Africa, Slavery, Race, Ideology


Common historical interpretations of the Atlantic slave system often lose the position Africa within the political-economic haze of the era, either producing confused accounts or eliding the question of causality altogether. I argue that this tendency stems from the corrosive effects of the historian’s position as an observer from the present, and that to understand why Africa was the prime location for the source of human slaves, one needs to take a materialist approach to the problem of origins. Only through careful examination of empire, the plantation complex, and the genesis of the Atlantic working classes can one arrive at a proper understanding of the thorny but interrelated issues of race and the beginnings of the African slave trade.