Housework In African Societies – part 4 and conclusion
Can the role Africans played in slavery really be defended? How different is the modern House help role in Africa from the African concept of slavery?
With regards to the first question I ask, freehold slavery existed throughout the world before the enslavement of Africans and Indians by Europeans. The argument that Africans tribes who engaged in trade with the slavers could have had no way of knowing how the Europeans would use their captives, is true to a large extent. A majority of Africans may not have known to what extent chattel slavery was brutal, but there must have been ample evidence with those who worked closely with the slave traders.
Treatment of slaves on African soil before the journey across the oceans is well documented. Moreover the act of kidnapping and enslaving men and women who are not criminals or debtors went against one of the fundamental principle of freehold slavery in African culture. The slaves were not to be indebted to their owners for a specified period of time. Nevertheless chattel slavery was very different from what Africans understood as slavery. The identifiable class system, slave = black, was perhaps a concept not fully acknowledged by a people who had defined themselves for centuries by clan lineage and kingdoms. The white versus black role in slavery was perhaps not yet entrenched in their minds. They were still preoccupied with long established rivalries amongst themselves as Africans.
In response to my second question, modern day House Helps in Africa can in some cases be regarded as freehold slaves with token salaries and rights.... That might seem like Africans are still bound by old customs and beliefs that should have little relevance in modern society, but perhaps that is because their concept of slavery was less base in the first place.