Zanzibar has a long history of being a huge slave trading post and slave market. Slaves were captured and taken in Africa, shipped to a large trading post (like Zanzibar), and sold off to be taken around the world like cargo. It was horrific. People owning other people is uncivililized, unjust, and a very cruel thing to do.

There is a museum in Stone Town that we visited that is entirely about the slave trade here. The Portugese and Omani both traded here. It was a very widespread trade.

Slavery has been around since the time of the Egyptians, but many groups have been responsible for continuing it throughout history. The British finally made slavery illegal in Zanzibar in 1897.

Let’s say that some African tribes are fighting with one another in the heart of Africa. One tribe might win and capture some prisoners. Colonialists might trade guns or weapons to help that tribe fight more, in exchange for the prisoners. The prisoners would become slaves. The slaves would half to walk for months with very little food or water, from where they were captured in the Congo (example), all the way across a couple thousand kilometers of land to Zanzibar. Some slaves would try to run away, while others would die of starvation or disease.

“Cypriani Asmani was a slave child in Zanzibar. When he was about 6 years old, he tried to run away. For punishment, he was chained to a log. The log weighed more than 32lbs and he could only move about by carrying in on his head. He had been chained to the log for more than a year when a missionary rescued him in July 1885.”

When they got to Zanzibar, the new owner would have to pay a fee to the customs house to have the slaves imported. The slaves would be kept in horrible conditions for days on end after that.

“During the slave trade, these two underground rooms were used to keep slaves before being taken to the market for auctioning. A small hut was on top and there was a big hole used as an entrance to the slave chambers. Slaves were kept in terrible conditions, and so many died of suffocation and starvation. The ammount of death was terrible.”

The slaves that died were considered “weak,” and the ones that survived would be brought out to be sold. Before they were sold, they were whipped against the weeping tree. If the slave cried, the price would go down. It the slave stayed strond, the price would go up. It was horrible. I had trouble listening as our guide talk about it. There is a cathedral that was built on top of the former slave market, so I’m glad we didn’t get to see the place were the slaves were sold.

With their new owners, the slaves would board ships to be taken either North to the Middle East, or West to the Americas or another part of Africa. the slaves would be horribly cramped, stuck in one postition, squating in their own excrement, for there was no bathroom aboard the ships. It must have smelled gastly, like one big, dirty, unkept bathroom. The smell would never quite go away. In fact, sometimes the ship would smell so bad, that the empty ship would be sent out to sea to be burned and never used again.

The owners could do anything they wanted with their slaves. They could sell them to get more slaves. Back in the Roman times, masters would train their slaves to become gladiators, and then sell them for even more money.

Slavery became very popular in the 18th century, when ivory became big. There are pictures from very recently that show many slaves with many ivory tusks, that their masters (masters didn’t do any of the work) would sell to get more money, which they could spend on more slaves, to tend to more clove fields, to get richer, until they die. One man, Tippu Tip, a slave trader, ivory trader, explorer, and plantation owner and governer, was very rich in his trading. Hamad bin Muhammad bin Juma bin Rajab el Murjebi (his real name) was very rich when he died, and owned 7 clove plantations and over 10,000 slaves.

Many people were buying slaves at that time. Even slaves owned slaves. The richer you got, the more slaves you owned, and the more slaves you owned, the richer you got. Slavery is unjust. Why should people own other people. It is just not right.

Sadly, slavery does still exist today. It is very very rare to find people who are legally slaves, but there are other forms of modern slavery. We saw some of that in Spain. It is called bonded labor. in Fuengirola, there are people on the side of the street that have mats covered in shoes or shirts they are selling. This might be how it works:

Someone far away could tell some person who wanted a new life, “hey! I will pay for you to fly into Spain, I will give you a place to stay and food to eat, and you will work for me to earn money. Deal?” And the other person might take it, thinking that that will be a good life. But then when they get to Spain, the other person will show give them a bad place to stay, and make them pay off their flight there by selling shoes on the side of the street. By selling shoes on the side of the street, it will take a long time to pay off an entire airplane flight. And the other person will just keep their passport, so they can’t run away until they pay off the debt and maybe more.

The 10 countries with the highest percentage of modern-day slaves are: Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Moldava, Benin, Gambia, Cote d’lvoire, and Gabon. Someday I hope that slavery, no matter what kind, is abolished completely in every country on Earth.

Below: Slave Chambers



Below: Slave Memorial