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History >> Ancient Africa

Ancient Africa

Slavery

Often when we think of African slavery, we think of the African slaves in the United States in the 1800s. However, slavery was common throughout much of the world for most of human history. This was also true of Ancient Africa where slavery existed in most of the ancient empires and civilizations on the continent.

Slavery played an important role in the history of Ancient Africa. As many as one third of the people living in many African societies were slaves. Slaves were considered the lowest caste of society, but their rights and roles varied depending on the society where they lived.

Painting of an African slave market
A slave market in North Africa by David Roberts
How did people become slaves?

There were a number of different ways that a person could become a slave in Ancient Africa. Many slaves were captives of war. These slaves were often sold to faraway lands in order to keep them from escaping back home. Sometimes people became slaves for a period of time in order to pay off debts or they were forced into slavery for committing a crime. Children born to slaves also became slaves.

What jobs did slaves have?

Slaves worked a variety of jobs including farm labor, household servants, and carrying goods. Some slaves worked under harsh conditions in the salt mines of North Africa. These slaves had short life expectancies. Getting sent to the salt mine to work was like getting a death sentence.

How were slaves treated?

Slaves were treated differently depending on the society and region where they were enslaved. In some societies, slaves were treated well. They had rights and were often treated like members of the family. In other societies, slaves were used like property and were beaten when they didn't work hard enough.

The Slave Trade

Beginning around 700 CE, the slave trade became an important part of the African economy. There were two major events in the history of the African slave trade. When did slavery end in Africa?

The slave trade began to slow down in the mid-1800s. However, slavery and the slave trade had been a part of African society and the economy for over 1000 years. This made it difficult to bring to an end. Slavery continued in some form well into the 1930s when it was finally abolished throughout most of Africa.

Interesting Facts about Slavery in Ancient Africa Take a ten question quiz about this page.

To learn more about Ancient Africa:

Civilizations
Ancient Egypt
Kingdom of Ghana
Mali Empire
Songhai Empire
Kush
Kingdom of Aksum
Central African Kingdoms
Ancient Carthage

Culture
Art in Ancient Africa
Daily Life
Griots
Islam
Traditional African Religions
Slavery in Ancient Africa
People
Boers
Cleopatra VII
Hannibal
Pharaohs
Shaka Zulu
Sundiata

Geography
Countries and Continent
Nile River
Sahara Desert
Trade Routes

Other
Timeline of Ancient Africa
Glossary and Terms


Works Cited

History >> Ancient Africa

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