The United States is the main focus of world opprobrium for its historical involvement in the enslavement of black Africans. However, neither the Americans nor the Europeans were the primary traders of black African slaves. Most slaves in Africa were either taken by Arab Muslims directly, or sold to the Arabs by the victors in African intertribal warfare. According to some sources, more than 140 million black African slaves may have been trafficked by the Arabs in the centuries since the founding of Islam. These slaves lived in brutal conditions, and the majority died in transit across Africa, Arabia, or the Indian Ocean. Only a tiny fraction crossed the Atlantic to end up in what is now the United States.
The Arab traffic in African slaves has not ended. Even though slavery is officially outlawed in all Muslim countries, the practice continues to this day.
Below is a concise and useful video summary of the history of the Arab slave trade:
Some of the text in this video was taken from In the Name of Allah:
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A comparison of the Islamic slave trade to the American slave trade reveals some interesting contrasts. While two out of every three slaves shipped across the Atlantic were men, the proportions were reversed in the Islamic slave trade. Two women for every man were enslaved by the Muslims.
While the mortality rate for slaves being transported across the Atlantic was as high as 10%, the percentage of slaves dying in transit in the Trans Sahara and East African slave trade was between 80 and 90%.
While almost all the slaves shipped across the Atlantic were for agricultural work, most of the slaves destined for the Muslim Middle East were for sexual exploitation as concubines, in harems, and for military service.
While many children were born to slaves in the Americas, and millions of their descendants are citizens in Brazil and the USA to this day, very few descendants of the slaves that ended up in the Middle East survive.
While most slaves who went to the Americas could marry and have families, most of the male slaves destined for the Middle East were castrated, and most of the children born to the women were killed at birth.
It is estimated that possibly as many as 11 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic (95% of which went to South and Central America, mainly to Portuguese, Spanish and French possessions. Only 5% of the slaves went to the United States).
However, at least 28 million Africans were enslaved in the Muslim Middle East. Since at least 80% of those captured by Muslim slave traders were calculated to have died before reaching the slave markets, it is believed that the death toll from 1400 years of Muslim slave raids into Africa could have been over 112 million. When added to the number of those sold in the slave markets, the total number of African victims of the Trans Saharan and East African slave trade could be significantly higher than 140 million people.
Hat tip: Steen.