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Fighting the Slave Trade: West African Strategies

Between the early 1500s and the late 1860s, an estimated 12.5 million African men, women, and children were forcibly transported across the Atlantic Ocean. If the idea that they all walked quietly into servitude has lost ground in some intellectual circles, it is still going strong in popular culture; as are the supposed passivity/complicity of the rest of their compatriots, and their lack of remorse for having allowed or participated in this massive deportation.
In recent years, a few works have investigated the feeling of guilt apparent in some tales and practices linked to the Atlantic slave trade, but the Africans’ actions during these times, except in their dimension of collaboration, have hardly been explored.
This collection of essays seeks to offer a more balanced perspective.


As Diouf points out in her introduction, the present-day feeling that Africans were somehow specially guilty for selling one another is an anachronism that would have been incomprehensible to contemporaries. And she reminds us that today Europeans, Asians, and Americans are busy selling their fellow-continental women and children for prostitution and manual labour by the million. 'Fighting the Slave Trade' seems a never-ending battle. But we can still be grateful for these stimulating, revisionist papers which provide such a comprehensive view of how it was once fought in West Africa.
Christopher Fyfe
Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Edinburgh University Press

One of the main merits of the book is that it bases its arguments on the detailed historical analysis of the social and political relations that underpinned different West African strategies.This approach is to be lauded for two main reasons. First, because it replaces unfounded stereotypes with an attempt to clarify the historical and sociological roots of different patterns of behaviour vis a vis the trade. Secondly, because it raises a genuinely humanistic concern about the ethical viability of explanatory models that focus narrowly on economic and business aspects, rather than on the social dynamics of the slave trade.
Benedetta Rossi
Progress in Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies

Enslavement and the trade in slaves challenged West Africans to reinforce and define their own physical and cultural boundaries. Different societies either participated in or thwarted the trade in humans in an effort to retain their own group integrity. Thus this book is a very informative study of how West African societies self-identified and asserted political, economic, and social control in the face of enslavement of their own. At times, this included participation in the slave trade itself.
Emily S. Burrill
African Studies Review

In twelve chapters and an epilogue, Diouf has collected a far wider and sometimes more incisive set of analyses of West Africans' resistance to the depredations of the Atlantic slave trade than published previously... In developing this collection, Diouf has recreated the discourse on the strategies of West Africans ... in a new more nuanced and expansive shape.
Trevor Getz
International Journal of African Historical Studies

Studies on slave resistance in the Americas are full of heroic activities which involved armed revolts, flight, suicide, and other forms of protest were involved. These contrast sharply with Africa where similar studies have been largely concerned with slave flights (fugitive slaves). The divergence of attention has even led many to presume that Africa was a "reservoir" where slaves were harvested like pomegranates. With the publication of Fighting the Slave Trade, readers are presented with a wide range of evidence to show how Africans fought against slavery as well as the slave trade.
Olatunji Ojo
Canadian Journal of History