Wednesday, August 07, 2013

More on the African Slave Trades of which 1.3% went to the US

I have discussed this with a number of Africans and citizens of Caribbean nations and the complete "hijacking" as one Ghanaian graduate student put it of the discourse on the slave trade by Americans is something they greatly resent. Over 30 million Africans were shipped out of Africa as slaves to the Middle East, Europe, the Americas, and other destinations. Out of that 30 million only 400,000 ended up in the US. That is a total of 1.3%. That means 98.7% of the slaves forcibly transported out of Africa went to other countries. Yet reading the blogs of American academics you would think that 100% of the slaves shipped out of Africa were sent to the US. Ten times as many slaves were sent to Brazil as the US and a far higher percentage of them died from maltreatment. Yet you would never know this fact from reading US academic blogs. You would instead be left with the impression that no slaves were ever shipped out of Africa to any place other than the US. In reality of course less than 2% went to the US about the same number as went to Barbados and far less than went to Brazil, Jamaica, or Cuba.


delagar said...

Yes, well, Otto, I think you're misunderstanding American academics, or perhaps misreading us.

When I taught in this area, I met no one who did not understand these numbers quite well. (My teaching is now in other areas.)

But many of us are working on American history, or American economics, or topics to do with American social justice.

Given that this is so, though we are aware that most slaves taken from West African ended up on the Sugar Islands or in the silver mines in South America, or in other places were the conditions were much more horrific than in North America, that is not the focus of our academic attention, because those slaves and those political systems, though they have *some* influence on United States history and social systems, do not have a great deal of influence on our history and social systems.

Withywindle said...

Any American specialist on the slave trade knows the proportion of Brazilian to American slaves. Most also know about the Muslim slave trade. It's even mentioned in the World Civ textbooks--I've taught from them. I grant you there's blither out there, but the reputable scholars know what's what, and even try to get it out to their undergrads via the textbooks. I don't think we'd even have these estimates of relative numbers if it weren't for American academics.

The difficult thing in American classrooms, of course, is to say to the black students, "You know, it was Africans who seized and sold you. Your pan-African fantasies must seem pathetic to the descendants of the people who sold you." Have you gotten around to saying to your students, "You know, it was doubtless your ancestors who sold off all the Africans living in the Diaspora?" Or do they know it already?

J. Otto Pohl said...

Withywindle: I teach 20th century history here. I also focus on areas of the world outside Africa for the most part. But, the emphasis regarding research here on slavery is on domestic or indigenous slavery. That is slavery inside of Africa by other Africans. Professor Perbi who has her retirement party today wrote what is considered the definitive book on the subject, _A History of Indigenous Slavery in Ghana: From the 15th to the 19th Century_. Dr. Smith who joined us from the UK last year also specializes in domestic slavery. So yes the the role of the Asante and other indigenous slave traders is much better covered here than anything I imagine exists in the US. In fact there is far more research going on here about African slavers than anything concerning the US.

J. Otto Pohl said...

delagar: The US discourse of portraying 1.3% as 100% completely distorts the historical record. I have met to meet any college educated American who is not a specialist who does not find the fact that a majority of African slaves were not sent to the US to be absolutely shocking. The impression I get from blogs like yours and LGM is that US academics teach that White US southerners went to Africa captured all of the slaves and took them back to the US and that there was absolutely no involvement by any African, European, or Latin American slavers.

delagar said...

Well, Otto, I don't know who you're talking to. Are you talking to American historians? Educated Americans who study black history?
Educated American academics who study slavery?

Because those are the American academics I am talking about and I can promise you all of them know the (very basic) facts about slavery that you keep posting me as though they are some amazing revelation.

If you are talking to some educated American who has a business degree in Marketing whose only history class was a survey of World History he took when he was 18 years old, well, yeah, why are you surprised?

As for your experience over at LG&M, Otto, come on. They're baiting you over there, because over there half the time you're acting like a troll. Stop acting like a troll and maybe you won't get treated like one.

For instance, at my blog today, it has been very hard for me to treat you fairly -- though I did try -- because you acted like a troll.

What do I mean by that?

I mean you refused to speak to me like I was an educated human being.

Instead you kept ignoring everything I said and instead kept shouting your one point louder and louder, as if I were ignorant of that point -- this even after I told you that I did, in fact, know that point.

It's very hard to treat you fairly when you act this way, Otto.