Capture of Slaves & Coffles in Africa

  • Abandoned Slaves, Central Africa, 1866

    Captioned Slaves Abandoned, this engraving shows a small group of captured African who were left to die, some with the slave sticks still around their necks; hyenas hovering in the background. These people were being taken across Central Africa to the east coast of Africa. On June 27, 1866, Livingstone recorded: To-day we came upon a man dead from starvation . . . One of our men wandered and found a number of slaves with slave-sticks on, abandoned by their master from want of food; they were too weak to be able to speak or say where they had dome from; some were quite young (p. 62). This engraving, as others in the book, was made from one of Livingstone's sketches. Although often reproduced in modern secondary sources, the primary source is rarely cited. Also published in J. E. Chambliss, The Life and Labors of David Livingstone (Philadelphia, 1875), p. 439, where it is captioned Left to their Fate; in The Life and African Explorations of Dr. David Livingstone (St. Louis, 1874), p. 123; and in Thomas W. Knox, The Boy Travellers on the Congo (New York, 1888), p. 421, where it is captioned slaves left to die; Knox is sometimes, erroneously, cited as the primary source.
  • Arab Slavers Attacking Village, East Africa, 1871

    Caption: The massacre of the Manyuema women at Nyangwe, a scene described by Livingstone in July 1871, in which he reports that the Arabs themselves estimated the loss of life at between 330 and 400 souls (pp. 382-384). This engraving, as others in the book, was made from one of Livingstone's sketches (see also, images C014 and knox02). This image is reproduced in Thomas W. Knox, The Boy Travellers on the Congo (New York, 1888), p. 219, where it is captioned Muini Dujambi's Followers Attacking Nyangwè. Knox's book, in turn, is a condensation of Henry Stanley's famous Through the Dark Continent (New York, 1878), but the Knox publishers took their images from several volumes of African travel exploration (p.2), without citing their sources. (Thanks to Eugene Rae for assistance)
  • Slave Coffle, Central Africa, 1874

    Caption: Slave Gang Passing Along the Edge of the Lushivi Marsh. From a sketch by Lieutenant Cameron in Central Africa. The engraving is based on a sketch that illustrates a lengthy account (p. 366) of Verney Lovett Cameron's voyage to Africa. Cameron, lauded by the ILN as one of the most successful of African geographical explorers had recently returned to England, having left in November 1872 under the auspices of the Royal Geographical Society. He traveled through Central and East Africa in the early 1870s, and witnessed this slave coffle in central Africa around 1874: the painful march of a slave gang, two or three score wretched women all tied together by knotted ropes, all heavily laden and driven on by the whip . . . . The slaves were kidnapped by a ruffian named Coimbra, a half-caste Portuguese from Bihe(p. 366). A similar engraving is published in Cameron's Across Africa (Leipzig, 1877), vol. 2, p. 147.
  • Slave Coffle, East Africa, 1880s

    Although depicting a scene in the East African slave trade, the scene is evocative of coffles in other areas. Captioned A slave gang in Zanzibar, the setting is actually the East African coast rather than the island of Zanzibar itself, and some of the enslaved Africans with this particular trader came from beyond Lake Tanganyika . . . months ago. The picture shows captured Africans linked by metal (?) neck collars and chains, carrying baskets of goods, and guarded by an armed Arab slaver. The engraving is based on a sketch furnished by W. A. Churchill, and the brief accompanying article (p. 342) provides a description and harsh criticism of the Arab slave trade.
  • Enslaved Africans in a Coffle, Eastern Sudan, 1848

    Captioned, Habitants de Kery réduits a l'esclavage par le gourverneur des provinces égyptiennes (The inhabitants of Kery reduced to slavery by the governor of the Egyptian provinces), this illustration accompanies a lengthy excerpt from Pierre Trémaux, Voyages au Soudan oriental et dans l'Afrique septentrionale, exécuté de 1847 a 1854 (Paris, 1852-58). Shows several enslaved Africans guarded by two rifle-armed men, one on a camel, the other on a donkey; what appears to be an elephant's tusk (ivory) is lashed to the latter. The enslaved African on the right, lashed to the camel by a rope, is also forced to carry a tusk, while the other enslaved African is lashed to the camel by means of a wooden yoke, the so-called Goree, or Slave-Stick. Lithograph made from a drawing done in the field by Trémaux. In the plates accompanying Trémaux's work (plate 48), the fuller caption to this illustration indicates these enslaved Africans were sent to Egypt in 1848. Although the Ottomans, who nominally controlled Egypt, abolished the slave trade in 1846, enslaved Africans continued to be brought into Egypt from the Sudan for many years afterwards.
  • Enslaved Ethnic Groups, East Africa, Upper Nile Region, 1840s

    Shows four men and one woman (with baby on her back), representing several types of tribus de negres (Negro tribes) involved in the slave trade, identified (from left to right), as Macoua, Inhamban, Maravi/Moravi, Muyao; the adults are shown with facial scarifications or so-called tribal marks. This illustration accompanies a lengthy eyewitness account by Loarer (no first name given) on slavery on the east coast of Africa (pp. 135-138). The author describes in ethnocentric terms, the characteristics of each of these groups (pp. 135-136).
  • A Slave Coffle at Rest, East Africa, Upper Nile Region, 1840s

    Captioned Halte d'une caravane d'esclaves (A stop/resting place for a slave coffle), shows a group of enslaved Africans linked by wooden poles, the so-called Goree, or Slave-Stick; in center, the Arab slave trader is smoking a hookah or waterpipe. This illustration accompanies a lengthy eyewitness account by Loarer (no first name given) on slavery on the east coast of Africa (pp. 135-138).
  • Slave Coffle, East Africa, Upper Nile region, 1840s

    Captioned Caravane d'éclaves, illustration shows five enslaved men linked by poles in the so-called Goree, or Slave-Stick Goree; Arab slave trader in foreground. This illustration accompanies a lengthy eyewitness account by Loarer (no first name given) on slavery on the east coast of Africa (pp. 135-138).
  • Securing Enslaved Captives, Congo, 1880s

    From a series of illustrations, titled
  • Moslem Slave Raid on a Village, Central Africa, early 1880s

  • Forked Stick Used on Captured Africans, 1860s

    Caption: Goree, or Slave-Stick. Livingstone does not appear to describe this slave stick, but a French naval officer, in the Angola region in the late eighteenth century, describes how slave traders used a forked branch which opens exactly to the size of a neck so the head can't pass through it. The forked branch is pierced with two holes so that an iron pin comes across the neck of the slave . . . so that the smallest movement is sufficient to stop him and even to strangle him (see LCP-12 on this website; also, PRO-4, Mariners09). The term Goree refers to Goree Island (in present-day Senegal), from which French slavers transported captured Africans.
  • Slave Coffle, Dahomey, 1850

    The Slave Chain, shows group linked together by chain or rope in front of a small building; European slave traders in background. Forbes describes his visit to Little Popo, an extensive slave port . . . .The houses are badly built; that in which I am living forms the four sides of a square . . . . the fourth [side] is a stable and sleeping house for the blacks, many of whom have the small-pox (vol. 1, pp. 98-100).
  • Slave Coffle, East Africa, 1873

    Caption, manner of fettering slaves; men and women linked together by rope or chain around their necks. Based on observations made in October, 1873; perhaps in Tanganyika.
  • Africans Captured near the Coast, late 18th cent.

    The title of the engraving is L'embarquement des Negres. Foreground shows coastal scene with captive Africans being whipped and guarded by other Africans, presumably their captors; in background, an African village and European ship (slave ship?) waiting offshore. A very similar scene is shown on another engraving, A view taken near Bain, on the coast of Guinea in Affrica, engraved by Catherine Prestell, London, 1789; see, for example, websites,, and the website of the National Maritime Museum (Greenwich), Picture Gallery, image F0879. The original is identified as a colored aquatint, done by Catherine Prestell after R. Westal.
  • Slave Coffle, Western Sudan, 1879-81

    A line of men and women lashed together by ropes, guarded by a horse-mounted slave trader. Although captioned victims of Portuguese slave hunters, the caption is misleading. The illustration in Buel's volume is, in fact, taken from Joseph Simon Gallièni, Mission d'exploration du Haut-Niger: Voyage au Soudan Francais (Paris, 1885), p. 525, where the caption reads Le Mana-Oulè et caravan d'esclaves. Mana-Oulè is the rocky geological formation shown in the background (located in, roughly, present-day Mali), and the slave traders are not Portuguese, but Mande-speaking Africans (Soninke [Sarakole] or Dioula [Jula]). We are grateful to Martin Klein for his identification of the primary source from which Buel's illustration was taken.
  • Wooden Yoke Used in Coffle, East Africa, 1882

  • Captive Africans Transported by Canoe, Congo, 1880s

    The author lived in the Congo for six years, 1883-1889, and provides a vivid account of slaving activities in the Congo basin. The following excerpt describes the illustration (captioned A Slaver's Canoe) shown here, on a tributary of the Congo River: I met dozens of canoes . . . whose owners had come up and bought slaves, and were returning with their purchases. When traveling from place to place on the river the slaves are, for convenience, relieved of the weight of the heavy shackles. The traders always carry, hanging from the sheathes of their knives, light handcuffs, formed of cord and cane. The slave when purchased is packed on the floor of the canoe in a crouching posture with his hands bound in front of him by means of these handcuffs. During the voyage he is carefully guarded by the crew of standing paddlers; and when the canoe is tied to the bank at night the further precaution is taken of changing the position in which the hands are bound and pinioning them behind his back, to prevent him from endeavoring to free himself by gnawing through the strands (Glave, pp. 832-33). (Katherine Prior brought Glave's account to our attention.) Also published in Thomas W. Knox, The Boy Travellers on the Congo (New York, 1887).
  • Slave Coffle, East Africa, 1891

    Caption: Under the Portuguese Flag. Slavery in the Portuguese districts of South-east Africa. from a sketch by Sir John Willoughby. Accompanies an article (p. 275) of the same title, the first of three articles dealing with slavery in this area. The engraving (by G. Durand) was based on a sketch by Willoughby who visited the area, up to 500 miles inland from the coast, in November 1891, and who personally witnessed . . . scenes of violence and oppression. On one occasion, he saw two gangs of slaves, each consisting of of a dozen women, mostly with little children on their backs, and all chained together by means of heavy lengths of chains attached to iron rings round their necks. Daniel Mannix, Black Cargoes (New York, 1962), after p. 146, gives a misleading caption and erroneously dates this engraving to the 1870s.
  • Slave Coffle, Central Africa, 1866

    Captioned, Slavers Revenging their Losses, shows a coffle of men, women, and children, led by Arab slavers; one of the guards is murdering a captive unable to keep up with the rest. These people were taken across Central Africa to the east coast of Africa. The engravings in this book are based on, according to the editor, rude sketches made by Livingstone. On June 19, 1866, Livingstone wrote: We passed a woman tied by the neck to a tree and dead, the people of the country explained that she had been unable to keep up with the other slaves in a gang, and her master had determined that she should not become the property of anyone else if she recovered after resting a time. . . . we saw others tied up in a similar manner . . . the Arab who owned these victims was enraged at losing his money by the slaves becoming unable to march, and vented his spleen by murdering them (p. 56). This is one of the best known and frequently reproduced images in the literature on slaving in Africa. Also published in: J. E. Chambliss, The Life and Labors of David Livingstone (Philadelphia, 1875), p. 435; The Life and African Explorations of Dr. David Livingstone (St. Louis, 1874), p. 87; and in Thomas W. Knox, The Boy Travellers on the Congo (New York, 1888), p. 419 --with the caption Slave Caravans on the Road; Knox is sometimes erroneously given as the primary source.
  • Household or Domestic Slaves, East Africa, 1860s

    Captioned Steboko's slaves carrying fuel and cutting rice, this image shows four men linked by chains, under guard; in background, people are working in rice fields. Steboko was an African with whom Speke became acquainted. Although the scene is East Africa, it illustrates indigenous domestic or household slavery, a type of slavery that also existed in West Africa.
  • Slave Coffle, 19th cent.

    Men, women, children linked by wooden yokes and chains; African guards carry guns. This image is also published in James Walvin, An African's Life: The Life and Times of Olaudah Equiano, 1745-1797 (Cassell, 1998, p. 11) which cites the original source as Verney Lovett Cameron, Travels in Central Africa (1873); however, there is no book by that title under Cameron's authorship. The image is also in Walvin's Black Ivory (London, 1992), but no original source is identified. This image is one of several images derived from the original engraving in David and Charles Livingstone, Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries (London, 1865); see image reference C019.
  • Slave Coffle, Central Africa, 1861

    Men linked by forked logs, children and women attached by chains or ropes, with their African guards armed with guns. Caption reads: Gang of Captives met at Mbame's on their way to Tette. The scene was witnessed in July, 1861. Mbame was a village chief, friendly to Livingstone. Tette/Tete, a village (now a town) on the Zambezi River, located in present-day Western Mozambique was the last Portuguese outpost on the Zambezi. This image was published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (vol. 32 [Dec. 1865-May 1866], p. 719) not long after the appearance of the New York edition to accompany an article, Livingstone's Last African Expedition (pp. 709-23); the article gives a summary account of the Livingstones' Narrative of an Expedition. The captives shown here were destined for the East African trade. Compare this image with image C017 on this website. The image and its historical context, as well as sources in which it is found, is discussed at length in Jerome Handler and Annis Steiner, Identifying Pictorial Images of Atlantic Slavery: Three Case Studies, Slavery and Abolition 27 (2006), 52-54.
  • Slave Coffle, 19th cent.

    Caption: Convoi de Femmes Captives; women and children with two African guards armed with rifles, one horse-mounted. Date unknown; location is probably the Western Sudan.
  • Arab Slavers Attacking Village, 1880s

    Caption, The Arabs among the Benecki. Illustration shows Arab raiders, eager to obtain slaves and ivory, chasing and slaying members of the West African Benecki, who attempted to flee into the forest. The Benecki always returned to their villages and fields, but when the harvest was ready, the slave traders would reappear to seize crops and people. The author writes that war, slave-robbery, famine, and pestilence had actually been able to completely depopulate this densely populated territory (pp. 185-86).
  • Arab Slavers Feeding Captives, Central Africa, 1880s

    Village scene showing emaciated African captives.
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