Slavery and Slave Heritage in Kongo and South Africa

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HEYWOOD, LINDA M. “Slavery and Its Transformation in the Kingdom of Kongo: 1491?1800.” The Journal of African History 50, no. 01 (2009): 1-22.


Studies of slavery in Africa during the period of the Atlantic slave trade have largely ignored questions of how political processes affected enslavement during the period and also the extent to which notions of who could be enslaved were modified. Documentation for the kingdom of Kongo during the 1500s to 1800 allows us to explore how the trade was sustained and the social and political dynamics behind it. In a state that consistently exported large numbers of slaves throughout the period of the trade, kings of Kongo at first observed quite a pronounced distinction between foreign-born captives subject to enslavement and sale in the Atlantic trade and freeborn Kongos who were largely proctected from enslavement and sale overseas. In time, however, the distinctions that separated foreign-born and Kongos fell apart as later political authorities and others disregarded such distinctions and all Kongos became subject to enslavement and sale overseas. This was a product of internal Kongo conflicts, which witnessed the collapse of institutions and the redefinition of polity, what it meant to be a citizen or freeborn, and who could be enslaved.

WORDEN, NIGEL. “The Changing Politics of Slave Heritage in the Western Cape, South Africa.” The Journal of African History 50, no. 01 (2009): 23-40.


Changes that have taken place in the ways in which the slave past has been remembered and commemorated in the Western Cape region of South Africa provide insight into the politics of identity in this locality. During most of the twentieth century, public awareness of slave heritage was well buried, but the ending of apartheid provided a new impetus to acknowledge and memorialize the slave past. This engagement in public history has been a vexed process, reflecting contested concepts of knowledge and the use of heritage as both a resource and a weapon in contemporary South African identity struggles.

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