Africa: Bloggers Differ on Reparations and Apology for Slavery

The Slave Trade Act was passed in England 200 years ago. The act ended slave trade in the British empire. A number of events such as art exhibits, lectures, church services, and parades have been taking place all over the world to mark this day.

In England, Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed deep sorrow, Mayor Kevin Livingstone made a formal apology. In cyberspace, the Archibishops Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu used YouTube to share their reflections on slave trade.

The African blogosphere has marked the anniversary with discussions centred around issues of apology, reparations, and Africa's role in the trade.

Amir Ibrahim, writing at Kenya Imagine, deals with the issue of Africa's role in the trade:

Such scholars point out that few slaves were captured directly by the slavers and that the majority were sold on to them by prominent African states like the Ashanti kingdom. These scholars also maintain that slavery was a social construct already existent in Africa and that European slavers merely took the slaves into new markets. The historical record proves that whereas this may be correct strictly speaking, traditionally African slaves were indentured labourers whose lives and station in society was much higher than was permitted in the New World. The phenomenon of European slaving and the horrors of the slave experience in the new world are unprecedented in documented human history.

Did African empires benefit economically from the slave trade? Amir continues:

While it is true that there were African states Dahomey, Kongo and Ashanti, that profited handsomely from this trade, history indicates that even the wealth that slave-raider chiefs accrued from the trade quickly reverted to the slavers as it was used to buy alcohol and firearms both of which only served to further fuel the trade. In the end the economic benefits of slavery flowed only one way, out of Africa.

Who Should Aplogize for the Roman Empire?

“Brothers sold Brothers,” writes Refined One:

…Slaves from
Africa were sold by there own brothers( Africans)… No matter how hard that maybe for us to accept it is the truth!
This has caused division between Africans and West Indians to date…some feel resentful towards Africans for what was done to there ancestors.
We should not let division in our lives, for the perfect will of God is still to be unfolded…Our dreams will still be fulfilled.

In another post, Refined One had suggested an apology for slavery. She changes her mind:

Why I decided to write this post was because in the post before this I said something about an apology….which I would like to take back.

She prefers forgiveness to an apology:

Brothers on different continents, of different shades, we are all still brothers, as I said before FORGIVNESS is the only way forwarded.

There has been a renewed call for an apology for slavery following the Virginia State legislature's apology for the state's role in the trade.

Khanya finds this idea disturbing. Why should people apologize for other people's sins?:

It seems to me that this shows an inversion of moral values. Tony Blair ought not to apologise for the slave trade, because there is no way he can be held responsible for it. But he can be held responsible for the bombing of Belgrade and Basra, and if he symbolically went and washed the feet of the widows and orphans of those cities, and the stumps of the maimed and the lame who were crippled by British bombs dropped at his orders, then he would be doing something far more significant. The demand that he should apologise for the slave trade is simply grotesque.

Who should apologize for the Roman Empire? He asks:

My wife (and children) are descendants of slaves. I haven’t yet discovered any slaves in my own ancestry, but for all I know there could have been, say under the Roman Empire. Should I therefore demand that the Italian government officially apologise?

Dismissing arguments made against an apology, Amir Ibrahim writes:

It is strange and offensive then that the British Government should hold the descendants of the slave victims of this the greatest crime against humanity in such contempt as not to issue a symbolic apology for the crimes committed against them. The arguments they advance against such an apology are truly specious and offensive. Firstly they claim that these events were committed such a long time ago that apologies are now irrelevant. The Catholic Church's apology for its crimes against Galileo certainly dismisses this idea. The second is the silly notion that an apology would be an act of national self-hatred. The Germans, the Japanese and the French could have taken this childish route, but were more assured of their place in history. Neither does this explain why Tony Blair apologised to the Irish, or how religious organisations like the Vatican and the Church of England have managed to survive their apologies.

Roots, Kunta Kinte, and Snoop Dogg

In a post that is likely to touch some raw nerves, Chxta questions the logic behind the call for an apology:

Slavery (at least the non-covert form) ended in 1865, and I don't think that there is anyone walking the planet now who was around back then, so Chxta doesn't understand this call for an apology, the call for reparations, and more recently, this idea of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.

What is this mad demand for an apology? And how do events that ended well before any of us walking around now have a direct bearing on what we do today?

According to Chxta, African slaves were captured by Africans. Therefore, Africans are the ones who need to apologize:

……If you watch the movie Roots, Kunta Kinte was not kidnapped by white guys, he was kidnapped by niggers…..

If there is anyone who should apologise, it is those of us that come from Africa now. We should apologise to those that can't trace their roots, and have no ‘true sense’ of identity, afterall we sold them.

Chxta opposes the idea of reparations for slavery arguing that there is no direct link between the state of African people today and slavery:

Anyway, the main object of this write up is to voice Chxta's opinion that all the calls for reparations, for apologies and the attempt to link the failings of African nations (and African American peoples) today to slavery is utter bollocks, and an exercise in something worse than colonial mentality, slave mentality.

Chxta is yet to fully understand how Kunta Kinte being made to accept Toby as his name at the back end of a lash is responsible for Snoop Dogg claiming to be a gansta. Chxta doesn't understand how the fact that their great great great great great great grandmother was the bed wench of some plantation owner
in Nashville is responsible for the moral laxity we see among African American youths (and their cousins of Caribbean descent on this side of the pond). Chxta doesn't understand how slavery prevents today's African American youth from going to school, instead preferring to rap and do sports in the name of ‘keeping it real’. Chxta doesn't understand how payment of reparations would help African economies to get on their feet when there is almost definitely a cabal in one corner of the room waiting to pocket the reparation money and tell boys that ‘dem no give us shinshin’.

Slave Trade and the Church of England

In “Reparations for slavery?,Black Looks posts a link to a BBC article about the Church of England considering reparations. The Church of England owned African slaves in the West Indies.

Riviersonderend would like the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to extend his notion of justice for slavery to gay, lesbian, and transgendered people:

Yesterday, people from all walks of life marched in London in commemoration of the slave trade’s abolition. Our collective “moral conscience” was there as well: the church. The procession was blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Just a bit ironic, I would say.

As Williams is marching for justice, he is preparing to deny justice to the world’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people and sanction their persecution in Nigeria. Why? Because the Bible says so.

Let us not forget the Bible’s position on slavery, as we celebrate this momentous landmark. Let us not forget the church’s role in the slave trade – the Church of England had slaves on its plantations in the Caribbean. Let us not forget that the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in an effort to preserve the Christian basis for slavery before the American Civil War. Let us not forget that the Bible does not condemn the practice of slavery.

Indeed, in 1856 Reverend Thomas Stringfellow, a Baptist minister, wrote A Scriptural View of Slavery, in which he claimed: “… Jesus Christ recognized this institution as one that was lawful among men, and regulated its relative duties… I affirm then, first (and no man denies) that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command; and second, I affirm, he has introduced no new moral principle which can work its destruction…”

Do You Remember?

Lastly, Jikomboe posts a link to a video of Burning Spear singing his 1975 song, Slavery Days. Wailing: do you remember the days of slavery?


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.