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Transatlantic Slave Trade, 400 years on

08.08.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
A philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau in his book ‘'the social contract'' stated that though man is born free, he remains everywhere in Chains. This is just an illustration to show that Man's freedom ends at the gaze of others. In the year 2008, while the global world was marking the anniversary of the existence of Slavery, then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon lamented and said that transatlantic slave trade was ‘'one of the greatest atrocities in history''. The UN Chief reiterated ‘'this unparalleled global tragedy claimed untold millions of lives over four centuries and left a terrible legacy that continues to dehumanize and oppress people around the world to this day''.

Even though the act was committed some 400 years ago, the stigma and pains caused are still felt in present-day society.

What is Transatlantic Slave Trade?

Just as the name sounds, transatlantic slave trade can be defined in simple terms as trade in humans across the Atlantic Ocean. However, history tells us that Transatlantic Slave trade or Atlantic slave trade refers to the capturing and transportation of African Slaves to other nations mainly to the Americas. This form of trade was very alarming from the 16th to the 19th century and history holds it that some ten to twelve million enslaved Africans were captured and transported to work in plantations in the Americas. This number, however, does not account for those who died en route to Europe. It was an illegal and inhumane activity. Most of these slaves worked in Cocoa, coffee, tobacco,  sugar and cotton plantations, gold and silver mines, rice fields, construction industry, cutting timber for ships, in skilled labour, and as domestic servants. In the days of this heinous act, the central and West African regions were the most affected.

Critics of the slave trade lamented and still condemn the fact that an African Man betrayed his brother, this is partly because most of these enslaved Africans were sold to the trade dealers by Africans themselves. A very insignificant number of slaves were captured directly by the slave hunters.

400 years of slavery commemorated

August 2019, marks exactly four hundred (400) years since Slaves from Africa, especially from West Africa, arrived in America. Some 400 years ago, many unfortunate Africans including men, women and children became slaves, as they were taken against their will to the Americas and other European nations to work in the plantations as skilled and unskilled labourers and as domestic slaves with little or no monetary compensation. Given that an African man has always been seen and hailed by many for being strong, resilient and having the stamina to resist and endure tough conditions, as such, the ‘’fragile white man” had to engage in this heinous and illegal trade to capture Africans to provide the physical labour needed on their commercial farms. Among other nations, Ghana, formally known as Cold Coast during the slavery era outstandingly marked this 400 years since the first African forcefully landed in the Americas as slaves.

US House Speaker in Ghana

To give magnitude to the 400th anniversary of the transatlantic slave trade, the United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid a courtesy visit to Ghana to join the nation to commemorate the 400 years of Atlantic slave trade. While in Ghana, the US official described the inhumane trade as “a grave evil”. According to Pelosi, till date, the US government still reckons about the slave trade. Her visit, especially with a delegation of black members of the US congress was very symbolic and has entered the history books of Ghana. Pelosi and her team visited the Cape Coast and Elmina slave castles where millions of African slaves were ‘packed’ into ships ready to be transported in those days. In an address to the Ghanaian Parliament, Pelosi said: “Our souls have been touched by what we saw there…These profound places are a sobering testament to humanity’s capacity for great evil and also a helpful reminder of the capacity for great resilience, renewal and strength of a people.”

President Akufo Addo tries to reunite Africans

Serving President of Ghana Nana Dankwa AKUFO Addo has launched an initiative to reunite Africans who were separated from their roots during the slave trade era. As such, the incumbent in 2018 termed the year 2019 as ‘’the year of Return”, to advocate for the return of Africans back to their continent of origin, which is Africa, reuniting them with their ancestors. Many proponents of African Unity have strongly supported President Akufo Addo’s initiative, even black Americans have backed this initiative.

Over the years, many of these people have been making a comeback to their lands of origin to acquaint themselves with their custom and tradition, the plight of an African man. In the same light, the Heritage and Cultural Society of Africa in an effort to give more weight to President Akufo Addo’s come back initiative and the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), the Heritage and Cultural Society of Africa is organizing a summit to brainstorm on the four hundred years of slavery.

Known as the HACSA Summit, the programme which will run from August 5th to 11, 2019, will attract presidents including then Ghanaian President John Kufuor, opinion leaders, academics among other influential personalities from Africa and beyond to discuss the 400 years of slavery. The objective of the HACSA summit is to reunite and reconcile divided African communities and to see how they can use culture to spur economic development in Africa. It is running under the theme ‘’400 Years On Legacy, Communities, Innovation.”  As it stands, over 1000 Ghanaians have returned home under the returnee’s platform. Even though the transatlantic slave trade remains the most dreadful thing to have happened to an African man, Africa can also take the glory for making America what it is today. We can never turn back the hands of time, the deeds have been done. Notwithstanding, the world is now fighting modern-day slavery which is very alarming in the 21st century. Trade-in humans is gaining grounds in contemporary society and must be condemned in all its forms.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit : google image/illustration

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