources became fabled, the Portuguese moved to a more readily available resource and commodity that was much abundant in the continent – slaves. This trade never picked up so well until the end of the 17th century when it was in full swing due to its attractiveness and easy availability of the commodity. During mid 18th century, slave trade reached its peak with numerous European nations involved in the trade with a ready market especially in the United States of America where they used to work as servants in white plantations (Herbert 12).
The trade thrived so well due to the shortage of workforce in European empires and American plantations. Africans were preferred due to their adaptation to tropical weather environment and had experience in agriculture and cattle keeping where they worked hard in plantations and mines. Slaves were not obtained with their will but were captured forcefully. The major slave trade was practiced along the Western Africa through collaboration of traditional Kings, Merchants, European and American military men. When captured they were sold like any other commodities and deployed to work in plantations or mines under the care of a master or an overseer. The treatment that these slaves received in these working places was so cruel for a human being to be subjected to (Thomas 23).
Punishment was a common feature with slaves which was either administered by the master, his wife or male children and in most cases the overseer. This was done using crude weapons, objects and instruments like the whips fitted with shackles and chains at the end. Another cruel punishment that was accorded to African slaves was that they were forced to walk on a treadmill on bear foot. Masters frequently slept with slave women to increase their number and increase supply in the market. Slaves were also forced to sleep with each other for the same purpose (Thomas 29).
When slavery conditions became so severe and some concerned people realized the inhumane treatments that slaves were undergoing, strong movements emerged advocating an end of slave trade especially in America. The first movement was the Congress of the Confederation which illegalized slave trade with much support from American southerners to ban slavery in North West parts of Ohio River. Africans were justified to use force and violence in their efforts to end slavery due to the counter efforts that were used by American and Europeans especially slave owner to oppose the freedom for all through legitimizing slave trade. Since the masters were not willing at all circumstances to release African whom were captured as slaves, violence was the only option left for them to be free from bondage (Abolitionist movements 1).
Slave owner opposed all efforts for liberation with a justification that their plantations were the primary source and suppliers of staple cash crops across the world. Therefore, they argued that, abolition of slave trade will drastically reduce the world supply of staple food hence insisted on retaining them. Although several movements existed to advocate the abolition, slave masters influenced legislative measure to block the abolitionist efforts. Therefore, the only option left and was at the disposal of African slaves was violence since the diplomatic efforts were blocked through tough and unfavorable legislations (Abolitionist movements 1).
African slaves were also treated as animals when American and European slave masters gave in to pressure to free slaves. However they freed Indian and Spanish slaves but substituted them with Africans who were described as more hardworking. This action of slave owners to release some nationals and retain others as slaves provoked anger among Africans who sort all means to receive equal treatment and be granted their freedom but all was without success and therefore left with one option to pursue – violence. Abolitionist efforts were faced with strong rebellion from slave masters who explored all means possible by adapting elaborative slave codes which described their roles to slaves besides advancing racist ideas to justify their actions.
Consequently African slaves were once again left with no option to employ and end their misery at the hands of whites apart from violence. American scholars on the other hand gave a boost to the philosophical idea of slave owners when they established and regarded slaves as state prisoners captured in “just war.” American slave owners got a hook and used this notion of freedom to own property therefore chattel slavery was justified and defended by this clause. Human rights advocates with American origin did not offer a positive solution to slavery either, Adam Smith for instance though criticized any form of human servitude and recommended the utilization of free labor. However his allowance that supported individual economic interest is widely regarded as a strong advocate of racial slavery in modern society. To justify their actions, church leaders in America and Europe in support of slavery coined the Ham’s story in the bible that Africans are descendants of Ham who were cursed to be slaves for their live because of disrespecting Noah. This notion was advocated and spread to justify African enslavement which further forced them to engage in violence in search of their freedom (Francis 23).
Slave owners considered Africans as less human further justifying their enslavement, since all diplomatic efforts meet strong resistance; violence was the only justified mean to achieve freedom. Although to some extent their efforts succeeded, this violence nature that they adapted in their liberation efforts have been transmitted to the contemporary African society where violence have locked the African continent years after the end of slavery. This reflects some of the cons of violence as a mean to end slave trade (William 16).