Igbo people in the Atlantic slave trade

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The Igbo , whose traditional territory is called the Bight of Biafra (also known as the Bight of Bonny), [1] became one of the principal ethnic groups to be enslaved during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. [2] An estimated 14.6% of all slaves were taken from the Bight of Biafra between 1650 and 1900. The Bight’s major slave trading ports were located in Bonny and
Calabar.
[3] . The majority of Igbo slaves were kidnapped during village raids. The journey for Igbo slaves often began in the ancient Cave Temple that was located in Arochukwu Kingdom. [4] During this period, the three Igbo Kingdoms followed the same culture and religion, yet tended to operate very differently from each other. The Kingdom of Nri and the Independent Igbo States (confederation of independently ruled Igbo states) did not practice slavery, and slaves from neighbouring lands would often flee to these kingdoms in order to be set free. Arochukwu, on the other hand, practiced a system of indentured servitude that was remarkably different to chattel slavery in the Americas. Eventually, with Europeans beginning to encroach on Igbo territory, causing the kingdoms to desire weaponry to defend themselves. In order to obtain European goods and weaponry, Arochukwu began to raid villages of the other Igbo kingdoms – primarily those located in the Igbo hinterlands. People would be captured, regardless of gender, social status, or age. Slaves could have been originally farmers, nobility, or even people who had committed petty crimes.
[5] These captured slaves would be taken and sold to the British on the coast. Another way people were enslaved was through the divine oracle who resided in the Cave Temple complex. [6] All Igbos practiced divination called Afa, but the Kingdom of Arochukwu was different because it was headed by a divine oracle who was in charge of making decisions for the king. During this time, if someone committed a crime, was in debt, or did something considered an “abomination” (for example, the killing of certain kinds of animals was considered an abomination due to its association with certain deities), they would be taken to the cave complex to face the oracle for sentencing. The oracle, who was also influenced by the British would sentence these people to slavery, even for small crimes. The victim would be commanded to walk further into the cave so that the spirits could “devour” them, but, in reality, they were taken to an opening on the other side and loaded directly onto a waiting boat. This boat would take them to a slave ship en route to the Americas.

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