A Reverie Into The Shack Of Coromantines
by Ernest Armah
It would be hypocritical on the
part of anyone who has no respect for history to enjoy tales. As Africans, our wounded past much triggered by slavery and inter-tribal wars is one of those images we shouldn’t let loose from our album of history.
The coming of the Europeans to West Africa was motivated by primarily four things; religion, science, politics, and economics. From the onset, it was purely about religious proselytization. In 1441, when Prince Henry received 10 Africans from Gonzalves, a Portuguese explorer, his main object was to educate the brightest among them, convert them to Christianity, and transport them to their countries to serve their people as missionaries.
However, the 19th century saw slavery motivated paramountly by economic reasons. The huge plantation farms in the Americas (Brazil, United States, Mexico) required extra and more competent hands since the indigenes couldn’t cope with the work demands. This precipitated a rise in the number of slave exportation to the Americas. For example, it was estimated that in 1830, 135,000 slaves were being exported to the Americas per annum as compared to the 27,500 and 70,000 slaves exported in the 17th and 18th century respectively.
A chunk of the slaves were exported from modern Ghana and the Cameroons. The slaves from Ghana were called Coromantine negroes. Apparently, it was a name derived from the coastal part of the same name where the English built their first lodge somewhere in 1631. According to Edward Long, author of History of Jamaica (1774) were considered the most courageous, haughty, and most stubborn. Moreover, these coromantines were often the leaders of slave mutinies. Long reports of a particular slave mutiny “in which 33 Coromantines, most of whom had been newly imported, wounded and murdered no less than 19 Whites in the space of an hour”.
Usually, when the question “how were these Africans enslaved and commercialized?” is posed, most of us Africans are quick in placing the blame bill on the doorstep of the Europeans. Self-honesty requires of us to admit that indeed we played a role particularly from the 17th century. The chiefs especially those in the coastal areas put up a great show in this regard.
Free Africans obtained from raid and criminals were sold by the chiefs. Also, domestic slaves were resold in addition to prisoners of war.
It was more justifiable to punish a criminal by selling him or her. Hence as time went on, the punishment from the chiefs became arbitrarily. Some historians note, “subversive plots against the local government became surprisingly common in sea-coast towns off which slaves dropped anchor. The king almost always discovered a number of dangerous conspirators, and they naturally had to be sold.To eliminate all possible danger, the king also sold the conspirators’ wives, children, and brothers”.
The slaves were exchanged to guns, gun powder, calico, rum, beads, iron, copper, and money.
The slave trade wrecked the African population. About 30-40 million active, healthy, able-bodied and youthful slaves were transported out of Africa. Coupled with the consequent misery and bloodshed, the human cargo business also saw to the late development of the production of cash crops in West Africa. For example, in 1751, the British Board of Trade ordered Thomas Melville, the governor of the cape coast castle to forestall the development of cotton cultivation among the Fante on the basis that, ” the introduction of culture and industry amongst the negroes is contrary to the known established policy of this country, there is kk saying where this might stop and that it might extend to tobacco, sugar, and every other commodity which we now take from our colonies; and thereby the Africans, who now support themselves by wars, would become planters and their slaves be employed in the culture of these articles in Africa, which they are employed in America”.
The greatest impact of slavery has been argued to be upon the psychology of Africans – a shattering devastation of our confidence and worth. But judging from the present reality, I believe this has dwindled.