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Title: Maafa  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Uhuru Movement, Atlantic slave trade, Walter Rodney, Slavery in Africa, W. E. B. Du Bois
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Maafa (or African Holocaust, Holocaust of Enslavement, or Black holocaust as alternatives)[1][2][3] are terms used to describe the history and ongoing effects of atrocities inflicted on African people.[4][5][6][7] The Maafa includes the Arab and Atlantic slave trades, and continued through imperialism, colonialism, and other forms of oppression to the present day.[4][6][7][8][9][10][11]

History and terminology

Usage of the Swahili term Maafa ("Great Disaster") in English was introduced by Marimba Ani's book Let the Circle Be Unbroken: The Implications of African Spirituality in the Diaspora.[12][13] It is derived from a Swahili term for "disaster, terrible occurrence or great tragedy".[14][15] The term was popularised in the 1990s.[16]

The term African Holocaust is preferred by some academics, such as Maulana Karenga, because it implies intention.[17] One problem noted by Karenga is that the word Maafa can also translate to "accident", and in the view of some scholars the holocaust of enslavement was not accidental. Ali Mazrui notes that the word "holocaust" is a "dual plagiarism" since the term is derived from Ancient Greek and thus, despite being associated with the genocide of the Jews, no one can have a monopoly over the term. Mazrui states: "This borrowing from borrowers without attribution is what I call 'the dual plagiarism.' But this plagiarism is defensible because the vocabulary of horrors like genocide and enslavement should not be subject to copyright-restrictions."[18]

Some Afrocentric scholars prefer the term Maafa to African Holocaust,[19] because they believe that indigenous African terminology more truly confers the events.[13] The term Maafa may serve "much the same cultural psychological purpose for Africans as the idea of the Holocaust serves to name the culturally distinct Jewish experience of genocide under German Nazism."[20] Other arguments in favor of Maafa rather than African Holocaust emphasize that the denial of the validity of the African people's humanity is an unparalleled centuries-long phenomenon: "The Maafa is a continual, constant, complete, and total system of human negation and nullification."[7]

The terms "Transatlantic Slave Trade", "Atlantic Slave Trade" and "Slave Trade" have also been said by some to be deeply problematic, because they serve as euphemisms for the intense violence and mass murder. Referred to as a "trade", this prolonged period of persecution and suffering is rendered as a commercial dilemma, rather than as a moral atrocity.[21] With trade as the primary focus, the broader tragedy becomes consigned to a secondary point, as mere "collateral damage" of a commercial venture. Others, however, feel that avoidance of the term trade is an apologetic act on behalf of capitalism, absolving capitalist structures of involvement in human catastrophe.

In scholarship

While Maafa can be considered an area of study within African history in which both the actual history and the legacy of that history are studied as a single discourse, it can also be taken as its own significant event in the course of global or world history.[22] When studied as African history, the paradigm emphasizes the legacy of the African Holocaust on African peoples globally. The emphasis in the historical narrative is on African agents and the pattern of oppression, in opposition to what is perceived to be the conventional Eurocentric voice; for this reason Maafa is an aspect of Pan-Africanism.

Owen 'Alik Shahadah traces a pattern of "Eurocentric" scholarship to the era of slavery and colonialism, where he states that it first came to serve as a means of removing any noble claim from the victims of systemic persecution; this served to rationalize their plight as "natural" and a continuation of a pre-existing historical status, in order to eschew moral responsibility for destroying societies and undermining indigenous social and political systems. He goes on to state that the first expressions of this academic trend appeared in the claim that "Slavery was a natural feature of Africa, and that Africans sold each other everyday." This contention sought to justify the commercial exploitation of humanity while denying the moral question, a pattern Shahadah perceives to have continued beyond the eclipse of slavery and colonialism.[23]

Maulana Karenga puts slavery in the broader context of the Maafa, suggesting that its effects exceed mere physical persecution and legal disenfranchisement: the "destruction of human possibility involved redefining African humanity to the world, poisoning past, present and future relations with others who only know us through this stereotyping and thus damaging the truly human relations among peoples."[17]

Further reading

See also


  1. ^ William Wright points to the differences between black history, and African history, and argues that the African Holocaust is a major reason why these two histories are not synonymous: William D. Wright, Black History and Black Identity: A Call for a New Historiography, p. 117
  2. ^ "What Holocaust". "Glenn Reitz". 
  3. ^ Ryan Michael Spitzer, "The African Holocaust: Should Europe pay reparations to Africa for Colonialism and Slavery?", Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, vol. 35, 2002, p. 1319.
  4. ^ a b Barndt, Joseph. Understanding and Dismantling Racism: The Twenty-First Century. 2007, page 269.
  5. ^ The Global African: A Portrait of Ali A. Mazrui. Omari H. Kokole.
  6. ^ a b Reparations for the Slave Trade: Rhetoric, Law, History and Political Realities”.
  7. ^ a b c Jones, Lee and West, Cornel. Making It on Broken Promises: Leading African American Male Scholars Confront the Culture of Higher Education. 2002, p. 178.
  8. ^ 'Alik Shahadah (10 2005; revised 07 2012). "African Holocaust". Maafa. Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  9. ^ William D. Wright, .Black History and Black Identity: A Call for a New Historiography
  10. ^ The Global African: A Portrait of Ali A. Mazrui. Omari H. Kokole.
  11. ^ Ryan Michael Spitzer, "The African Holocaust: Should Europe pay reparations to Africa for Colonialism and Slavery?", Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, vol. 35, 2002, p. 1319.
  12. ^ Dove, Nah. Afrikan Mothers: Bearers of Culture, Makers of Social Change. 1998, p. 240.
  13. ^ a b Gunn Morris, Vivian and Morris, Curtis L. The Price They Paid: Desegregation in an African American Community. 2002, p. x.
  14. ^ Harp, O.J. Across Time: Mystery of the Great Sphinx. 2007, p. 247.
  15. ^ Cheeves, Denise Nicole (2004). Legacy. p. 1. 
  16. ^ Pero Gaglo Dagbovie (2010). African American History Reconsidered.  
  17. ^ a b "Problem with Maafa". " 
  19. ^ Tarpley, Natasha. Testimony: Young African-Americans on Self-Discovery and Black Identity. 1995, p. 252.
  20. ^ Aldridge, Delores P. and Young, Carlene. Out of the Revolution: The Development of Africana Studies. 2000, p. 250.
  21. ^ Diouf, Sylviane Anna. Fighting the Slave Trade: West African Strategies. 2003, p. xi.
  22. ^ "African Holocaust: Holocaust Special".  
  23. ^ "Removal of Agency from Africa". " 

External links

  • African Holocaust Society
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