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The Traders are Kidnapping Our People-3-King Leopold's Ghost

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The Traders are Kidnapping Our People-3-King Leopold's Ghost

In other ways African slavery was more flexible and benign than the system Europeans would soon establish in the New World. Over a generation or two, slaves could often earn or be granted their freedom, and free people and slaves often intermarried. Nonetheless, the fact that trading in human beings existed in any form turned out to be catastrophic for Africa, for when the Europeans showed up, ready to buy endless shiploads of slaves , they found African chiefs willing to sell.In other ways African slavery was more flexible and benign than the system Europeans would soon establish in the New World. Over a generation or two, slaves could often earn or be granted their freedom, and free people and slaves often intermarried.

Nonetheless, the fact that trading in human beings existed in any form turned out to be catastrophic for Africa, for when the Europeans showed up, ready to buy endless shiploads of slaves , they found African chiefs willing to sell.Soon enough, the slave-buyers came. They arrived in small numbers at first, but then a flood unleashed by events ac ross the Atlantic. In 15000, only nine years after the first Europeans arrived at Mbanza Kongo, a Portugese expedition was blown off course and came upon Brazil. Within a few decades, the Western Hemisphere became a huge, lucrative,nearly insatiable market for African slaves. They were put to work by the millions in Brazil's mines and on its coffee plantations, as well as on the Caribbean islands where other European powers quickly began using the lush, fertile land to grow sugar.

In the kingdom of Kongo, the Portugese forgot the search for Prester john. Slaving fever seized them. Men sent out from Lisbon to be masons or teachers at Mbanza Kongo soon made far more money by herding convoys of chained Africans to the coast and selling them to the captains of slave-carring caravels.In the kingdom of Kongo, the Portugese forgot the search for Prester john. Slaving fever seized them. Men sent out from Lisbon to be masons or teachers at Mbanza Kongo soon made far more money by herding convoys of chained Africans to the coast and selling them to the captains of slave-carring caravels.

The lust for slave profits engulfed even some of the priests, who abandoned their preaching, took black women as concubines, kept slaves themselves, and sold their students and converts  into slavery. The priests who straye3d from the fold stuck to their faith in one way, however, after the Reformation they tried to ensure that none of their human goods ended up in Protestant hands. It was surely not right, said one, " for persons baptized in the Catholic church to be sold to peoples who are enemies of the faith".A village near Diogo Cao's stone pillar on the south shore of the Congo river esturary became a slave port, from which more than five thousand slaves a year were being shipped across the Atlantic by the 1530s. By the next century, fifteen thousand slaves a year were exported from the kingdom of the Kongo as a whole.

Traders kept careful records of their booty. One surviving inventory from this region lists " 68 head" of slaves by name, physical defects, and cash value, starting with the men,who were worth the most money and ending with: "Child, name unknown as she is dying and cannot speak, male without value, and a small girl Callenbo, no value because she is dying; one small girl cantunbe, no value beause she is dying."many of the slaves shipped to the Americas from the great river's mouth came from the KIngdom of the Congoitself; many others were captured by African slave-dealers who ranged more than seven hundred miles into the interior, buying slaves from local chiefs and headmen. Forced-marched to the coast, their necks locked into wooden yokes, the slaves were rarely given enough food, and became caravans usually traveled in the dry season, they often drank stagnant water.

The trails to the slave ports were soon strewn with bleaching bones.Once they were properly baptized, clothed in leftover burlap cargo wrappings, and chained together in ships' holds, most of the slaves from this region were sent to Brazil, the nearest port of the New World. Starting in the 1600s, however, a growing demand tempted many ship captains to make the longer voyage to the British colonies in North America.Roughly one of every four slaves imported to work in the cotton and tobacco plantations of the American South began his or her journey across the Atlantic from equatorial Africa, including the Kongo Kingdom.

The KiKongo language, spoken around the Kongo River's mouth, is one of African tongues whose traces linguists have found in the Gullah dialect spoken by black Americans today on the coastal islands of South Carolina and Georgia.When the African slave trade began decimating the Kongo, that nation was under the reign of a ManiKongo named nzinga mbemba Affonso, who had gained the throne in 1506 andf ruled as Affonso 1 for nearly forty years. Affonso's life spanned a crucial period. When he was born, no one in the Kingdom knew that Europeans existed. When he died, his entire realm was threatened by the slave-selling fever they had caused.

He was a man of tragic self-awareness, and he left his mark. Some three hundred years latyer, a missionary said, " A native of the Congo knows the name of three kings: that of the present one, that of his predecessor, and that of Affonso." He was a provincial chief in his early thirties when the Portuguese first arrived at Mbanza Kongo, in 1491. A convert to Christianity, he took on the name Affonso  and some Portuguese advisers, and studied for ten years with the priests at Mbanza Kongo.

One wrote to the king od Portugal that Affonso " vknows better than us prophets, the Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ, all thye lives of the saints  and all that hs to do  with our holy mother church.If your Highness saw him, You would be astonished . He speaks so well  and with such assurance that it always seems to me that the Holy Spirit speaks through his mouth. My Lord, he does nothing but study; many times he falls asleep  over his books and many times he forgets to eat or drink because he is speaking of our Savior. " It is hard to tell how much of this glowing portrait was inspired by the priest's attempt to impress the Portuguese king and how much by Affonso's attempt to impress the priest.

In the language of a later age, King Affonso I was a modernizer. He urgently tried to acquire European learning, weapons, and goods in order to strengthen his rule and fortify it against destabilizing force of the white arrival. Having notices the Portuguese appetite for cooper, for example, he traded it for European products that would help him buy the submission of the outlying provinces.In the language of a later age, King Affonso I was a modernizer. He urgently tried to acquire European learning, weapons, and goods in order to strengthen his rule and fortify it against destabilizing force of the white arrival.

Having notices the Portuguese appetite for cooper, for example, he traded it for European products that would help him buy the submission of the outlying provinces.Clearly a man of unusual intelligence, Affonso tried to do something as difficult in his time as in ours.: to be a selective modernizer . he was an enthusiast for the church, for the written word, for European medicine, and for woodworking, masonry, and other skills to be learned from Portuguese craftsmen.But when his fellow king in Lisbon  sent an envoy to urge the adoption of Portugal's legal code and court protocol, Affonso wasn't interested. And he tried hard to keep out prospectors, fearing total takeover of his land if Europeans found the gold and silver they coveted.

Because virtually everything we know about this part of Africa for the nexty several hundred years comes to us from its white conquerore, King Affonso 1v provides something rare  and valuable : an African voice . Indeed, he is one of the very few central African voices that we can hear at all before the twentieth century. He used his fluency in Portuguese to dictate a remarkable series of letters to two successive Portuguese kings, the first known documents composed by a black African in any European language.Because virtually everything we know about this part of Africa for the nexty several hundred years comes to us from its white conquerore, King Affonso 1v provides something rare  and valuable : an African voice. Indeed, he is one of the very few central African voices that we can hear at all before the twentieth century. He used his fluency in Portuguese to dictate a remarkable series of letters to two successive Portuguese kings, the first known documents composed by a black African in any European language.

Reference: King Leopold's Ghost: Adam Hochschild

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