Triangular Trade?

In my last post, I left off briefly discussing the European powers that developed the transatlantic slave trade— a presumably three-point cycle between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Dr. Catherine Adams, professor of history department and co-coordinator of the black studies department led a discussion in our class about the black experience during Western colonization. We looked at poetry and books to further dive into the relationship between how people talk about slavery.

This semester I am also taking a course specialized in the geography of sub-Saharan Africa taught by Dr. Rogalsky of the geography department. In this class we read the book, Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone by Martin Dugard. This book— as the titles alludes to— tells the stories of the two explorers: Dr. David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley during their explorations of Africa to ultimately fine the true source of the Nile river in the late 1800s (which, if you were interested, is still a highly debated topic).

I would first like to point out the fact that without the native Africans, these two explorers would have little to no success or would have died pretty quickly. Stanley especially, had three to five caravans of Africans those of who carried supplies, provide knowledge about ethnic tribes and boundaries, helped with local illness, and more. Unfortunately, Stanley was ruthless and mistreated the porters to a point where in the novel the porters at one point wanted to kill him. If one porter escaped, he would send other porters to go retrieve them. One thing that I found mind boggling was that a lot of the early European porters would rename already named locations amongst the locals. After Stanley’s exploration ended his fame for the exploration aided the creation of the transatlantic slave trade.

In our class with Dr. Adams, we discussed the appearance of the transatlantic slave trade. In the photo, it appears to be a linear system: with goods leaving both the Americas and Europe into Africa and with materials leaving Africa as well. However, one separate line holds the arrow that labels slaves going from Africa to the Americas. The more we looked at in class, we realized that the ‘triangle’ was nothing short of nonlinear. We discussed how it can be insulting to refer to things as ‘bodies.’ You call many things bodies: as in bodies of water and other types of space. That is why it is so important to reserve the dignity of those humans.

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