Woman King: Dahomey Amazons In The Slave Trade

Woman King: Slave Trading Kingdoms Of Africa

Slave Trading African Empires that were involved in the Transatlantic Slave Trade in Pre-Colonial Africa included the Kingdoms of Dahomey and Benin in West Africa which are depicted in the Film The Woman King which shows the role played by the Dahomey Amazons in the Slave Trade on behalf of the African Slave Trading Kingdom of Dahomey.

Its estimated that close to 11 Million Africans were sent from the African Continent to the New World as a result of the activities of African Slave Trading African Kingdoms like Dahomey who used warriors to capture Slaves as shown by the Dahomey Amazons in The Woman King who assisted in Dahomey’s Slave Trade.

Origins and Development Of The Slave Trade In Africa

When Europeans arrived in Africa in the 15th Century, they found an African interior already dominated by powerful African States with well-developed Political, Military and Economic systems.

These African States exercised total control over the African hinterland all the way to the Coastline.

For this reason, Europeans could not act outside the authority of these well-established African States such as Dahomey shown in The Woman King.

For instance, the construction of Slave Forts like the infamous Elmina Castle was undertaken after consultation and agreement with local Chiefs with pre-existing authority over the area.

European partnerships and alliances with African Rulers were therefore fundamental to the success of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Slave empires

In addition, Europeans were confined to the Coastal areas where the Slave Forts were located and did not enter the African interior to raid and capture Slaves on their own.

They remained dependant on African Kings and Traders who would capture Slaves in the African interior and transport them to Coastal Slave Forts where they would be sold to Europeans and kept until they were shipped to the New World. 

Why Africans Were Involved In The Slave Trade

The fact that Africans enslaved Africans as shown by the Dahomey Amazons engaged in the Slave Trade in The Woman King, has been explained with reference to the fact that there was no universal African identity at the time of the Slave Trade because African Society was organised along Tribal and Ethnic lines.

In addition, Slavery was not completely foreign to Africa because the institution already existed prior to the arrival of Europeans.

For instance, Wars between African Kingdoms such as the Asante and Fante produced captives and prisoners of War that were treated as Slaves within African Society.

As shown by the Dahomey Amazons involved in the Slave Trade in The Woman King, Africans were also attracted to European consumer goods such as Whiskey which they exchanged for Slaves.

However, whilst the Transatlantic Slave tried greatly increased the demand for Slaves, it was not responsible for introducing the concept of Slavery to Africa.

As demonstrated in The Woman King, African Kingdoms such as the Ashanti and Dahomey used the Dahomey Amazons to wage Wars to capture more Slaves and grew enormous wealth and power from their involvement in the Slave Trade

The Woman King also deals with the instability and chaos the Slave Trade created amongst competing African Nations that were engaged in the Slave Trade.

Ultimately, it does not seem possible that the Transatlantic Slave Trade would have existed on such a large scale without the complicity of the powerful African Nations such as the Dahomey Amazons of Benin who controlled the African interior as The Woman King correctly demonstrates.

As such, in considering the History of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, its also important to acknowledge the role played by Africans in the trade because ascribing the entire Transatlantic Slave Trade to Europeans would amount to a denial not only of African involvement, but it would also suggest that African States such as Dahomey and its powerful Amazons that were involved in the Slave Trade were powerless to prevent the Slave Trade in circumstances where the Historical power and development of Pre-Colonial African States at the time of European arrival demonstrates that this simply could not be the case because of the total dominance Africans held over the African interior.

As The Woman King shows, the activities of the Dahomey Amazons and other African Nations in the Slave Trade created chaos and ultimately weakened African States, paving the way for the arrival of Christian Missionaries and Colonialism