Atlantic Slave Traffic

Atlantic Slave Traffic


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The Atlantic Slave Trade generated a huge parasitical infrastructure. The trade’s pattern skewed

the family profile, sundered kinship relations, crippled monogamous customs, dramatized

upper-class polygyny, strengthened patriarchy, and lowered the status of women in society



Books by Clarence J. Munford

Production relations, class and Black liberation: A Marxist perspective in Afro-American studies (1978)


The Black Ordeal of Slavery and Slave Trading in the French West Indies 1625-1715 (1991)


Race and Reparations: A Black Perspective for the 21st Century   (1996)


Race and Civilization: The Rebirth of Black Centrality (2003) 

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Atlantic Slave Traffic

An Uneven Development of African Societies

By Clarence J. Munford


The slave-selling political formation accentuated the uneven development of African societies, and uneven development, in turn, was a fillip for the Atlantic slave traffic. Hierarchically organized societies preponderated over less hierarchical commonweals in battlefield discipline and tactics.

This superiority enabled slave-catching polities to invade and regularly prune nearby “slave raiding warrens” inhabited by weaker, less socially-divided tribes. The swap of human beings for firearms triggered an arms race, stimulating the formation of yet more slave-selling states. The character of warfare changed as victory came to mean a successful manhunt.

By ca. 1700 both kinship and the coastal political economy had been restructured to facilitate large scale export of captives. A huge victimized periphery took shape in the middle of the continent, peopled with loosely organized groups, vulnerable to attack and abduction. The sale of human beings consolidated the social domination of aristocrats, widening the gap between the rulers and the ruled. This was mainly because a deliberate European policy of selection was at work. The white customers dealt only through the local elites, ensuring the latter a near-monopoly of European trade commodities, particularly of the means of repression–firearms.

For generations now publicists and the visual media have felt the need to downplay the African ravages of the Atlantic Slave Trade. The longest lasting genocide in the annals of modern history has been sadly minimized. In immolating Africa, the slave trade was a main means by which the capitalist mode of production was implanted in the Western Hemisphere. 

Forcibly integrated as a slave labor reserve in the new internationalist capitalist colonial system, the Black continent was forced to pay a kind of surtax in blood which weakened political structures as a prologue to the coming imperialist conquest of the nineteenth century. The drain began the fateful lag in socioeconomic development that is the legacy of African countries today. Organic development of the continent was disrupted. 

The Atlantic Slave Trade generated a huge parasitical infrastructure. The trade’s pattern skewed the family profile, sundered kinship relations, crippled monogamous customs, dramatized upper-class polygyny, strengthened patriarchy, and lowered the status of women in society. It even confused the demographic picture. The captive-selling deformation exacerbated existing class and pre-class antagonisms. Slaving concentrated wealth (of sorts) at one pole in Africa, and poverty and servitude at the other. By the mid-seventeenth century slaving had become the prime causal factor of political life along the western shoreline. 

The political gap between Europe and Africa widened to the latter’s disadvantage. Customary law and its administration were systematically corrupted to make enslavement the penalty for nearly every offense. Warfare to take commodity-prisoners became a primary socioeconomic category of African political economy.

 The homeland of the Black man fell prey to an every-man-for-himself psychosis. Inevitably the level of civilization and culture declined. In the end, the deportation of common people by the ruling classes, and the resistance of the victims, became pre-colonial Africa’s foremost expression of social conflict.

During the Middle Passage itself, the trauma entailed racial discrimination as the ultimate indignity of deportation and enslavement in the New World. The African was transformed into a thing and depersonalized by stigmatizing the color of African skin. In answer, the urge to rebel was internalized by the mass of captives and nurtured  collectively during the Middle Passage.

Along the littoral, farm produce and handicraft were diverted to victual slave ships, generating a pre-colonial “spin-off economy” of sorts. Afloat, the slaving vessel was a charnel house cum torture chamber cum brothel. Systematic rape occurred on every slaver carrying African female captives. On a slave ship the African woman was a mere object of copulation. The lack of hygiene bred disease. Middle Passage conditions also fostered the sadism of captains and crews who derived pathological pleasure from extreme cruelty to Africans.


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 DR. Clarence J. Munford is Professor Emeritus of Black Studies and History at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, near Toronto. He was born in Massillon, Ohio on November 18, 1935. C.J. Munford, an African American with dual Canadian-U.S. citizenship, has taught in universities in Nigeria, Europe and U.S., in a college teaching career that began in 1959.

He introduced the first courses in Black history in an Ontario university in 1969. He is the recipient of the 1997 African Heritage Studies Association Book Award for Race and Reparations: A Black Perspective for the 21st Century. Munford is active in the N’COBRA campaign for reparations for African Americans.

He is a scholar and activist who has authored numerous articles, addresses and essays, and a three-volume autopsy of early Black enslavement in the West Indies, entitled Black Ordeal (1991). He has focused on the theory and practice of revolutionary nationalism from a Pan-Africanist slant.

Munford is the lead discoverer of civilizational historicism, the theory of human history from a Black vantage point. His newest work, a volume entitled Race and Civilization: The Rebirth of Black Centrality, elaborates and substantiates empirical discoveries presented in earlier works. Race and Civilization was awarded the 2002 AHSA Edward Blyden Book Award. This treatise offers civilizational historicism as the theory and practice of World Black struggle against global white supremacy in the 21st century.

 Builds on the author’s previous work, Race and Reparations(1996) and in a three-volume study of the Atlantic slave trade, Black Ordeal (1991)

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Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.  Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.  

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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updated 12 April 2008




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