African Peoples Before Captivity

The lives of Africans before slavery were much like the lives of the Europeans who captured them. Some lived in great cities, others in small towns, still others in the countryside. Some were rich and some were poor. Sometimes they lived in peace; sometimes they made war.

Like most of us, they honored their parents and adored their children. They worked hard and, when the work was done, they enjoyed making music, art, and crafts. On special occasions, or just for fun, they liked to dress in beautiful clothing, put on make-up, and see and be seen.

We often speak of the huge continent of Africa as if it were a single country. In fact, like Europeans of the same era, Africans lived in a wide variety of ethnic and national groups, spoke many different languages, and worshiped through different religions.

Imagine the traumatic shocks that came with being captured. Imagine being permanently separated from your loved ones, forced to leave without saying goodbye or even letting family know what happened to you. Imagine being bound together with people from other ethnic groups whose languages and customs were incomprehensible or who may have even been your enemies. Imagine having to face the endless suffering of the Middle Passage and slavery, something that many of the captured would have heard about during the hundreds of years when white people were hunting for and purchasing black people in Africa.

The gallery is currently under construction. Please check back periodically to see exhibits as we add them. For upcoming exhibits please view the ‘Exhibits to Come’ exhibit below.



Ancient manuscripts about mathematics and astronomy from Timbuktu, Mali

Some Exhibits to Come – African Peoples Before Captivity

See a list of of some of the exhibits planned for this gallery.