What is it like to be a slave


Early forms of slavery

A slave is a disenfranchised person who is held, kidnapped, abused and economically exploited against his will. A slave is a person who is declared the property of another person.

Slavery is an expression of violence between people or human societies. Slavery is an act of submission that dates back to the early days of human cultures.

Instead of killing the defeated enemies after a war, for example, some peoples and groups began to capture them, kidnap them and exploit them.

Debt, punishment, discrimination and profitability are the main drivers for people to take possession of other people as a commodity and enslave them.

Slavery was widespread in the ancient civilizations. The ancient oriental societies of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Judaism, Greece, Rome - most of these ancient cultures would have been inconceivable without the systematic disenfranchisement and exploitation of the slave class.

In ancient Greece, slavery relieved the Athenian citizens, who thereby gained enough leisure and leisure to take care of political issues and to participate in democratic society. And the Roman Empire was also a tough slavery society.

In the heyday of Rome, 20,000 Roman citizens faced 400,000 slaves who did work in all areas of life without wages.

Slavery in Africa and the Arab countries

Between the 8th and 12th centuries, the Islamic-Arab region was the most dynamic region in world history, which had a great need for slaves.

In the Middle Ages, mainly slaves from Eastern Europe were carried away via the Black Sea and from Central Europe (via Magdeburg, Regensburg, Mainz, Prague, Venice, Verdun, Narbonne and Barcelona).

It is possible that the word "slave" originally comes from the Arabic term "saqaliba", from which the ethnic term "slav" is derived.

Historians estimate that the slave trade in the Arab region between the 7th and 20th centuries was roughly on a par with the slave trade in the Atlantic-American region between 1450-1860.

But slavery also existed in sub-Saharan Africa long before America was discovered. Since in Africa property in the traditional understanding does not primarily mean control of land, but control of people, it made sense to swap or sell people.

Between the 7th and 20th centuries, millions of people were sold into slavery in Africa via the north and the Sahara as well as the east - via the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Finally, in the era of colonization, the slave trade began on the west coast of Africa, which in turn sold and deported millions of Africans to the American continent.

Transatlantic slave trade

This most notorious phase in the history of slavery began with the discovery of the "New World" in 1492. The west coast of Africa, which had already been occupied by the Europeans, subsequently became the most important transshipment point for slaves.

The European colonial powers drove millions of black Africans into slavery in order to sell them on the plantations in Brazil, in the Caribbean and in the southern states of the USA.

This slave transfer lasted around 400 years. Particularly in the 17th century, the demand for cheap labor for the sugar cane, cotton and tobacco plantations on the American continent took on great proportions.

Through the Age of Enlightenment, the mood in Europe changed and the first protests against slavery became loud. The abolition of slavery was finally initiated by several factors: by the self-liberation of the slaves, for example during the famous slave revolt on Saint-Domingue (today's Haiti) 1791-1803, by religiously motivated groups such as the Quakers, who rejected the slave trade, and by the Movement of the abolitionists (abolition = abolition, abolition).

Denmark banned human trade as early as 1722, England joined in 1807. The abolition of slavery in the southern United States at the end of the American Civil War (1865) marked the end of institutionally legitimized slavery in the industrialized nations.

At the end of the 19th century, the slave trade was formally banned on the African continent.

Modern slavery

Today all states worldwide have officially abolished slavery, most recently the African state of Mauritania in 1980. But the abolition only exists on paper - the phenomenon of slavery is unbroken.

Forms of modern slavery are political imprisonment, child labor, forced prostitution, the recruitment of child soldiers and the classic forms of serfdom and economic exploitation.

The renowned American slavery researcher Kevin Bales distinguishes the ancient slavery of earlier times from the manifestations of modern slavery, which today defy any legal legality:

“In the past, slavery meant that one person legally owned another; modern slavery does not. Today, slavery is banned worldwide, so it is no longer possible to legally own people.

If someone buys slaves nowadays, he does not ask for a receipt or title deed, but rather acquires the power of disposal over another person and uses force to maintain it.

Slaveholders enjoy all the benefits of ownership without being legally entitled to do so. In fact, it is actually beneficial for slave owners to be illegitimate owners, as this allows them to fully control the slaves without assuming any responsibility whatsoever for them. So I prefer the term slave owner to slave owner. "

According to Bales' assessment, the lack of legality in modern forms of slavery is even to the detriment of the enslaved people and to the advantage of the slave owners. Bales estimates that at least 27 million people are living in slavery-like circumstances today. The Global Slavery Index assumes 40 million slaves. The number of unreported cases is probably much higher.