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History of the African Slave Trade

Although slavery has been practiced for almost the whole of recorded history, the vast numbers involved in the African slave trade has left a legacy which can not be ignored.

Whether slavery existed within sub-Saharan African societies before the arrival of Europeans is hotly contested among African studies scholars. 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 São Tomé.

Read more about slavery in Africa.

The Qur"an prescribes the following approach to slavery: free men could not be enslaved, and those faithful to foreign religions could live as protected persons. However, the spread of the Islamic Empire through Africa resulted in a much harsher interpretation of the law, and people from outside the borders of the Islamic Empire were considered an acceptable source of slaves.

Read more about the role of Islam in African Slavery.

When the Portuguese first sailed down the Atlantic African coast in the 1430s, they were interested in one thing: gold.

However, by 1500 they had traded already 81,000 Africans to Europe, nearby Atlantic islands, and to Muslim merchants in Africa.

São Tomé is considered to be a principal port in the export of slaves across the Atlantic, this is, however, only part of the story.

Read more about the origins of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

For two hundred years, 1440-1640, Portugal had a monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa. It is notable that they were also the last European country to abolish the institution - although, like France, it still continued to work former slaves as contract laborers, which they called libertos or engagés à temps. It is

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