February 14, 2022

HISTORY: My Nigerian Grandfather Sold Slaves. “Nwaubani Ogogo lived in a time when the fittest survived and the bravest excelled. The concept of ‘all men are created equal’ was completely alien to traditional religion and law in his society. It would be unfair to judge a 19th Century man by 21st Century principles. Assessing the people of Africa’s past by today’s standards would compel us to cast the majority of our heroes as villains, denying us the right to fully celebrate anyone who was not influenced by Western ideology.”

There’s a mythology that white slave traders ran around the bush kidnapping Africans, but that’s bunk, of course — they’d pretty much all have died. They bought African slaves from Africans. My brother talked to people in Ghana about that some years ago, and they reflected little guilt: Back then if you lost a war, you either died or were enslaved. That’s just how it worked.

One of the reasons Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon couldn’t get published when she wrote it was that the black literary community didn’t like that it portrayed the extent of African complicity in slavery. But history is history, despite efforts to rewrite it.

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