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Skip Gates blames Africans for slave trade

as well as Europeans.

…90 percent of those shipped to the New World were enslaved by Africans and then sold to European traders. The sad truth is that without complex business partnerships between African elites and European traders and commercial agents, the slave trade to the New World would have been impossible, at least on the scale it occurred.

Advocates of reparations for the descendants of those slaves generally ignore this untidy problem of the significant role that Africans played in the trade…

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20 Comments

  1. Adam wrote:

    It shouldn’t be controversial to point out that Africans were heavily involved in the slave trade. But it’s pretty clear that without the Western slaving operations the trade wouldn’t have happened at all, and you can’t say that for the African side.

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 7:56 am | Permalink
  2. Henri wrote:

    you didn’t tell what was your opinion mr easterly :-)

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 8:18 am | Permalink
  3. Matt wrote:

    “Skip Gates blames Africans for slave trade”
    “….as well as Europeans.”

    Link bait much?

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  4. kadebe wrote:

    It figures,i dont see any issues with the logic. A different application of this would be, blaming Germans for Hitler and the holocaust during WWII…It shouldn’t be controversial to point out that Germans were heavily involved in the NAZI party.

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink
  5. JPT wrote:

    Not all African Slaves were exported to the New World. Nearly half of Madagascar’s pre-colonial population (1896) was slave, mostly Malagasy enslaved by Malagasy. In the 19th century Malagasy slavers made slaving voyages to the Comoros and from time to time to Mozambique to capture slaves. Most of the Creole people living today on Mauritius and Reunion Island are descendants of Malagasy slaves captured during internecine war and sold to European settlers by Malagasy kings in exchange for the weapons to continue the wars.

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink
  6. Brandie wrote:

    I am not shock to hear Gates state this-for whatever reason. However, instead using the blame game, how can we undo the injustices and get the continent or some countries back on their feet?

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  7. Holli wrote:

    I live in Ghana where the Ashanti tribe is known for and proud of having been the ones to negotiate with, and sell members of other tribes to the slave traders at the various castles dotted along the coast here…

    There is no ignorance here about what really happened. The selevtive ignorance of the deals that were made and the part played by the Africans, is limited to the West…

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink
  8. Kelly wrote:

    Context is important. In the modern globalized world, it’s easy to take for granted that sellers and buyers of a commodity (or in this case people) will have perfect information about the end outcome. Today, we can easily trace the path of coltan or conflict diamonds, and draw direct connection to supporting conflict based on empirical data from both sides of the fence. However, it’s quite safe to say that the sellers of slaves from the African continent had very little idea of what was in store for the slaves that were sold to the west. While there were many interpretations of what it meant to be a slave in the African context several hundred years ago, very few of them even remotely resembled the western style of slavery embodied in the mercantile exchange system of the time. The sellers may not have had any idea what was actually going on.

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink
  9. RJS wrote:

    Gates turns out to be more rational than I thought he would be after his run in with the police last year. Reparations are still a bad idea though.

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink
  10. Anne wrote:

    Kelly – please! They didn’t see the conditions of the slaves in their coastal areas where they were fatted up? When they conquered their rival tribes and tied up the women, men, and children (separating the virgins that sold for a higher price) – they thought they were sending their rivals to a better place?

    In devt, and in North America in general, we tend to ignore that remarkable analytical lens through which so much comes to light: CLASS.

    THis blog sheds light on the underbelly of devt (fine) and the shortcomings of aid and aid workers (fine) – but then we must shed equal light on the underbelly of “the poor”. They are not a homogenous humble lot – a mass of good people exploited by the bad guys and just needing an effective aid system to use their own indigenous knowledge to make better lives for themselves. This is just the simple fairytale version of people/history – propogated by the aid industry through fundraising strategies.

    The reality is messy and includes a lot of poor a**holes. A lot of big fish eating smaller fish that go on to eat smaller fish etc. Race is so much less useful as an analytical lens then class.

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  11. Diane Bennett wrote:

    “very few of them even remotely resembled the western style of slavery”

    Rodney Stark at the U of Washington, in “For the Glory of God,” a study of monotheistic religions, details the extensive use of slaves, from ancient Greece and Rome to North American indigenous peoples, including numerous cultures within the African continent, as JPT points out. A sociologist, Prof. Stark claims the term “slave” refers to Slavic peoples that were a common source of European slaves. He says that “all early civilizations including Sumer, Bablylon, Assyria, Egypt, China & India involved extensive use of slave labor and it was an essential part of the Greek and Roman economies, with the Roman slave market trading up to 20,000 slaves per day (p.296). In North America, slaves accounted for 15 – 30% of the tribal population among Northwest Coastal Indians (p.293-4).

    Kelly, which one of these are you referring to as “western style”?

    (I am not saying this history justifies slavery, only that it has extensively existed for millenniums in “western” civilizations.)

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Permalink
  12. Kelly wrote:

    - Diane Bennett

    Gee thanks for the history lesson. But..

    “Kelly, which one of these are you referring to as “western style”?”

    You conveniently ignored the part of my post that nicely bracketed the time and the place to which I am referring, in order to showcase your historical knowledge of the subject.

    “While there were many interpretations of what it meant to be a slave in the African context several hundred years ago, very few of them even remotely resembled the western style of slavery embodied in the mercantile exchange system of the time.”

    You, know, that part right below “Context is important?” That part?

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink
  13. Faith M wrote:

    I don’t see a word about the Arab participation (instigation) in slavery.

    Posted April 23, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Permalink
  14. Francis wrote:

    This looks like an endogeneity issue

    Posted April 24, 2010 at 1:28 am | Permalink
  15. George wrote:

    As an interesting note, there are some present day African regimes that acknowledge and indeed take responsibility for the past actions of African slave traders. Ghana is one such country.

    Take a look at this quote from a speech by Canada’s Governor General on this topic (disclosure: I attended the original speech/State Dinner). It was a pretty powerful moment when she (a descendant of African slaves from Haiti) accepted the apology of Ghana’s government for the actions of its ancestors.

    As it looks to the future, Ghana has shown that it is willing to confront the past. I am impressed by your government’s decision to apologize for what was done hundreds of years ago by people of this region involved in the slave trade.

    As a descendant of slaves, that touched me very much. I know that we cannot go back and solve past injustices. All we can do is learn from the lessons of the past—even the painful lessons—and use that knowledge to build a better future.

    I will be traveling to Elmina Castle, where so many Africans waited to be deported to the Americas as slaves.

    I will stand at the “Door of No Return”, looking towards the ocean.

    I will think of the millions of people packed tightly in rickety ships bound for unknown lands.

    Faraway lands where they were deprived of their memories, of their languages, of their heritage, of their dignity and, most of all, of their freedom.

    I will stand and pray for those who never completed the journey and whose bodies were thrown out to the ocean.

    As I will stand there, and reconnect with the land of my ancestors, I will salute your openness and I will accept your apology.

    The time has come to recapture that moment of African history in order to move ahead together.

    The whole speech can be read here.

    Posted April 24, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  16. Ehui wrote:

    It’s always been fairly obvious there were Africans involved in the slave trade (at least from the history and cultural studies classes I took in primary school in Ghana).

    But I think the blame game avoides the real questions the legacy the slave trade leaves with us, ie poverty, racism — and it certainly doesn’t answer the question of who deserves reparations and who should pay them!

    Going back to the question this article seeks to answer, who should receive compensation from the slave trade and why?

    Posted April 24, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Permalink
  17. All analogies with today are off if you consider contexts where slave-traders believed that slaves were not proper human beings. The argument that Bartolomeo de las Casas made to the Spanish crown and society was that native americans and africans treated like inferior beings were instead ‘people’ like the colonists themselves. Ideas about humanity and justice change.

    Posted April 25, 2010 at 8:06 am | Permalink
  18. Steve wrote:

    Isn’t the real problem with reparations that the descendats of those slaves were the prime beneficiaries. Their ancestors suffered, but it gave them the opportunity to live the American Dream–or to slack off in school and still have free high-quality medical care and a $15,000 a year job. Would anyone born in Harlem prefer to live in Sierra Leone?

    Posted April 25, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink
  19. Lapi wrote:

    I was ask always about slaves before hows that look like.And everybody must be together white and black man.

    Posted April 26, 2010 at 10:24 am | Permalink
  20. Anne wrote:

    I understand the symbolic value behind ‘apologies’ but I find it absurd to expect descendents ask forgiveness on behalf of ancestors. Not to mention, as most of us in the US are from immigrant background ourselves (many coming from countries that were also oppressed/occupied or otherwise had nothing to do with the slave trade) – what type of apology is this exactly?

    Instead of symobolic or financial reparations, what makes more sense to me is a better understanding among the general populace about the legacy of slavery and its continuing effect on black US populations. The investement in black neighbourhoods that is required and the reforms that must accompany (legal, prisons) are the best way to make a ‘reparation’.

    (I’m assuming calls for reparation are just about giving an X sum of money to descendents of slaves along with ceremonial apologies? If not, don’t mind my post.)

    Posted April 26, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

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  1. By uberVU - social comments on April 23, 2010 at 8:07 am

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    This post was mentioned on Twitter by bill_easterly: Skip Gates blames Africans for slave trade http://bit.ly/a5ic8Y

  2. By Contra el maniqueísmo « alfanje on April 24, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    [...] el blog de William Easterly hemos encontrado un enlace al articulo de Skip Gates en el New York Times, Ending the Slavery [...]

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