Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora

Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora

A comprehensive study of the Eastern slave trade by an eminent British scholarA companion volume to The Black Diaspora, this groundbreaking work tells the fascinating and horrifying story of the Islamic slave trade. Islam's Black Slaves documents a centuries-old institution that still survives, and traces the business of slavery and its repercussions from Islam's inception in the seventh century, through its history in China, India, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, and Spain, and on to Sudan and Mauritania, where, even today, slaves continue to be sold.Ronald Segal reveals for the first time the numbers involved in this trade--as many millions as were transported to the Americas--and explores the differences between the traffic in the East and the West.Islam's Black Slaves also examines the continued denial of the very existence of this sector of the black diaspora, although it survives today in significant numbers; and in an illuminating conclusion, Segal addresses the appeal of Islam to African-American communities, and the perplexing refusal of Black Muslim leaders to acknowledge black slavery and oppression in present-day Mauritania and Sudan.A fitting companion to Segal's previous work, Islam's Black Slaves is a fascinating account of an often unacknowledged tradition, and a riveting cross-cultural commentary.

Reviews of the Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora

Overall, the ratio of female to male slaves was about 2:1 in the Islamic world. In addition to their role as harem guards eunuchs served as administrators, tutors and secretaries and as male concubines. While the North Atlantic slave trade arose primarily to provide agricultural workers, that role was filled in the Medieval Islamic world largely by local peasants rather than slaves. Spread over thirteen and a half centuries a number of 14 million for the total Islamic black slave trade (an average of about 10,000 per year) seems, if anything, a bit conservative. Colonization of Africa by European powers, some of which had committed to eliminating the Atlantic slave trade, had a curiously mixed effect on the actual practice of slavery in Islamic African provinces. Slavery still persists in Mauritania, the Sudan and elsewhere in the Arab and African world; against a background of fourteen centuries of Islamic colonization and slave-owning, the practice becomes more comprehensible, if no less painful and dehumanizing to those enslaved. I would have much preferred to see the book summarize the state of the African diaspora in the Arab world and/or discuss how the dysfunctional mix of Arab and European colonialism helped create a series of failed and violent states.

A section of the book makes the comparison between the two trades and makes the point that in the few centuries that the Europeans traded in slaves they enslaved almost as many Africans as Islamic countries did over 13 centuries. Further to this he points out that "in European Slavery the Africans were depersonalised, a unit of labour in an America where the original populations had been hideously depleted by European arms and diseases." This is in comparison to Islam where "the overall treatment of slaves was overall more benign, in part because of the values and attitudes promoted by religion inhibited the very development of Western style Capitalism, with its effective subjugation of people to the priority of profit." In short Slaves in Islam became part of the service sector, soldiers and household servants, cooks and concubines where in the Americas slaves were a unit of production in the highly capitalised production of commodities for world trade. The authors conclusion is that "the freeing of individual slaves by their owners was much more frequent and widespread in Islam." It also covers the question of why there is no noticeable Diaspora of Blacks in the Islamic world. The conclusion that Segal comes to is that "the comparative smallness of a black Diaspora in Islam is evidence not of the small numbers carried by the trade, but of the degree to which large numbers were absorbed in the wider population." He also notes examples of Slaves and former Slaves who rose to high and respectable positions within Islamic societies.

This was a fascinating book in that it helped explain the various forms of slavery used under the guise of Islam along with the differences between slavery in the West and slavery in the East. One reason I appreciated the outline and structure of this book was that it explained the beginning, rise, and expansion of Islam.

Ronald Segal combines Islamic history with the history of the African slave trade.

Although that book is about Europeans taken slaves by Barabry Coast pirates, there are parts of the book that talk about the lives of black slaves used as soldiers. One thing I did take from this book that I wasn't aware of before is in 1511, 50 black slaves were taken from Andalucia in Spain to the West Indies.

Politics had won out." From the book jacket for Islam's Black Slaves (2001): "South African-born Ronald Segal, former editor and publisher of Africa South, left his country with the African National Congress leader Oliver Tambo in 1960 for political exile in England. Founding editor of the Penguin African Library, Segal is the author of thirteen books, including The Anguish of India, The Race War, The Americans, and, most recently, The Black Diaspora (FSG, 1996)." From the book jacket for Into Exile (1963): "From April 1960 to the end of 1961, Ronald Segal continued to publish Africa South in Exile from London, despite lack of funds (the South African Government had frozen all his assets) and the difficulties of smuggling copies back into the Union.

  • English

  • History

  • Rating: 3.89
  • Pages: 288
  • Publish Date: February 9th 2002 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Isbn10: 0374527970
  • Isbn13: 9780374527976