In 1538 AD the city of Gao had a population of 100,000 people. According to Leo Africanus, a Moorish visitor, the city was unwalled. Its houses were ugly but some such as the royal buildings and others were impressive. The inhabitants were mostly wealthy merchants who always traveled here and there to trade gold and wares. In the market cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins are sold. There was also a place where a busy slave market flourished.
-When We Ruled by Robin Walker
After reading this and other stories about slaves being sold in Africa, I wondered what the difference was between American Slavery and African Slavery. Why are so many people upset about American slavery when Africa also had slaves? But slavery in Africa was not the same as Slavery in America.
The European form of slavery was called chattel slavery. A chattel slave is treated as property, has no rights, and is a slave for life. Slavery in Africa was a different form of slavery. African slaves usually became slaves to pay off a debt or pay for a crime they have committed. On the website www.discoveringbristol.org.uk, Ottobah Cuguano, a former slave, said that slaves were,”well fed… and treated well”. Olaudah Equiano, another former slave who wrote an account of his life, said that slaves might even own slaves themselves.
In large states, some slaves worked in government administration and could become a royal official with wide-ranging powers. Other slaves in Africa worked within their master’s house as domestic servants, agriculture laborers, or went to work in the gold mines of West Africa. As outsiders coming to Africa grew such as Europeans and Arabs, the demand for slaves grew too.
When Europeans came to Africa they only wanted to import African’s to America to work their land. Unlike Africans, who treated their slaves like they were part of the family. When Europeans came and took slaves to America, they treated them like animals. The European slaves were wiped, hung, and beaten. European slaves that were women were raped and the slaves had horrible living conditions. As you can see, slaves in Africa could hold important positions in government and were treated much better than the way the Europeans treated their slaves.