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Where slaves came from

Map of the Gold and Ivory Coasts

Areas were given names to reflect the raw materials and resources they had

WEST AFRICA supplied the majority of the slaves that went to work in the Caribbean and America. In the 18th century a long stretch of West African shoreline was called the Gold coast because of the precious metal that was found there.

Other areas were given names to reflect the raw materials and resources they had. Next to the Gold coast there was the Grain Coast and next to that the Ivory Coast. This is still the name of a country today.

The strip of land in West Africa that used to be called the Gold coast and the Grain Coast is the location for modern African countries such as Ghana, Togo and Benin. Other countries that supplied slaves were Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Angola.

These and most countries in modern Africa had their borders created during slavery and colonization. New territories were born as a result of the desire for European nations to build an overseas empire. Traditionally these were tribal people – they didn’t have, didn’t need to have, defined country boundaries. The current country map of Africa is largely the invention of Europeans.

Map of Gambia and Senegal

This led to strange divisions of land. For example the French took the West African territory of Senegal but the British claimed its interior and named it Gambia. That’s a bit like having Scotland right in the middle of England.

Senegal, like many countries in Africa, has several ethnic groups with different physical characteristics, cultures, and languages. Senegalese speak Wolof, Mandingue, Toucouleur and Peul as well as French. A few of the many languages spoken in Nigeria include Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo. English, due to the country’s colonial past, is also spoken.

Slave traders became aware of these and other differences. They said that the Mandingoes from Senegal were clever and able to steal the master’s goods. They also said that the Ashanti from the Gold Coast were good workers but likely to stir up rebellion.

Slave traders recognized that African people had a wide range of behaviour and customs.

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