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Africa and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

            When one imagines the trans-Atlantic slave trade, it is easy to see the typical vision of European men probing the wilds of Africa for selections of potential slaves. Though this is what frequently comes to mind, this mental image is not entirely accurate. History often likes to portray all Africans of this time period as helpless victims when in actuality come of them were just as, if not more, ruthless in the slave trade than their European counterparts. What history sometimes fails to mention is the fear based brutality that Africans suffered not at the hands of Europeans, but at the hands of their own people. The trans-Atlantic slave trade was not solely a European business but a booming business and eventual way of life for Africans as well, with Africans often capturing and selling more of their own people than the Europeans did.
             The image of European men delving deep into the interior of Africa to capture slaves is simply not true. Many European men chasing after slaves were too terrified of foreign illnesses that lurked deep in the African jungles, which resulted in Europeans going no farther than the coast of the continent to purchase slaves for the business. It is here that the African involvement comes into play, as obviously the natives to the area were not afraid of disease that they were immune to. It is interesting to note, however, that African natives did not simply grab and sell anyone to the Europeans that they could get their hands on. The majority of Africans that were sold by their own people were prisoners of war between various tribes within the region, usually from bordering or enemy ethnic groups. Captives were not thought of as part of the ethnic group or tribe by those who had captured them, thus resulting in African kings holding no particular allegiance towards them. It is here that the dehumanizing process began, as native captives were often treated as animals and stripped of anything that gave them an identity.

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