Some unpleasant truths about African slavery
West African tribal leaders — and Arab traders — sold blacks from rival tribes to whites, who transported them to the West Indies and America. There they were set to work to produce sugar, cotton, rum and tobacco, which were then taken back to Bristol and Liverpool.
As so often with evils, the slave trade was not consciously chosen and promoted as morally right, though some later tried to defend it on moral grounds. It grew up because of the demand for labour in harsh conditions, and its cheap availability. This still happens today, if in a less extreme form. If the price of labour in a place is very low, you accept it. You cause havoc if you don't, so you tend to ignore your doubts.
And people should not imagine that such things were solely the result of prejudice against blacks (though blacks had by far the worst experience). In Scotland, there was a special rule that allowed employers to own colliers and salters for life, so special that colliers and salters were explicitly excluded from the introduction of habeas corpus in Scotland in 1701, and did not get full freedom until 1799.
And slavery still exists in modern Africa:
There are countries and belief systems still powerful in the modern world that do not have any deep-rooted objection to slavery. It surprises me how little attention is being paid, for example, to what China is currently doing in Africa. What are the terms and conditions of the work-forces it uses to extract oil and other natural resources? How many African governments, behaving like tribal chieftains 300 years ago, are taking Chinese money while their people suffer?
And how aware are we that many Muslims find in their faith a justification for slavery in certain circumstances? Mohammed, whose life is considered perfect by Muslims, slaughtered the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza, and enslaved their women and children. In his treaty with the Nubians, he insisted on a tribute of slaves.
These methods have not been repudiated by the faith. In the lands of Nubia and nearby today, the Islamist Arab government of Sudan is encouraging the dispossession, killing and, so it is reported, enslavement of Africans. I am told that, in the local Arabic usage, the word for black and for slave is the same. In Darfur, more than 200,000 black people have died.
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