Between slavery and colonialism, we lost our way as a race in the corridor of history. Between millions shipped off our shores and the entire race under the jackboot regime of colonialism; we lost something, a legacy that still needs to be found.
William Wilberforce was not a member of the Parliament or cabinet but he seemed to wield great power over public opinion, and his views on politics and morals were heeded by many. He was in demand on the committees of many groups and as well at the dinner tables of hosts.
By now as well, the men with connections and associates in parliament began to rally round, too. Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp were on the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. While Sharp was the scholar, Clarkson was the man of action. Of course, there was also the Quakers also in the call.
The abolitionists cause did not stop the slave trade which still persisted for long; the slave trade simply died off. We today do not have to wait to be told to stop buying monochrome (black and white) television, we just stopped buying because it was no longer en vogue. With the war between France and England, price on sugar went up to fund the war and the duty imposed on sugar was not reduced long after the war. And when sugar started coming from voyagers from India which came cheaper. Labor in India was paid and cost lesser than maintaining slaves in the Indies.
Adam Smith, the economist had warned: “… the work done by slaves though appears to cost only their maintenance in in the end the dearest of any. A person who can acquire no property can have no other interest but to eat as much and to labor as little as possible. Whatever work he does beyond what is sufficient to purchase his maintenance can be squeezed out of him by violence only and not by any interest of his own.”
Over time, the struggle for abolition crept into literature, for as anyone knows, Literature can be defined as a mirror of the society. This mirror reflected the plight of the slaves in the plantations; however, the plays took another dimension. For as the call went on and nothing active was done, a self-consciousness crept in and there was the loss of innocence and sentiment that initially rallied for the abolition. The black man became the comic relief, as the comedies portrayed his illiterate position in the plantations. The picture of the black man was no longer a tragedy or satire, but totally a comedy.
Dr. George Pinckard, a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians published in 1806 an account of his sojourn in theWest Indies, which an abolitionist called James Stephen approved. Pinckard saw slavery at first hand and wrote: “the whole was wrong and not to be justified… nature revolted at it; and I condemned the whole system of slavery under all its forms…” however, still unable to see the black man as his equal, he further wrote, “In the gloomy imbecility of their uncultivated faculties they would be jealous of the whites…. To give them unbridled liberty… they would either murder every white or sink into the torpid states of their darker brethren of the African forests, and relapse into a state of rude and savage nature.”
With the demand for African colonization underway because of the further discoveryAfrica’s mineral wealth and other European powers jostling for territorial expansion by acquiring colonies, European-African relations took a new turn. By now the anti-slavery crusade had secured for Britain Sierra Leone, thanks to the effort of Granville Sharp, Gambia and the Gold Coast. Portugal and Britain were the biggest slave-trading nations. With the Berlin Conference of dividing Africa among European powers, Britain used its abolotionist struggles as excuse to influence gaining more territories in the Conference; hence Europe was back in the business of – not slave trade directly – but indirectly exploiting the blacks.
And so they came. To them, the uncultured Africans did not have nation states, the uncultured Africans did not have administration to run his own system of government, the uncultured Africans could trade or produce, the uncultured African natives were savages who resided on trees and caves, like orangutangs. With the guns in their hands, the colonialists were right behind the explorers and missionaries who were taking advantage of their new colonies to spread their faith or establish offshoots.
Again, the whites found these barbarous blacks later excelling in education and even going abroad for studies. Thus education and religion became tools to make Englishmen or Frenchmen (as the case may be) out of Africans. Today, Africa is struggling to catch up with the rest of the world; not because other nations did not go through evolving stages of development, but more because other nations have built their economies and social development from their system.
Our system is nothing but the extension of the West. This does not mean China or India do not use Blackberries or have nuclear programs, but these things are built with an eye for local development in their relation with the world. It is not the slave trade that ruined Africa, colonialism has caused more death to the race. Our economy has become so porous that it has been dominated by foreign imports of goods and services, which is not giving room for local markets.
Where is the Ghanaian Kwente cloth? How come palm wine is still only drunk in villages? What happened to herbal medicine? Why do we have to be afraid of being criticized of believing in Ifa? Where are our local manufacturers in international trade? Why do we brand ourselves Peter and Ali when they will never bear Glele or Taiwo?
Let the renaissance start inside your head and this will permeate to the people around us…. so that we will have good company around us. In good company our journey is short to find the legacy lost to the erosion of colonialism.