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Slave Trade Questions and Answers (Q&A)

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Back in 1472 the Portugese made the first slave trade agreement for the gold and ivory market. By 1641 the African labour had enabled Virginia to become wealthy, thanks to the growing of tobacco and cotton. The poor English could work out their 7 years and go onto other lives, but the settlers didn't want to lose their strong African labour, so slavery became law.

Later, Charles II of England passed a statute that would allow Africans to be taken from Africa to the US as slaves. They were called Black Gold, because great profits were made with their labour.

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It was because poor English settlers naturally wanted a better lifestyle once they had worked their necessary 7 years and moved on, that the new landowners thought they had better find a way of hanging on to the non-English workers. The Africans were too valuable to be allowed to return to Africa. They would be kept by force. This was negotiated and by 1641, slavery became law.

The very novelty of white folk coming across black folk probably allowed this heartless and unethical practice to happen. There was no knowledge or understanding that the Africans were suffering, or when it did become evident, the 'difference' allowed whites to give it only the same attention as they would to animals.

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Eventually, philosophers back in Britain, intellectuals who had time to study ethics as well as abolitionists in the northern US began to turn public opinion against slavery in the 19th century. There were riots by slaves, bringing their plight to the attention of more people, although some used the rebellion as example of their 'savage nature'.

By about 1860 preachers pronounced slaveholding as a sin, economists argued that slaveholding was regressive and inefficient, that paid labour was wiser. It was Abraham Lincoln who brought states to stop slavery.

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The United Nations chose August 23rd to celebrate an International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. It is to remind people of the millions of lives that were stolen through enslavement.

On this day in 1791, an uprising of enslaved Africans on the island of Saint Domingue (Haiti) began. It was a crucial event that would affect the eventual end to the European transatlantic slave trade.

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They come together with the serious purpose of remembering those millions who suffered, and those who fought to end the practice of slavery. The symbol of this day is the Okra flower. This is because it was vital nutrition for those without normal access to food.

The annual celebrations include the walk of remembrance, a libation on the waterfront and the Dorothy Kuya Slavery Remembrance Lecture, a time of togetherness and thankfulness for freedom from oppression.

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I'm sorry to say that it was the European countries that we normally regard as particularly fair, civilised and ethical that produced the greedy and cruel traders, or at least traders who allowed and facilitated settlers to purchase, use and abuse Africans as slaves.

These traders were mostly English, Portuguese, French and Dutch, and all regard the actions of their ancestors as shameful.

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It's difficult to point to one individual who was the first to oppose slavery. Those who claim such a thing may just be those who are in a position to record it, or have others record it. No doubt there was a landowner who decided that he would not use slaves, that this practice was repellent, and told his fellow landowners this. Who knows?

What is in the history books is down to the scriber, and this is that in 1657 the English founder of the Quakers, who believed in equality, pronounced the practice evil. But Vermont, give it credit, decried slavery in 1777 way ahead of other states and was the first to abolish it.

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The first effects upon the British were increased riches and the ability to build fine stately homes filled with valuable furniture, paintings and with huge gardens surrounding them. Plantations were set up for sugar, a new product that now became available. Industrialisation was facilitated particularly by cotton, mills set up for working it.

Accepting produce enabled by slave labour meant that people needed to regard slaves as less than human. By the 19th century, the whole idea of enslaving others being contrary to christian teaching, the practice fell into disrepute and laws passed against it. There was more of a move to free trade.

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Economically, Africa suffered because able-bodied males were most prized as slaves. Without them, there were very significantly fewer to work on the homeland. Sadly, powerful African traders who could have been importing and exporting effectively responded to the European desire for black labour.

Yes, it was Africans who sold their own compatriots in dire circumstances. Slavery brought a severe social divide between white and black people, an ill that soured relationships and has still not been eradicated completely.

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