Eli5 How did the enslavement process actually started for Africans during African Americans slave trade ?


I hope my question doesn’t offend anyone I genuinely want actual facts.

In some parts in Europe people often say that we tricked the Africans by buying their people with things like glass that look valuable but aren’t, but I don’t believe this to be true because it blames the African people and portrays them as stupid etc, so I wondered how it actually happened/started.

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I think it’s commonly understood that some were kidnapped and some were sold by tribe/village chiefs. Bought in exchange of what, that I need to look it up. But yeah, for sure many were simply kidnapped. But I don’t think that saying that some slaves were sold by fellow villagers is portraying Africans as stupid. Bear in mind that slavery existed also in Africa, so it could well be that they sold slaves.

Your in the wrong sub, thus isnt a ELI5 topic

Who actually the started the ball rolling on the triangle slave trade was some Posh English Lord trying to get rich.
How the Slave trade was allowed to grow to the point it did is a very long topic that you could write books on. Africa was and still is a very divisive continent with many different cultures and practices. Imagine if you heard rumors that people from Africa were buying white Europeans for bits of glass and taking them home to trade for molasses? You don’t believe it, and neither did most the neighboring countries that were affected at first. Slavery was mostly a foreign concept to most countries in Africa. African countries attacked one another and absorbed each other, but it wasn’t common to enslave people in the process in the way we picture slavery. By the time people noticed, there was too much resources changing hands and power to lose for things to stop. Nobody in Africa had the power to stop it.

There is a lot more, but this is a major reason.

Slavery has existed since humans gained enough intelligence to realize that if they could force someone else to do their work, their life would be easier. All manner of people have been subjected to slavery. Slaves were usually a different class, religion, nationality, or ethnicity. Each culture has had what they considered a “lower level” human that would usually end up either as a slave or simply living in poverty.

The transatlantic slave trade began much earlier than 1619 Jamestown that is written about in American history books. The Portuguese were the first recorded to buy slaves in West Africa in 1526, taking them to Brazil. Many Europeans followed after this. These people were war captives, owed debts, were military slaves, criminals, and used for prostitution. Domestic slaves were fairly common at this time across Africa, with plantation slaves mostly being used on the Eastern coast of Africa and parts of West Africa.

There may have been some shady “oooo look at this shiny glass” deals, but the slave trade was thriving in Africa as a legitimate business practice at the time already. I’m not saying it was a good thing to happen, but most slaves were purchased/ traded in legal markets or auctions. Europeans are wrong for buying them to use as slaves, but the African people were also wrong to be selling their own people for that purpose. This fact is always ignored when American or European slavery of Africans is brought up. Things were pretty fucked up back then, but that was their normal. That’s why pointing fingers to blame any one group isn’t correct because both parties participated. The Atlantic slave trade was abolished in the 19th century in Africa so the economy shifted to using domestic slave labor for plantations, continuing to use their own people for slave labor.

You would probably be better off asking this in r/askhistorians just because this is a really nuanced subject and they will have a better historically accurate answer for you

At the dawn of the Age of Exploration, Europe was virtually alone in not having slavery (although this was not universal). Everywhere else – including Africa – generally had a slave trade.

However, slaves aren’t actually all that useful in most cases. A slave requires that you feed/house them, so you need to find some sort of useful labor for them that offsets the costs of keeping them. At the level of technology we’re talking about, this was mostly limited to large-scale cash crop plantation agriculture.

Once the Europeans discovered the New World, they also discovered new cash crops – sugar and tobacco mostly – that provided that demand for labor. So they simply went to the pre-existing slave markets in Africa and purchased slaves to work their plantations in the New World.

In terms of what they used to purchase them, it was mainly manufactured goods.

And, yes, this includes glass. However, the Africans who were exchanging slaves for glass weren’t doing so because they were foolish or believed that glass was actually gemstones. They were doing so because glass was rare, difficult to manufacture and very useful. They knew perfectly well what they were getting and were more than happy with the trade – especially given that they had no particular need for the slaves and the cost of acquiring new slaves was far less than the cost of acquiring other trade goods.

Also, Africans weren’t enslaving ‘their’ people. They were primarily enslaving other (weaker) tribes.

From a high-level view, Africans already had a robust slave trade going back to antiquity. Kingdoms invaded others, took slaves, and traded them. The Europeans were just a new customer. And the Europeans could offer something others couldn’t in the slave trade in the form of much better weapons to fight their wars with, which allowed them to acquire even more slaves to sell to the new customers.