The information was obtained at Benin city, in November, 1897, from the following chiefs :—
- Chief Ariyo - Court Historian.
- Eseri - Juju man (Royal Priest)
- Ossa - Juju man (Royal Priest)
- Osuon - Juju man (Royal Priest)
- Ihollo - Master Smith.
- Ihollo II - Master Wood Carver.
- Ine - Master Ivory Carver.
On Benin involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade Benin Chiefs had this to say:
“King Esige or Osawe was very old and could not walk about, but all the time he could tell his boys that he was a white man when he was born, and he wanted to see white man again before he died. So they sent messengers with some tusks as presents to the country by the big water where white men used to come, and they told the messenger to go and salute any white man they found there, and beg him to come; which they did. And ever since then white men have come to Benin. The white men stayed long, many many years; they came to trade, and if a man comes to trade he must sit down and sell his things softly, softly,—they used to buy ivory, redwood, oil, gum and slaves, but principally ivory—in return they brought guns, powder, rum, salt, cloth and silk. Then there was a different white man who used to come, but he only bought slaves. When he came, a messenger used to come before him to tell everyone he was coming; then if a man had any slaves to sell, he could send to farm to get them. But he only paid a poor price, 1-4 bags. These white men used to sit down at Gwatto, and there they built houses, big houses with big doors in which they kept their goods and slaves.” Page 5.
Evidence from this narrative proves beyond reasonable doubt that the concept of large scale trading in slaves was not a practice that the Benin people were used to: “Then there was a different white man who used to come, but he only bought slaves. When he came, a messenger used to come before him to tell everyone he was coming; then if a man had any slaves to sell, he could send to farm to get them.”
The slaves sold to this one Whiteman were domestic slaves working on family farms. Fewer hands working on the farm meant less food for sale and consumption for the families. They would only have sold any slaves to keep their Whiteman friend happy.
The Benin farmers were also not aware of what happened to the slaves after leaving Benin, otherwise their high moral compass would have stopped them selling part of their household for whatever price.
Additionally, there was no incentive for them to engage in trading in slaves,‘ But he only paid a poor price, 1-4 bags.’
The White slavers conducted their business outside of Benin City with little interest from the Benin people and their Kings: “These white men used to sit down at Gwatto, and there they built houses, big houses with big doors in which they kept their goods and slaves.”
Fact: it is false to claim that the Kingdom of Benin engaged in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. As evidenced by the Benin elders’ narrative above, from the time of Oba Esigie (1504 – 1550) to 1897, there was no commercial large scale slave trading in the kingdom.
Fact: Oba Esigie (1504 – 1550) who could speak, read and write Portuguese fluently (Edo World Net) was mixed race Benin and European ( Moor & Roupell in Read & Dalton,1897, p8).
1) Edo World Net, Oba Esigie, accessed: http://edoworld.net/Oba_Esigie_1.html
2) Nimmons F. Primary History, 2015, pages 36 – 37
3) Ibid page 49
4) Nimmons F. Slavery History- accessed: http://slaverystory.blogspot.co.uk/
5) Nimmons F. Edo on Slavery – Accessed: http://slaverystory.blogspot.co.uk/p/edo-on-slavery.html
6) READ C.H, & DALTON O,M, ANTIQUITIES FROM THE CITY OF BENlN AND FROM OTHER PARTS OF WEST AFRICA IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM, 1899, PAGE4.
Accessed MMA Digital Collections
7) Ibid Page 5.
8) Ibid page 8.