The African Origin of the Slave Trade
Paul Craig Roberts
For decades liberals have beat into the heads of white Americans that they are racists responsible for enslaving blacks. The insistence on white racism was music to the ears of black activists. Here is racial provocateur Al Sharpton 21 years ago:
“The first thing we need to do is acknowledge that you robbed me. Let’s start there with reparations. . . . America must admit its sins in Africa and its sins against people of African descent.”
This lie has become institutionalized in the media, black racial preferences, and in university black studies departments and their graduates. Enough white Americans have been indoctrinated that the public has accepted black racial privileges in university admissions, employment, and promotion for more than a half century.
Americans have been falsely blamed, and no historian, no scholar, no investigative reporter stood up to correct the blatant misrepresentation of history.
For many years I have reported that the slave trade was an African institution. The black kingdom of Dahomey was the slaver state. The Dutch, Portuguese, British, and French ship captains were the transporters of blacks enslaved by other blacks to the new world. Apparently, Brazil was a larger market for enslaved blacks than England’s North American colonies.
Dahomey was a highly organized almost absolute monarchy as efficiently organized as the United States today, and perhaps more so, but with far more unity and social cohesion than exists in the United States. Dahomey had powerful enemies over whom Dahomey eventually prevailed due to its success in slave wars. The slaves provided trade goods for European firearms that Dahomey used to build its armies, including a regiment of Amazons, who proved themselves an effective fighting force.
Survival required that Dahomey was organized for war to expand its boundaries and to take captives from opposing forces as slaves, who were used to work the royal plantations that supplied food for the army and to trade to Europeans for weapons. In effect, it was the soldiers of Dahomey’s army who were the slavers. Every soldier to whom gun powder was issued was required to bring to the king the head of an enemy or at least one prisoner as a slave. Many of the enslaved blacks brought to the New World were black warriors captured as prisoners of war, and some were royal personages.
During the years that US universities were destroyed by foolish liberals permitting the inauguration of “women’s studies” and “black studies,” propaganda operations in which lies were propagated to ruin relations between men and women and between blacks and whites, I reported that the actual history of the slave trade was once well known and could be found, among other sources, in Karl Polanyi’s book, Dahomey and the Slave Trade. I regarded the fact that accounts of slavery blaming Americans and the US Constitution could flourish–as for example, the New York Times false “1619 Project”–to be evidence that education had disintegrated into rank anti-white propaganda. If black studies was really interested in scholarly undertaking, why was Karl Polanyi’s Dahomey and the Slave Trade kept out of print and unavailable?
The answer was obvious. Frauds have a narrative, and they are opposed to all facts.
Recently, a reader brought to my attention that a new edition of Karl Polanyi’s Dahomey and the Slave Trade had appeared, published as Monograph 42 by the American Ethnological Society. I don’t know what this society is, and I haven’t investigated it, but praise to the society for bringing back a definitive study of the slave trade. Little doubt that the classic will be dismissed by black studies departments as “white supremacy.”
Actually, Polanyi’s book is not a study of the slave trade. It is a study of Dahomey, in Polanyi’s view an “archaic economy.” Karl Polanyi was the leftwing, socialist, perhaps moderate communist brother of my Oxford University professor, Michael Polanyi, a distinguished physical chemist who later became a groundbreaking philosopher of science and knowledge. Karl’s major work is The Great Transformation. Once I was familiar with his work, and once I wrote a scholarly article about it, but the journal referees relied on his followers, and my criticisms or interpretations did not meet with their approval. It was long ago, and I don’t remember about it. Perhaps one day I will find a draft in a file.
The point is that Karl Polanyi was not an admirer of a market economy. It was important to him that there were other ways of organizing economic activity. It seemed important to him that whatever they were, government was involved. In Dahomey the King was certainly involved. Indeed, the primary source of revenue, the capture of slaves in slave wars, made the economy a government operation. Thus, Polanyi’s interest is not directly in the slave trade, but as slave wars were a primary activity in Dahomey, Polanyi cannot write about Dahomey and ignore the slave trade.
To be clear, Polanyi’s interest is not to make a case against Dahomey for originating the trans-Atlantic slave trade that “black studies” departments blame on white Americans. He is studying what he calls an archaic economy as an illustration of social organization that is not free market.
I don’t blame Dahomey either. I am interested in facts, not blame. Dahomey dominated the slave trade for 250 years, and Dahomey’s existence depended on it. Dahomey was not forced by white Europeans to provide them with slaves. Europeans were not allowed beyond the port and were no match for Dahomey’s army until the beginning of the 20th century, 50 years or more after the British Navy had stopped Dahomey’s revenues from the slave trade.
Today Dahomey is known as Benin. On the beach at Ouidah there is a monument, The Gate of No Return. The monument symbolizes the passage of the captives of Dahomey’s slave wars into slavery. What I want to know is how can such a public monument remain unnoticed by black studies departments that pretend to be educational?
Looking for the 2022 reprint of Polanyi’s Dahomey and the Slave Trade, I found a second book, also 2022, with the same title. Curious, I ordered it. The author is Vivian Chibuife, a black female African historian who self publishes.
Chibuife’s book was provoked by the 2022 movie, The Woman King, that portrays Dahomey’s Amazons as liberals opposed to slavery. Although Chibuife appreciates the movie’s emphasis on the achievements and abilities of black women, she takes exception to the falsification of history.
Chibuife gets in a few sentences blaming whites for their participation in the slave trade as customers, but she is too honest to produce a false account. In some ways she is more straightforward than Karl Polanyi. Her account of Dahomey and its rise is straightforward and parallels Polanyi’s. But she rejects all nonsense about where the slaves came from or that anyone wanted to stop the slave trade before the white British did with warships blocking the port.
Here are brief passages from her text:
“As a result of its harsh military actions and its limitless need for slaves, the kingdom of Dahomey had only hostile ties with its neighbors.”
“Dahomey began actively participating in the Atlantic slave trade in 1727 [prior to that accumulating a slave work force for itself] when it overthrew the coastal Kingdom of Hueda and seized control of the port city of Ouidah. Between 1659 and 1863, approximately a million enslaved Africans were loaded onto ships bound for the Americas, according to historians.”
One of the uses of slaves captured by Dahomey was their execution in human sacrifice to the king’s ancestors. This was a great waste of money and a cruel use of lives, and the barbaric practice helped the French to eventually undermine Dahomey as “barbaric.” The kingdom succumbed to the French in the the middle 1890s as the 20th century approached.
In closing I will again make the point I have often made that in a diverse, multicultural society composed of many ethnicities it is socially and politically disastrous to teach one race to hate another. But that is what the United States does. Blacks are taught to hate whites, and whites are taught that they are guilty. Such a society simply cannot survive, and the non-survival of the United States appears to be the main goal of American universities, Democrat party, and presstitute media. We are undergoing the intentional destruction of a once free and successful society.
As far as I can tell, there is no one to stop it.