The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: an examination of the incorrectness of the Ghana senior high school history syllabus.

Author:Bonsu, Nana Osei


'Slavery' does not lend itself to a single and easy definition. There are many definitions for the phenomenon and this is because scholars define it to suit their cultural and social background (Bonsu, 2015). Moreover, the kind of slavery that existed in the Gold Coast (a former British colony until 1957, now the independent nation of Ghana) was different from that of Europe. Indigenous slavery existed in various forms before the arrival of the Europeans in the Gold Coast. These following terms were associated with servitude in Ghana: Ahubanyi, Odonko or Adihyifunafu or Akoa (all in the Akan language). R. S. Rattray (1929) found out that in Asante, the term akoa did not mean 'slave' in the degrading European sense, but to anyone in a subordinate position such as the subject of a ruler. Again, Adihyifunafu was a voluntary slave who sought protection from a powerful family whenever he or she was in crisis or hardship.

Persons under bondage in the Gold Coast enjoyed privileges in many respects and in most cases the distinction between an enslaved and the free person was slender. An enslaved person could marry, own properties and sometimes even own slaves themselves (Falola, 1987). Enslaved persons often enjoyed social mobility and this allowed servile persons to rise to positions of authority and influence in many the Gold Coast societies. In some cases, persons in servitude in privileged households enjoyed higher standards of living than poor free persons. Moreover, the enslaved status in societies like the Fante Ghana could not be transmitted beyond the second generation. Enslaved Ghanaians were thus treated humanely and with dignity before the introduction of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. According to Boahene (1975), this trans-Atlantic slave trade began with the arrival of the Portuguese on the coast from 1470 onwards and later followed by the French, the English, the Dutch and the Danes. It is important to note that the Ghanaian senior high school history syllabus (2010) gave these following reasons for the arrival of the Europeans in the Gold Coast to search for a sea route to the Far East for commodities and to facilitate direct trade in the Gold resources of West Africa (the trade in Gold later resorted to a trade in 'slaves').

Primary and secondary sources were used for this study. Hence, study largely employed secondary sources such as books and articles; although primary sources were used to verify the authenticity of the secondary sources (secondary sources were carefully collected and verified for its authenticity before they were analyzed for the study).

The Problem

History is a subject of study in the Ghanaian senior high school. In the second year, students study a unit called: "The Coming of Europeans" under which a sub-topic called "Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade" (the notion of 'trade' is a dishonest reading of history) can be found. Under the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, students are to examine the positive and negative effects of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Ghanaian senior high school history syllabus (2010) outlined positive effects of slavery such as:

* Introduction of new crops

* European cloths

* Home and work equipment

* Literacy

* Religion

* Employment opportunities in offices

* Commerce work

And the negative effects such as:

* Intensification of the inter-ethnic wars

* Depopulation

* Displacement of Africans to the Diaspora

One can see from the above that the positive effects given by the writers of...

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