Friday, April 21, 2006

the urban background of enslaved muslims in the americas

The Urban Background of Enslaved Muslims in the Americas by Paul E. Lovejoy

Enslaved Muslims constituted a relatively small proportion of the enslaved population in the Americas, and that population was largely male. This article explores an unappreciated dimension of the background of these enslaved Muslims, the fact that most came from towns and had traveled widely, between towns; that is enslaved Muslims tended to come from urban settings, no matter where they ended up in the Americas. This urban background has implications in terms of the experiences and expectations of the enslaved. The urban context was associated with commerce, craft specialization, literacy, and political and social consciousness of slavery and its meaning within west Africa. The study examines available biographical information on enslaved Muslims from the Western Sudan, usually referred to as Mandingo or some variant in the Americas, and those from the Central Sudan, including Hausa, Yoruba, Nupe and people from Borno. The urban setting of Muslim areas of West Africa is then compared with other towns and cities in the Atlantic world during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in terms of size of towns and multicultural backgrounds of urban populations, further demonstrating that the urban background of many enslaved Africans and the extent to which the enslaved population was moved between towns has not been appreciated.

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