23 August 2013


Guest Writer: Carl Terver             

Shackles used to bind slaves. UN Photo/Mark Garten
Shackles used to bind slaves. UN Photo/Mark Garten
Invention rules the world, and it can be speculated that those who invent steer the course of the world. Man has invented a lot; adventure for example, is typical of spurring invention. 

Before the 15th century and the centuries that followed the era of the slave trade, slavery had existed under varying guises. You only have to look back in history to observe that. Before I go further I’ll want us to look at the stages of development man has undergone beginning from the Stone Age, Neolithic age and the modern times. Man was a wanderer (hunter) before settling; organising the home and cultivating crops. This period was known as communalism, until society was stratified into feudalism and then capitalism. These stages of development were characterised by the level of civilisation attained across respective worlds. In this discourse I shall settle for where ‘division of labour’ emerged as an inevitable partner in the civilisation progress. The key word is ‘labour’, human labour.
Indigenous African Slavers Traveling From the Interior
Source: "Voyage à la Côte Occidentale d'Afrique" by Louis Degrandpré
Feudalism and capitalism bore an urgency for ‘human labour’ and it soon became a commodity. Although this could be considered natural, however an arbitrary few seized this fate to customise and to benefit the mechanism of the ‘developing world’ at the time. It was a matter of time before such idea became concretised after the discovery of the New World and the demand for human labour was hiked. Racial theories appeared and man found reasons to withhold the body-will-and-behaviour of his fellow man. If humans - in droves - could become cargo, the world met a new invention. The Slave Trade.

Due to its appalling and bitter history, the Slave Trade is often shied from and gradually it has crept into the academic field of dissertation. It’s an idea, a phenomenon, it doesn’t exist. Too oft and unfortunately even the sufferers of its legacy and crime avert anything about it, afterall it’s a thing of the past. Questionable . . . It’s not so easy to dismiss therefore palaeontology.

A Slave Barracoon
Source: "Boy Travelers on the Congo" by Thomas W Knox
The Slave Trade is one occupation the world witnessed that left an indelible blight in all the places trespassed. I hope to explore (an attempt) the pathological effects of it on the continent, Africa.  Here we are in the 21st century asked to commemorate International Day for the Remembrance of The Slave Trade and its Abolition; I say its such a poetic experience. There is a tendency to take this for granted, to treat this day like there is not much to learn from it but is this so? What about the question of history? But we all know the axiom, don’t we? History teaches us lessons but we choose to memorise the dates.

The story of Africa hasn’t been told in many ways, although others have tried to tell it, to free it from its imprisonment. This story not been told has/had led to ignorant assumptions, the chief among them being that the African continent is an aside of the world. No arguments. This could be veritable because of the wrongs perpetrated on it. There are arguments but they are polemical and endless. In one news, the leaders of the ancient African kingdoms sold as slaves, prisoners of war to the slave masters, in other news we know of course that there must have been external forces from the slave masters to coerce the movement. All said, we begin to see the rot of man’s soul. But what did it result to?

At the time there was a disruption of indigenous characteristics in the social order of the villages and kingdoms affected which resulted and hitherto, to the deconstruction of the psychological construct in the personality of the African, crisis of identity, and underdevelopment to a degree. It was able to make room and nurse the geometry of racial sphere; inventing the ‘third world’ society; and creating the widest chasm in human history of co-existing as inhabitants of the world. In essence it left development on one side of the world and impoverishment on the other side.

I’ve said somewhere that the world is like a journey and accidents do occur; we are victims whether we survive or either way. The question is if the Slave Trade was an unfortunate accident in history, could it have been avoided or was it a necessity? Studies of the Slave Trade reveals that it was inevitable as feudalism and capitalism were developments borne out of social stratification and the demand for slave workers (human labour) in the New World pressed for invention! Many years after peoples of the world had been dishonoured, obfuscated and robbed of their social and cosmological evolution the saviour-industrial-complex emerged in the name of colonialism because you see, Africans, Indians, the South Americas and the many other dispossessed people of the world were an aside that needed to be brought into the world of classic civilisation - brought into the giant world when they had been dwarfed and left behind . . .

As this day is remembered, the Slave Trade and its Abolition, I can draw similar lines to the ‘inexpressible joy’ of Martin Luther King Jr when the United States Supreme Court ruled bus segregation unconstitutional in Montgomery, Alabama, and someone shouted from the back of the courtroom: ‘God Almighty has spoken from Washington’. Though I didn’t experience the Abolition of the Slave Trade but reading about it, it only left a pale impression on me of how the body-will-and-behaviour of a suffering lot could be debated over. God has created man and man is such a specie. So what are we celebrating or commemorating if not the efforts of NO-sayers who stood up to challenge the moral normalcy of their day? Let us call to mind those great Brits, Africans, African-Americans, who fought against slavery, who believed in humanity; believed that all men are created equal, who did not remain passive to the evil of slavery and theft of the human right. That we must always stand up against evil perpetrated by men abrogating the freewill God bestowed to man.

International Day for the Remembrance of Slave Trade and its Abolition is a day to remember and honour.

CARL TERVER is a young Nigerian writer. His interests are present in the themes he chooses to explore. He's also a poet and has been published in anthologies. Find him on Twitter @CarlTerver.


  1. I know Sir Carl Terver, a fine writer..someone I'd like to meet face to face sometime in the future.

    I think he has a mind like mine.

    "I’ve said somewhere that the world is like a journey and accidents do occur; we are victims whether we survive or either way."

    Well done bro.

  2. O Terver was here? Good. I must express gratiude to the humane forces all, that heaped up to this means; and my knowledge of it. O Carl, I thank my lucky stars as well, to have shone my way, whereof meeting you came into likelihood. No words yet. And for this trending thread, I do graces to the ground upon which it was planted, to mark the significant event of our servitude with a social activity as this. It's worth frequented and honoured, though our hearts are to be held - while a kind of knife [of remembrance] goes again on the scar of that past when our ancestors where properties of those seeming superiors. All thankings, Carl. And to we all, who enjoy now the apparent fruition of independence and or renaissance: our piteous ancestors [though all content with their deed for our sake] now sleeping with their fathers, who paid this debt, either died upon the act or latter, all worth our reverence. May we always see in what a pity they ended and wear their ashes on our forehead. But I pray us all to bear me witness that they met their fate like brave men. As for me, may we all die in that old uniform in which they fought our battles for freedom. May God forgive us for putting on another. How ready are we guys? Do we roll? And you Terver, you've done what you could. This is my stuff. My deference!

  3. Oludipe Oyin Samuel2 September 2013 at 19:06

    'I see Tango paving ways'. I had not misconceived, had not doubted its gradual fulfillment.