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How were slave acquired

8 ways in which slaves were acquired

The following are the ways in which slaves were acquired from Africa:

  • Pawning 

This was an act of offering a person as security for money borrowed.  The pawn became a pledge, mortgage or security for what a person owed.  The pawn worked for the creditor who fed and clothed him/her until the debt was paid.  Pawning was not slavery, but pawns who were not redeemed found themselves in slavery.  In Ghana there were several instances of this.  The Sena of Mozambique and the Igbo of Nigeria also practiced pawning.

  • Tribute paying was a very common practice in pre-colonial Africa.  The Yoruba of Nigeria obtained some of their slaves through this means.  The Sokoto Caliphate demanded tribute from subjected communities.  In Ghana the Akwamuhene for example demanded tribute from the Akwamus who remained in the old Akwamu Empire after their defeat.  The chief of Asamankese for example had to pay an annual tribute of 500 slaves to the Akwamuhene.  Almost all the states Asante conquered from 1700 to 1896 were asked to pay annual tributes in slaves and other goods.
  • Purchasing or exchange.

In many cases, European traders brought items such as alcohol, jewellery, guns, gun powder, cloth and other items and give them to traditional leaders such as kings and chiefs in exchange with slaves. These traditional leaders would then find some means of getting these required slaves to the European traders.

  • Disposing of criminals.

Some people who had some criminal cases or criminal records within the African societies were given to European traders as slaves by their traditional leaders. They would argue that it is better to keep such individuals away as they were regarded as criminals.

  • Raiding

Some stronger states raided other weaker states and take all the able-bodied men and women. These captured people would be sold as slaves to European traders. Many slaves were killed in the process as they tried to resist being raided.

  • Kidnapping.

This is almost the same as raiding. Kidnapping was mainly done by European traders themselves or their paid agents. This is whereby they captured people by force and sell them into slavery. Kidnapping was also done by African traditional leaders or their agents.

  • Warfare. 

The European traders brought some guns and ammunition which were used by kings and chiefs to get slaves through violence or wars. The defeated people would be sold into slavery.

  • Voluntary emigration.

Unlike other people who were coerced or caught unaware, these people actually volunteered to be taken to the new world (however, they did not volunteer to be enslaved, they just wanted to be taken to the new world for different reasons.)