Whether slavery existed within sub-Saharan African societies before the arrival of Europeans is a hotly contested point between Afrocentric and Eurocentric academics. What is certain is that Africans were subjected to several forms of slavery over the centuries, including chattel slavery under both the Muslims with the trans-Saharan slave trade, and Europeans through the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Even after the abolition of the slave trade in Africa, Colonial powers used forced labor – such as in King Leopold"s Congo Free State (which was operated as a massive labor camp) or as libertos on the Portuguese plantations of Cape Verde or San Tome.
What forms of slavery were experienced by Africans?
It can be disputed that all of the following qualify as slavery – the United Nations deems slavery to be "the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised" and slave as "a person in such condition or status"1.
Chattel slaves are property and can be traded as such. They have no rights, are expected to perform labor (and sexual favors) at the command of a slave master. This is the form of slavery which was carried out in the Americas as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
There are reports that chattel slavery still exists in Islamic North Africa, in such countries as Mauritania and Sudan (despite both countries being participants in the 1956 UN slavery convention).
One example is that of Francis Bok, who was taken into bondage during a raid on his village in southern Sudan in 1986 at the age of seven, and spent ten years as a chattel slave in the north of Sudan before escaping. The Sudanese government denies the continued existence of slavery in its country.
Debt bondage, bonded labor, or peonage, involves the use of people as collateral against debt.
Labor is provided by the person who owes the debt, or a relative (typically a child). It was unusual for a bonded laborer to escape their debt, since further costs would accrue during the