Slave market

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A slave market is a place where slaves are bought and sold. These markets became a key phenomenon in the history of slavery.


Slave markets in the Ottoman Empire

In the Ottoman Empire during the mid-14th century, slaves were traded in special marketplaces called "Esir" or "Yesir" that were located in most towns and cities. It is said that Sultan Mehmed II "the Conqueror" established the first Ottoman slave market in Constantinople in the 1460s, probably where the former Byzantine slave market had stood. According to Nicolas de Nicolay, there were slaves of all ages and both sexes, they were displayed naked to be thoroughly checked by possible buyers. [1]

In the early 18th century, the Crimean Khanate maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East, exporting about 2 million slaves from Russia and Poland-Lithuania over the period 1500–1700. [2] Caffa (modern Feodosia) became one of the best-known and significant trading ports and slave markets. [3]

Slave markets in the East African slave trade

The Slave Market, by Jean-Leon Gerome, 1866. This was a popular subject in 19th-century Orientalist painting, normally with a sexual element. Geromeslavemarket.jpg
The Slave Market , by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1866. This was a popular subject in 19th-century Orientalist painting, normally with a sexual element.
Slave merchant in art Marchand d'Esclaves RMG F0891 (cropped).tiff
Slave merchant in art

In Somalia, the inhabiting Bantus are descended from Bantu groups that had settled in Southeast Africa after the initial expansion from Nigeria/Cameroon, and whose members were later captured and sold into the Arab slave trade. [4]

Zanzibar slave market in 1860, by Edwin Stocqueler Zanzibar Slave Market, 1860 - Stocqueler.JPG
Zanzibar slave market in 1860, by Edwin Stocqueler

From 1800 to 1890, between 25,000–50,000 Bantu slaves are thought to have been sold from the slave market of Zanzibar to the Somali coast. [5] Most of the slaves were from the Majindo, Makua, Nyasa, Yao, Zalama, Zaramo and Zigua ethnic groups of Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi. Collectively, these Bantu groups are known as Mushunguli, which is a term taken from Mzigula, the Zigua tribe's word for "people" (the word holds multiple implied meanings including "worker", "foreigner", and "slave"). [6] [7] Bantu adult and children slaves (referred to collectively as jareer by their Somali masters [8] ) were purchased in the slave market exclusively to do undesirable work on plantation grounds. [9]

Enslaved Africans were sold in the towns of the Arab World. In 1416, al-Maqrizi told how pilgrims coming from Takrur (near the Senegal River) had brought 1,700 slaves with them to Mecca. In North Africa, the main slave markets were in Morocco, Algiers, Tripoli and Cairo. Sales were held in public places or in souks.

Potential buyers made a careful examination of the "merchandise": they checked the state of health of a person who was often standing naked with wrists bound together. In Cairo, transactions involving eunuchs and concubines happened in private houses. Prices varied according to the slave's quality. Thomas Smee, the commander of the British research ship Ternate, visited such a market in Zanzibar in 1811 and gave a detailed description:

'The show' commences about four o'clock in the afternoon. The slaves, set off to the best advantage by having their skins cleaned and burnished with cocoa-nut oil, their faces painted with red and white stripes and the hands, noses, ears and feet ornamented with a profusion of bracelets of gold and silver and jewels, are ranged in a line, commencing with the youngest, and increasing to the rear according to their size and age. At the head of this file, which is composed of all sexes and ages from 6 to 60, walks the person who owns them; behind and at each side, two or three of his domestic slaves, armed with swords and spears, serve as guard. Thus ordered the procession begins, and passes through the market-place and the principle streets... when any of them strikes a spectator's fancy the line immediately stops, and a process of examination ensues, which, for minuteness, is unequalled in any cattle market in Europe. The intending purchaser having ascertained there is no defect in the faculties of speech, hearing, etc., that there is no disease present, next proceeds to examine the person; the mouth and the teeth are first inspected and afterwards every part of the body in succession, not even excepting the breasts, etc., of the girls, many of whom I have seen handled in the most indecent manner in the public market by their purchasers; indeed there is every reasons to believe that the slave-dealers almost universally force the young girls to submit to their lust previous to their being disposed of. From such scenes one turns away with pity and indignation. [10]

Slave markets in Europe

Among many other European slave markets, Genoa, and Venice were some well-known markets, their importance and demand growing after the great plague of the 14th century which decimated much of the European work force. [11] The maritime town of Lagos, Portugal, was the first slave market created in Portugal for the sale of imported African slaves, the Mercado de Escravos , which opened in 1444. [12] [13] In 1441, the first slaves were brought to Portugal from northern Mauritania. [13] Prince Henry the Navigator, major sponsor of the Portuguese African expeditions, as of any other merchandise, taxed one fifth of the selling price of the slaves imported to Portugal. [13] By the year 1552 African slaves made up 10 percent of the population of Lisbon. [14] [15] In the second half of the 16th century, the Crown gave up the monopoly on slave trade and the focus of European trade in African slaves shifted from import to Europe to slave transports directly to tropical colonies in the Americas—in the case of Portugal, especially Brazil. [13] In the 15th century, one third of the slaves were resold to the African market in exchange of gold. [16]

Slave markets in Africa

Ancient Egyptian slave market, with Nubian slaves waiting to be sold Slave Market, Mono version.jpg
Ancient Egyptian slave market, with Nubian slaves waiting to be sold

The slave trade had existed in North Africa since antiquity, with a supply of African slaves arriving through trans-Saharan trade routes. The towns on the North African coast were recorded in Roman times for their slave markets, and this trend continued into the medieval age. The Barbary slave trade on the Barbary Coast increased in influence in the 15th century, when the Ottoman Empire took over as rulers of the area. Coupled with this was an influx of Sephardi Jews [17] and Moorish refugees, newly expelled from Spain after the Reconquista. The Barbary slave trade encompassed both African slavery and White slavery.

The Velekete Slave Market established in 1502 in Badagry, Lagos State, [18] [19] was significant during the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade in Badagry as it served as a business point where African middlemen sold slaves to European slave merchants thus making it one of the most populous slave markets in West Africa. [20]

Another historic slave market was Bono Manso Slave market around 16th century, which was centered at a giant Baobab tree to the west of the town played a major role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. This was one of the oldest slave transitions points in the Gold Coast. [21]

Slave markets in North America

The inspection and sale of a slave. The inspection and sale of a slave.jpg
The inspection and sale of a slave.
White men pose, 104 Locust Street, St. Louis, Missouri in 1852 at Lynch's Slave Market White men pose, 104 Locust Street, St. Louis, Missouri in 1852 at Lynch's Slave Market - (cropped).jpg
White men pose, 104 Locust Street, St. Louis, Missouri in 1852 at Lynch's Slave Market

In the United States, the domestic slave trade had become a major economic activity by 1815, and lasted until the 1860s. [22] Between 1830 and 1840 nearly 250,000 slaves were taken across state lines. [22] In the 1850s more than 193,000 were transported, and historians estimate nearly one million in total took part in the forced migration of this new Middle Passage. By 1860 the slave population in the United States had reached 4 million. [22]

Old Slave Market, St. Augustine, Florida in 1886 The Old Slave Market, St. Augustine, Florida- (6892781474) (cropped).jpg
Old Slave Market, St. Augustine, Florida in 1886

In the 1840s, almost 300,000 slaves were transported, with Alabama and Mississippi receiving 100,000 each. During each decade between 1810 and 1860, at least 100,000 slaves were moved from their state of origin. In the final decade before the Civil War, 250,000 were moved. Historian Ira Berlin wrote:

The internal slave trade became the largest enterprise in the South outside the plantation itself, and probably the most advanced in its employment of modern transportation, finance, and publicity. The slave trade industry developed its own unique language, with terms such as "prime hands, bucks, breeding wenches, and "fancy girls" coming into common use. [23]

The expansion of the interstate slave trade contributed to the "economic revival of once depressed seaboard states" as demand accelerated the value of slaves who were subject to sale. [24]

United States Colored Troop, enlisted African-American soldier reading at 8 Whitehall Street, Slave trader's business in Atlanta, Georgia, Fall 1864. United States Colored Troop enlisted African-American soldier reading at 8 Whitehall Street, Atlanta slave auction house, Fall 1864- 'Auction & Negro Sales,' Whitehall Street LOC cwpb.03351 (cropped).tif
United States Colored Troop, enlisted African-American soldier reading at 8 Whitehall Street, Slave trader's business in Atlanta, Georgia, Fall 1864.

Some traders moved their "chattels" by sea, with Norfolk to New Orleans being the most common route, but most slaves were forced to walk overland. Others were shipped downriver from such markets as Louisville on the Ohio River, and Natchez on the Mississippi. Traders created regular migration routes served by a network of slave pens, yards, and warehouses needed as temporary housing for the slaves. In addition, other vendors provided clothes, food, and supplies for slaves. As the trek advanced, some slaves were sold and new ones purchased. Berlin concluded, "In all, the slave trade, with its hubs and regional centers, its spurs and circuits, reached into every cranny of southern society. Few southerners, black or white, were untouched". [25]

New Orleans, where French colonists had established sugar cane plantations and exported sugar as the chief commodity crop, became nationally important as a slave market and port, as slaves were shipped from there upriver by steamboat to plantations on the Mississippi River; it also sold slaves who had been shipped downriver from markets such as Louisville. By 1840, it had the largest slave market in North America. It became the wealthiest and the fourth-largest city in the nation, based chiefly on the slave trade and associated businesses. [26] The trading season was from September to May, after the harvest. [27]

One of the most famous remaining slave market buildings in the United States is the Old Slave Mart in Charleston, South Carolina. Throughout the first half of the 19th century, slaves brought into Charleston were sold at public auctions held on the north side of the Exchange and Provost building. [28] After the city prohibited public slave auctions in 1856, [28] enclosed slave markets sprang up along Chalmers, State, and Queen streets. One such market was Ryan's Mart, established by City Councilman and broker, Thomas Ryan and his business partner, James Marsh. Ryan's Mart originally consisted of a closed lot with three structures a four-story barracoon or slave jail, a kitchen, and a morgue or "dead house." [29]

In 1859, an auction master named Z. B. Oakes purchased Ryan's Mart, and built what is now the Old Slave Mart building for use as an auction gallery. The building's auction table was 3 feet (0.91 m) high and 10 feet (3.0 m) long and stood just inside the arched doorway. [28] In addition to slaves, the market sold real estate and stock. [29] Slave auctions at Ryan's Mart were advertised in broadsheets throughout the 1850s, some appearing as far away as Galveston, Texas.

See also

Related Research Articles

Slavery Treatment of people as property

Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for another person and is treated like property. Slavery relies heavily on the enslaved person being intimidated either by the threat of violence or some other method of abuse. In chattel slavery, the enslaved person is legally rendered the personal property (chattel) of the slave owner. In economics, the term de facto slavery describes the conditions of unfree labour and forced labour that most slaves endure. In the course of human history, slavery was often a feature of civilisation and legal in most societies, but is now outlawed in all countries of the world, except as punishment for crime.

Atlantic slave trade Slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean from the 16th to the 19th centuries

The Atlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, or Euro-American slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of various enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage, and existed from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave trade were people from Central and West Africa, who had been sold by other West Africans, or by half-European "merchant princes" to Western European slave traders, who brought them to the Americas. Except for the Portuguese, European slave traders generally did not participate in the raids because life expectancy for Europeans in sub-Saharan Africa was less than one year during the period of the slave trade. The South Atlantic and Caribbean economies were particularly dependent on labour for the production of sugarcane and other commodities. This was viewed as crucial by those Western European states that, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with each other to create overseas empires.

Barbary pirates Pirates based in North Africa

The Barbary pirates, sometimes called Barbary corsairs or Ottoman corsairs, were Muslim pirates and privateers who operated from North Africa, based primarily in the ports of Salé, Rabat, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. This area was known in Europe as the Barbary Coast, in reference to the Berbers. Their predation extended throughout the Mediterranean, south along West Africa's Atlantic seaboard and into the North Atlantic as far north as Iceland, but they primarily operated in the western Mediterranean. In addition to seizing merchant ships, they engaged in Razzias, raids on European coastal towns and villages, mainly in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal, but also in the British Isles, the Netherlands, and Iceland. The main purpose of their attacks was slaves for the Ottoman slave trade as well as the general Arab slavery market in North Africa and the Middle East. Slaves in Barbary could be of many ethnicities, and of many different religions, such as Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.

White slavery Enslavement of people of European descent

White slavery refers to the chattel slavery of Europeans, whether by non-Europeans, or by other Europeans. Slaves of European origin were present in ancient Rome and the Ottoman Empire.

Catholic Church in Somalia

The Catholic Church in Somalia is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome.

History of slavery Aspect of history

The history of slavery spans many cultures, nationalities, and religions from ancient times to the present day. However, the social, economic, and legal positions of slaves have differed vastly in different systems of slavery in different times and places.

The Somali Bantu are a Bantu-speaking origin ethnic marginalized group(s) in Somalia who primarily reside in the southern part of the country, primarily near the Jubba and Shabelle rivers. They are descendants of people from various Bantu ethnic groups, who were acquisitioned from Southeast Africa and in Somalia and other areas in Northeast Africa, and West Asia as part of the Indian Ocean slave trade. Somali Bantus are not genetically related to the indigenous ethnic Somalis and have a culture which since their arrival in the country, has been distinct from the indigenous Somalis who are Cushitic and they have remained marginalized ever since their arrival in Somalia.In 1991, 12,000 Bantu people were displaced into Kenya, and nearly 3,300 were estimated to have returned to Tanzania.

Slavery in Africa Slave trade and various forms of slavery in historical Africa

Slavery has historically been widespread in Africa. Systems of servitude and slavery were common in parts of Africa in ancient times, as they were in much of the rest of the ancient world. When the trans-Saharan slave trade, Indian ocean slave trade and Atlantic slave trade began, many of the pre-existing local African slave systems began supplying captives for slave markets outside Africa.

Old Slave Mart United States historic place

The Old Slave Mart is a building located at 6 Chalmers Street in Charleston, South Carolina that once housed an antebellum slave auction gallery. Constructed in 1859, the building is believed to be the last extant slave auction facility in South Carolina. In 1975, the Old Slave Mart was added to the National Register of Historic Places for its role in Charleston's African-American history. Today, the building houses the Old Slave Mart Museum.

Slavery in the Ottoman Empire

Slavery in the Ottoman Empire was a legal and significant part of the Ottoman Empire's economy and traditional society. The main sources of slaves were wars and politically organized enslavement expeditions in North and East Africa, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Caucasus. It has been reported that the selling price of slaves decreased after large military operations. In Constantinople, the administrative and political center of the Ottoman Empire, about a fifth of the 16th- and 17th-century population consisted of slaves. Customs statistics of these centuries suggest that Istanbul's additional slave imports from the Black Sea may have totaled around 2.5 million from 1453 to 1700.

Barbary slave trade Slave markets in North Africa

The Barbary slave trade refers to slave markets on the Barbary Coast of North Africa, which included the Ottoman provinces of Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania and the independent sultanate of Morocco, between the 16th and middle of the 18th century. The Ottoman provinces in North Africa were nominally under Ottoman suzerainty, but in reality they were mostly autonomous.

Slavery in Libya

Slavery in Libya has a long history and a lasting impact on the Libyan culture. It is closely connected with the wider context of slavery in North African and trans-Saharan slave trade.

Slavery on the Barbary Coast

Slavery on the Barbary Coast was a form of unfree labour which existed between the 16th and 18th centuries in the Barbary Coast area of North Africa.

Zigula is a Bantu language of Tanzania, where it is known as Mushunguli (Mushungulu). It is best known for the Mushunguli dialect.


A barracoon is a type of barracks used historically for the internment of slaves or criminals.

Slavery in Somalia

Slavery in Somalia existed as a part of the East African slave trade. To meet the demand for menial labor, Bantus from southeastern Africa slaves were exported from the Zanzibar and were sold in cumulatively large numbers over the centuries to customers in Somalia and other areas in Northeast Africa and Asia. People captured locally during wars and raids were also sometimes enslaved by Somalis mostly of Oromo and Nilotic origin. However, the perception, capture, treatment and duties of both groups of slaves differed markedly, with Oromo favored because Oromo subjects were not viewed as racially jareer by their Somali captors.

History of slavery in the Muslim world History of slavery in Islamic lands

Slavery in the Muslim world first developed out of the slavery practices of pre-Islamic Arabia, and was at times radically different, depending on social-political factors such as the Arab slave trade. Throughout Islamic history, slaves served in various social and economic roles, from powerful emirs to harshly treated manual laborers. Early on in Muslim history they were used in plantation labor similar to that in the Americas, but this was abandoned after harsh treatment led to destructive slave revolts, the most notable being the Zanj Rebellion of 869–883. Slaves were widely employed in irrigation, mining, and animal husbandry, but the most common uses were as soldiers, guards, domestic workers, and concubines. Many rulers relied on military slaves, often in huge standing armies, and slaves in administration to such a degree that the slaves were sometimes in a position to seize power. Among black slaves, there were roughly two females to every one male. Two rough estimates by scholars of the number of slaves held over twelve centuries in the Muslim world are 11.5 million and 14 million, while other estimates indicate a number between 12 and 15 million slaves prior to the 20th century.

Velekete Slave Market

The Velekete Slave Market is a market located in Badagry, Lagos State. Established in 1502 and named after the Velekete deity, the market was significant during the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade in Badagry, as it served as a business point where African middlemen sold slaves to European slave merchants, thus making it one of the most populous slave markets in West Africa.

Trans-Saharan slave trade Slave trade

During the Trans-Saharan slave trade, slaves from West Africa were transported across the Sahara desert to North Africa to be sold to Mediterranean and Middle eastern civilizations. It was part of the Trans-Saharan trade. Early records of trans-Saharan slave trade come from ancient Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century BC.

Indian Ocean slave trade

The Indian Ocean slave trade, sometimes known as the East African slave trade, was multi-directional slave trade and has changed over time. Africans were sent as slaves to the Arabian Peninsula, to Indian Ocean islands, to the Indian subcontinent, and later to the Americas.


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