Pan African Cultural Heritage Institute




.The History of the American Slave Trade

The African Diaspora was created by the development of the slave trade. The first slaves used by Europeans, in what later became United States territory were among Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon’s colonization attempt of  North Carolina in 1526. The attempt was a failure, lasting only one year; the slaves revolted and fled into the wilderness to live among the Confitachiqui people. In 1619 twenty Africans were brought by a Dutch soldier and sold to the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia as indentured servants. It is possible that Africans were brought to Virginia prior to this, both because neither John Rolfe, the information source on the 1619 shipment, nor any contemporary of his ever says that this was the first contingent of Africans to come to Virginia; and because the 1625 Virginia census lists one black as coming on a ship that appears to only have landed people in Virginia prior to 1619. 


The transformation from indentured servitude to racial slavery happened gradually. It was not until 1661 that a reference to slavery entered into Virginia law, directed at Caucasian servants who ran away with a black servant. It was not until the Slave Codes of 1705 that the status of African Americans as slaves would be sealed. This status would last for another 160 years, until after the end of the American Civil War with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865.


Only a fraction of the enslaved Africans brought to the New World ended up in British North America—perhaps 5%. The vast majority of slaves shipped across the Atlantic were sent to the Caribbean sugar colonies, Brazil or Spanish Colonies in Central America. Slavery was greatly reduced around the world in the 19th century. Following a successful slave revolt in Haiti, Britain forced the Barbary pirates to halt their practice of kidnapping and enslaving Europeans, banned slavery throughout its domain, and charged its navy with ending the global slave trade. Slavery was then abolished in Russia and Brazil. It was declared illegal in 1948 under the Universal Rights of Man of the United Nations. The last country to abolish legal slavery was Mauritania, where it was officially abolished by presidential decree in 1981.


African Colonization 

Following the abolition of the slave trade, and propelled by economic exploitation, the colonization of Africa was initiated formally at the Berlin West Africa Conference in 1884–1885. All the major European powers laid claim to the areas of Africa where they could exhibit a sphere of influence over the area. These claims did not have to have any substantial land holdings or treaties to be legitimate. The French gained major ground in West Africa, the British in East Africa, and the Portuguese and Spanish at various points throughout the continent, while King Leopold was able to retain his personal fiefdom, Congo. The Scramble for Africa, also known as the Race for Africa or Partition of Africa was a process of invasion, occupation, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers during the New Imperialism period, between 1881 and World War I in 1914. As a result of the heightened tension between European states in the last quarter of the 19th century, the partitioning of Africa may be seen as a way for the Europeans to eliminate the threat of a Europe-wide war over Africa. The last 59 years of the 19th century saw transition from 'informal imperialism' of control through military influence and economic dominance to that of direct rule.

Attempts to mediate imperial competition, such as the Berlin Conference (1884–1885), failed to establish definitively the competing powers' claims.  Many African polities, states and rulers (such as the Ashanti, the Abyssinians, the Moroccans, the Somalis, the Benin Empire and the Zulus) sought to resist this wave of European aggression. However, the industrial revolution had provided the European armies with advanced weapons such as machine guns, which African armies found difficult to resist (with the exception of the Abyssinians, who were indeed successful). Also, unlike their European counterparts, African rulers, states and people did not at first form a continental united front although within a few years, a Pan-African movement did emerge. During the Scramble for Africa in the late nineteenth century, European powers divided Africa and its resources into political partitions at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. By 1905, African soil was almost completely controlled by European governments, with the only exceptions being Liberia (which had been settled by African-American former slaves) and Ethiopia (which had successfully resisted colonization by Italy). Britain and France had the largest holdings, but Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Portugal also had colonies.

As a result of colonialism and imperialism, Africa suffered long term effects, such as the loss of important natural resources like gold and rubber, economic devastation, cultural confusion, geopolitical division, and political subjugation. Europeans often justified this using the concept of the White Man’s Burden, an obligation to "civilize" the peoples of Africa. By the 1930s, the colonial powers had cultivated (sometimes inadvertently) a small elite of leaders educated in Western universities and familiar with ideas such as self determination. These leaders, including leading nationalists such as Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya),  Kwame Nkrumah (Gold Coast), now Ghana), Leoplold Sedar Senghor (Senegal), and Felix Houphouet-Boigny (Cote d’ Ivoire), came to lead the struggles for independence.

This movement led to most of the nations become independent by the 1990’s and the rebirth of Pan-African cultural economic philosophy, “Connecting the African Diaspora, “Culturally and Economically– Village by Village!”




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