Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

Fighting the Slave Trade
West African Strategies

Edited by Sylviane A. Diouf

“This book should be required reading for anyone interested in the West Africans’ fight against enslavement.”

Rachel Dowty, Journal of World History

“The scholars in this collection overwhelmingly argue that certain populations of West Africans were keenly aware of the devastating impact of the transatlantic slave trade on their societies, and these populations sought to mitigate the damages as best they could.... This collection is particularly useful in teaching undergraduate and graduate students about the transatlantic slave trade to counter and balance the pervasive belief that Africans were either passive victims or active participants in slavery.”

African Studies Quarterly

Fighting the Slave Trade provides a comprehensive and compelling interpretation of the West African involvement in the Atlantic trade…Its clear language and engaging style make it relevant both to specialists and a broader readership.”

Benedetta Rossi, Progress in Development Studies

While most studies of the slave trade focus on the volume of captives and on their ethnic origins, the question of how the Africans organized their familial and communal lives to resist and assail it has not received adequate attention. But our picture of the slave trade is incomplete without an examination of the ways in which men and women responded to the threat and reality of enslavement and deportation.

Fighting the Slave Trade is the first book to explore in a systematic manner the strategies Africans used to protect and defend themselves and their communities from the onslaught of the Atlantic slave trade and how they assaulted it.

It challenges widely held myths of African passivity and general complicity in the trade and shows that resistance to enslavement and to involvement in the slave trade was much more pervasive than has been acknowledged by the orthodox interpretation of historical literature.

Focused on West Africa, the essays collected here examine in detail the defensive, protective, and offensive strategies of individuals, families, communities, and states. In chapters discussing the manipulation of the environment, resettlement, the redemption of captives, the transformation of social relations, political centralization, marronage, violent assaults on ships and entrepôts, shipboard revolts, and controlled participation in the slave trade as a way to procure the means to attack it, Fighting the Slave Trade presents a much more complete picture of the West African slave trade than has previously been available.

The author of the award-winning Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, Sylviane A. Diouf also initiated and co-organized the conference “Fighting Back: African Strategies against the Slave Trade” held at Rutgers University. She is a researcher at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.   More info →


“Between the early 1500s and the late 1860s, an estimated twelve million African men, women, and children were forcibly transported across the Atlantic Ocean. About seven million were displaced through the Sahara desert and the Indian Ocean, in a movement that started in the seventh century and lasted until the twentieth. If the idea that the deported Africans walked quietly into servitude has lost ground in some intellectual circles, it is still going strong in popular culture; as are the supposed passivity or complicity of the rest of their compatriots and their lack of remorse for having allowed or participated in this massive displacement.…”
— Introduction


Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction
    Sylviane A. Diouf
  • Part 1: Defensive Strategies
  • 1. Lacustrine Villages in South Benin as Refuges from the Slave Trade
    Elisée Soumonni
  • 2. Slave-Raiding and Defensive Systems South of Lake Chad from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century
    Thierno Mouctar Bah
  • 3. The Myth of Inevitability and Invincibility: Resistance to Slavers and the Slave Trade in Central Africa, 1850–1910
    Dennis D. Cordell
  • 4. The Impact of the Slave Trade on Cayor and Baol: Mutations in Habitat and Land Occupancy
    Adama Guèye
  • 5. Defensive Strategies: Wasulu, Masina, and the Slave Trade
    Martin A. Klein
  • Part 2: Protective Strategies
  • 6. The Last Resort: Redeeming Family and Friends
    Sylviane A. Diouf
  • 7. Anglo-Efik Relations and Protection against Illegal Enslavement at Old Calabar, 1740–1807
    Paul E. Lovejoy and David Richardson
  • Part 3: Offensive Strategies
  • 8. Igboland, Slavery, and the Drums of War and Heroism
    John N. Oriji
  • 9. “A Devotion to the Idea of Liberty at Any Price”: Rebellion and Antislavery in the Upper Guinea Coast in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
    Ismail Rashid
  • 10. Strategies of the Decentralized: Defending Communities from Slave Raiders in Coastal Guinea-Bissau, 1450–1815
    Walter Hawthorne
  • 11. The Struggle against the Transatlantic Slave Trade: The Role of the State
    Joseph E. Inikori
  • 12. Shipboard Revolts, African Authority, and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
    David Richardson
  • Epilogue: Memory as Resistance: Identity and the Contested History of Slavery in Southeastern Nigeria, an Oral History Project
    Carolyn A. Brown
  • Contributors
  • Index

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Retail price: $32.95, S.
Release date: October 2003
288 pages · 6.125 × 9¼ in.
Rights:  World

Retail price: $80.00, S.
Release date: October 2003
242 pages · 6.125 × 9¼ in.
Rights:  World

Release date: October 2003
288 pages
Rights:  World

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