*Slavery Within Africa*
In most African societies, there was very little difference between the free peasants and the feudal vassal peasants. Slaves of the Songhai Empire were used primarily in agriculture; they paid tribute to their masters in crop and service but they were slightly restricted in custom and convenience. These non-free people were more anoccupational caste, as their bondage was relative.
Several nations such as the Ashanti of Ghana and the Yoruba of Nigeria were involved in slave-trading. Groups such as the Imbangala of Angola and the Nyamwezi of Tanzania would serve as intermediaries or roving bands, waging war on African states to capture people for export as slaves. European and Arab slave-trading agents also supported rulersagreeable to their interests. They would actively favor one group against another to deliberately ignite chaos and continue their slaving activities.
Slavery in African cultures was generally more like indentured servitude: "slaves" were not made to be chattel of other men, nor enslaved for life. African "slaves" were paid wages and were able to accumulate property. They often bought their own freedomand could then achieve social promotion -just as freedman in ancient Rome- some even rose to the status of kings (e.g. Jaja of Opobo and Sunni Ali Ber). Similar arguments were used by Western slave owners during the time of abolition, for example by John Wedderburn in Wedderburn v. Knight, the case that ended legal recognition of slavery in Scotland in 1776. Regardless of the legal options open toslave owners, rational cost-earning calculation and/or voluntary adoption of moral restraints often tended to mitigate (except with traders, who preferred to weed out the worthless weak individuals) the actual fate of slaves throughout history.
The viewpoint that “Africans” enslaved “Africans” is obfuscating if not troubling. The deployment of “African” in African history tends to coalesce intoobscurantist constructions of identities that allow scholars, for instance, to subtly call into question the humanity of “all” Africans. Whenever Asante rulers sold non-Asantes into slavery, they did not construct it in terms of Africans selling fellow Africans. They saw the victims for what they were, for instance, as Akuapems, without categorizing them as fellow Africans. Equally, when ChristianScandinavians and Russians sold war captives to the Islamic people of the Abbasid Empire, they didn’t think that they were placing fellow Europeans into slavery. This lazy categorizing homogenizes Africans and has become a part of the methodology of African history; not surprisingly, the Western media’s cottage industry on Africa has tapped into it to frame Africans in inchoate generalitiesallowing the media to describe local crisis in one African state as “African” problem.
In Senegambia, between 1300 and 1900, close to one-third of the population was enslaved. In early Islamic states of the western Sudan, including Ghana (750–1076), Mali (1235–1645), Segou (1712–1861), and Songhai (1275–1591), about a third of the population were slaves. In Sierra Leone in the 19th century about halfof the population consisted of slaves. In the 19th century at least half the population was enslaved among the Duala of the Cameroon, the Igbo and other peoples of the lower Niger, the Kongo, and the Kasanje kingdom and Chokwe of Angola. Among the Ashanti and Yoruba a third of the population consisted of slaves. The population of the Kanem (1600–1800) was about a third-slave. It was perhaps 40% inBornu (1580–1890). Between 1750 and 1900 from one- to two-thirds of the entire population of the Fulani jihad states consisted of slaves. The population of the Sokoto caliphate formed by Hausas in the northern Nigeria and Cameroon was half-slave in the 19th century. Between 65% to 90% of the population of Arab–Swahili Zanzibar was enslaved. Roughly half the population of Madagascar was enslaved....