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Christianity, Islam and Slavery

By Kwaku Person-Lynn, Ph.D.

The most difficult subject to write about is when you are dealing with someoneís spiritual belief system. Something someone grew up with since the day of reasoning. On the other hand, being a historian, I am obligated to bring forth the whole truth, no matter how devastating it may be. In the 1960s, it was almost sacrilege to talk about certain things Black people did. Two things come to mind, though not always honored: the woman of Afrikan descent, and the Afrikan involvement in the slave trade.

Back when I was a graduate student at UCLA, studying Afrikan world history and music, I wrote an article for the Afrikan student newspaper, NOMMO. It was entitled, "Can Afrikans Be Forgiven?" meaning ourselves. It focused on the Afrikan complicity in assisting Europeans in the Afrikan Holocaust, which today we commonly label as the Atlantic Slave Trade. Many people of Afrikan descent stopped talking to me and looked at me funny out of the corner of their eyes. Thatís when my greatest scholastic influence at that time, the late Dr. Boniface I. Obichere, stepped in and told me, "Kwaku, you donít worry about what others are saying. You keep writing about the truth. Thatís what history is supposed to do."

There was slavery in Afrika prior to the Arab and European incursions. In Afrika, one could become a slave in virtually one of three ways: prisoner of war; to pay off a debt; as a criminal. But a slave in Afrika rarely ever lost his/her humanity and could rise very high in particular societies. When Arabs invaded Northeastern Afrika in the 7th century A.D., in the name of Islam, this brought about a whole new relationship to the institution of slavery. Afrikans were captured, treated brutally and inhumanely, then shipped off to other Arab countries in Asia, or other parts of Afrika that they controlled. This happened approximately 600 years before the European Christians got involved.

The saddest and most painful reality of this situation is, that same slave trading is occurring today, still in the name of Islam. It is primarily happening in the countries of Mauritania, located in northwest Afrika, and Sudan, in northeast Afrika. There is a lot of denial about this from various corners, but as a scientist, the body of available evidence can only determine proof. In my case, I will sight three sources. For the past fifteen years, every Arab I have asked about this subject has openly admitted that it exists. Not some mind you, but each and every one. I have read various articles of eyewitness accounts that seemed believable. But the most prevailing evidence that I have seen comes to us by a scholar named Samuel Cotton, a documentary filmmaker, an investigative journalist, and a brother. He presents us with his book, SILENT TERROR Ė A Journey Into Contemporary African Slavery. This book was published in 1998, which records his undercover journey into Mauritania, at extreme danger to his life, and actually witnessed, and interviewed present and former Afrikan slaves there, gives the best analyses of the present situation, and shows how it is all cloaked under the auspices of Islam. For a Muslim, this is horrifying, but then again, if those Arab Muslims were truly Muslims, practicing the religion of peace, they would not continue to be in the business of the slave trade, contributing to the Afrikan Holocaust. If we assess what we have before us, this only leaves us to conclude that this is a horrendous misuse of Islam. Brother Cotton states in his vitally important book, "It is especially important for me to see that those who worship Islam, whether they are white or black, say or do something about the abuse and enslavement of their black spiritual brothers and sisters."

Of course, this could be continued, but I donít want to leave out the Christians. The reason people of Afrikan descent are in the Americas today can be attributed to the massive slave trading business of the European Christians. The reason Afrika is in the state that it is in today can basically be attributed to the European Christians. The reason most people of Afrikan descent do not know who they are and may frown when someone accidentally calls them an Afrikan, can also be attributed to the European Christians. This whole process began with Pope Julius II who signed a document entitled the "Papal Bull," dividing the world amongst his two most powerful Christian countries, Portugal and Spain. Prior to the 16th century, Spain signed a contract with the Portuguese called "Asiento," allowing them a monopoly in the carrying and selling of Afrikans across the Atlantic, until the English, who were the most aggressive, along with the French, Dutch, and later the rest of Europe joined in.

Slavery in the United States, by the European Christians, in the name of Christianity, was the development of the worst form of slavery in world history; "chattel slavery." In other words, Afrikans were not considered human but property or animals, with absolutely no type of human rights at all. This was justified through the misinterpretation of Bible stories, particularly about Afrikan people being cursed and turned black. I say in my classes all the time, I will give any student $100 if they can prove that Afrikan people were cursed and turned black in the Bible. After a number of years, I still have the $100.

Lastly, let me briefly mention those Europeans who converted to the ancient Hebrew Afrikan religion called Judaism. Though they were not involved to the extent of the Christians, their basic contribution to the Afrikan Holocaust was turning the slave trade into a business, and running it very effectively in Europe and Central and South America.

I approach this subject with much trepidation. When one believes in a particular spiritual belief system, generally referred to as organized religions, it can be very hurtful to hear what has happened in the past in the name of their religion. But as I have attempted to show, if a person is a true Christian, Muslim or Jew, there is no way that this tragic event in world history, and presently, could possibly occur. That being the case, looking at all that is happening in the world today, under the guise of a particular religion, one has to wonder, is God heading these religions, or is Satan?

Dr. Kwaku Person-Lynn is on the faculty at California State University, Dominguez Hills, Africana Studies, and author of FIRST WORD Black Scholars Thinkers Warriors.


Afrikan Involvement In Atlantic Slave Trade

By Kwaku Person-Lynn, Ph.D.

Facing the truth about the past is not always a pleasant adventure. In fact, it is extremely painful dealing with why Black people are in the United States, after the 16th century. In no way is this an attempt to belittle the great and amazing history of Afrika, but simply to look at a portion of the past that does not merit a positive spot light, but is part of the Afrikan story nonetheless.

An authentic way to attack this problem is to look at a passage from Adu Boahen, a noted Afrikan historian, author and former chair of the History Department at the University of Ghana. He approaches this issue with a pure honesty: "How were all these numerous unfortunate Africans enslaved and purchased? African scholars and politicians today must be honest and admit that the enslavement and sale of Africans from the seventeenth century onwards was done by the Africans themselves, especially the coastal kings and their elders, and that very few Europeans actually ever marched inland and captured slaves themselves. Africans became enslaved mainly through four ways: first, criminals sold by the chiefs as punishment; secondly, free Africans obtained from raids by African and a few European gangs, thirdly, domestic slaves resold, and fourthly, prisoners of war," (Adu Boahen, Topics In West African History p. 110).

There is adequate evidence citing case after case of Afrikan control of segments of the trade. Several Afrikan nations such as the Ashanti of Ghana and the Yoruba of Nigeria had economies depended solely on the trade. Afrikan peoples such as the Imbangala of Angola and the Nyamwezi of Tanzania would serve as middlemen or roving bands warring with other Afrikan nations to capture Afrikans for Europeans.

Extenuating circumstances demanding exploration are the tremendous efforts European officials in Afrika used to install rulers agreeable to their interests. They would actively favor one Afrikan group against another to deliberately ignite chaos and continue their slaving activities.

I.A. Akinjogbin, noted Afrikan historian, in his article, 'The Expansion of Oyo And The Rise Of Dahomey 1600-1800," gives an example in the Aja Kingdom of Dahomey (now Benin): "The principal European traders took active part in installing kings who they judged would favor their activities, irrespective of whether such kings were acceptable to their subjects, or were the right candidates according to Aja traditions," (History of West Africa, J.F.A. Ajayi and Michael Crowder, eds., p. 389). This is the exact same system used today, whereby certain American Afrikans are put in positions to divide people of Afrikan descent through radio programs, editorials, books, chairs of academic departments, so-called fabricated leaders, executive directors of white supremacists organizations, and so forth.

A couple of additional points to be addressed are the Arab slave trade in Afrika, occuring almost 1000 years prior to the European slave trade, and continues even today, and continental Afrikan slavery, which was part of the culture, but more humane and unlike the chattel slavery of the United States. In Afrika, slaves were still human beings. In the United States, slaves were property. The cold reality, Afrikans controlled the capture of other Afrikans, initiated several wars and raiding parties to secure captives, set prices for buyers and even extended credit to Europeans for the purchase of Afrikans.

One prevailing and probably wishful sentiment on the part of many is that Afrikan rulers did not know what type of slavery they were selling Afrikans into. A view dispelled by the fact many rulers knowingly went to war with their neighbors, killing millions and destroying entire communities in order to capture fellow Afrikans for sale. Maintaining power, expanding the economy, greed and expansionist ambitions were the prime motivating factors.

There is no way anyone can defend or justify Afrikan involvement in the slave trade, other than acknowledge that it is one of many historical facts that must be faced.

It is mandatory to look at the mistakes of the past so as not to duplicate them again. There are several people of Afrikan descent psychologically and culturally involved in the negative, anti-Black philosophy of western culture. They would turn against other Blacks at the drop of a dime, especially if they felt it would curry favor with their European companions, and often add to their pockets. It is essential to examine the slave trade, in order to understand the same behavior operative today.

Though this effort concentrated on the Afrikan involvement in the slave trade, by no means does it dismiss the European role in the most traumatic, brutal, oppressive event in human history. Europeans, through the church in Rome, and lessons learned from Arabs, launched the Atlantic slave trade, financing the European and American industrial revolution. Thus, the birth of an economic system we practice today, capitalism. Europeans developed it from a pirating operation into a business, partly the European Jewish contribution to the trade, and supplied favored groups with arms and ammunition, contributing to the deaths of millions. Without the Europeans, there would have never been an Atlantic slave trade.

Kwaku Person-Lynn is the author of On My Journey Now - The Narrative And Works Of Dr. John Henrik Clarke, The Knowledge Revolutionary.

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Articles reproduced by consent of Kwaku Person-Lynn, Ph.D

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Christianity, Islam and Slavery
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