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Hausa Diasporas and Slavery in Africa, the Atlantic, and the Muslim Worldunlocked

Hausa Diasporas and Slavery in Africa, the Atlantic, and the Muslim Worldunlocked

  • Camille LefebvreCamille LefebvreCentre nationale de la recherche scientifique, EHESS


In the 18th and 19th centuries, Hausa diasporas related to slavery were scattered broadly across continents and oceans. Individuals and groups who spoke Hausa, and therefore could define themselves or be considered Hausa, migrated and settled in different areas of the world in relation to slavery and slave trafficking. Hausas participated in the Atlantic, Islamic, and Ottoman slave trades both as slavers and as enslaved cargoes,some Hausas contributed to the management and organization of slave-trafficking operations and others were forced to migrate as slaves. Over the course of the 18th to the 20th century, Hausa diasporas related to slavery altered their trajectories and strategies in response to regional and global transformations, first because of the inclusion of hausa phone areas in the Atlantic slave traffic, secondly because of West African jihads, thirdly because of the gradual end of trans-Atlantic and trans-Saharan slave trafficking in the age of abolition, and at last because of European imperialism.


  • Slavery and Slave Trade

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Hausa diasporas were scattered broadly across various continents and oceans. Appearing as “Afnu,” “Husa,” “Housa,” “Houssa,” “Ussa,” “Hausa,” “Aussa,” “Aoussa,” “Haoussa,” or “Kashna” in European language sources of the times, Hausa-speaking communities or individuals existed in the Atlantic world from Bahia to Jamaica through antebellum Louisiana, across the African continent from Sierra Leone to Sudan through what are known in the 21st century as Chad and Cameroon, but also in the Maghreb and the Muslim world from Tunis and Tripoli to Cairo, Jerusalem, and Mecca. Hausa people traveled and settled around the world for various reasons at that time, but the focus of this article is Hausa diasporic communities related to slavery.

What did “Hausa” mean in the 18th and 19th centuries? Hausa was not an ethnicity based on a common ancestor or lineage. Within central Sahelian societies in this period, people defined themselves simultaneously in multiple ways: the language they spoke, the city in which they or their parents were born and lived, their religious beliefs, and other cultural characteristics that together formed complex identities that could be mobilized alternatively depending on the context. In this perspective, the label “Hausa” mostly refers to a widely spoken language and a culture that could be Muslim or non-Muslim, but tended to be more and more associated with Islam toward the 19th century. This generic label based on a shared language was usually combined with more precise self-identification related to a sense of origin, called in Hausa asali, which refers to where one’s parents or grandparents came from, for example, Katsinawa, Agalawa, Tokarawa, Kambarin Beriberi, Wangarawa, or Adarawa.1 Moreover, intermarriage between Hausas and non-Hausas was common, multiplying affiliations.

In this perspective, Hausa is one of the ways people could identify themselves most often on a macroscopic scale, meaning during interactions with individuals who did not belong to their community or were not hausaphone. Moreover, becoming Hausa was easy, especially in the 19th century. As Rossi and Haour have shown, being Hausa was an inclusivist identity: people with diverse origins, occupations, and social statuses became Hausa as they joined Hausa communities by marriage, through captivity or enslavement, or by learning Hausa as a lingua franca or for trading or religious purposes.2 This inclusivist nature of Hausa identity was even stronger in distant regions far from the heart of the Hausaphone areas. As a result, the size of the hausaphone population increased worldwide during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Spatial mobility is a striking characteristic of Hausa history and society, but it is difficult for historians, because of the fragmentary nature of the documentation for early periods, to assess the evolution of their scale, direction, and logic across time and space. As Mahdi Adamu has argued, using oral sources, the practice of migrating and settling in nonhausaphone areas had been a major feature of the Hausa people for centuries before Usman dan Fodio’s jihad at the beginning of the 19th century. Hausa people used to travel south to Bauchi or the Volta basin and settle there, mostly for commercial, religious, or political reasons, sometimes as farmers, hunters, and blacksmiths, and sometimes with political ambitions.3

Multiple reasons could prompt individuals and groups considered Hausa to migrate, for example, the search for wealth, the logics of commercial networks, or the desire to escape social or religious constraints or to acquire knowledge. Contextual events also play key roles in these logics, such as when new trade routes emerge or when religious upheaval and political conflicts change the situation. In the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, Hausa people migrated and settled in different parts of the world for three main reasons: as part of commercial diasporas, as part of slave trafficking, and as part of intellectual diasporas related to pilgrimage and scholarship.4

These reasons could sometimes be intertwined. Pilgrims took their slaves with them to Mecca because they formed one of the most profitable guzuri or traveler’s capital, since they could sell them along the road to pay for their travel.5 Trusted slaves were a major part of commercial diasporas and these enslaved individuals could be freed, or freed themselves, and become rich traders.6 During the 19th century wealthy kola merchants of slave descent—such as the Agalawa, Tokarawa, and Kambarin Beriberi studied by Paul Lovejoy—became very prosperous through trade along the routes between present-day Ghana to Nigeria and invested their profit in buying enslaved war prisoners to work on plantations for them.7

When they settled in their new homes, most of these Hausa men and women continued to speak Hausa to their children for some generations. They were connected to other communities in other places and sometimes to their regions of origin in the central Sahel through trade or intellectual circulation and could thus be defined as diasporic communities. Diaspora is understood here as a transregional social formation, in which migrants who settle in distant lands reproduce locally but continue to maintain affective or economic relations with their homeland and with other communities of the same origin around the world.

Hausa diasporic communities related to slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries gathered not only people forced to travel and settle away from their homes because of enslavement and slave trafficking within African and transcontinental axes of trade, but also enslaved individuals and communities acting as agents, slave traders, or workers in diasporic commercial networks. Indeed, Hausas participated in the Atlantic, Islamic, and Ottoman slave trafficking both as slavers and as enslaved cargoes: while some Hausa contributed to the management and organization of slave-trading operations, other were forced to migrate as slaves.8 In hausaphone areas and diasporic communities, slave traders could be slaves and slaves could own slaves.

This widely dispersed diaspora was composed almost everywhere of very small communities disseminated along the commercial and slave-trading routes, living in separate settlements, usually called zangos, but cultivating close relations with local communities through marriage. Rather than taking the form of large settlements in a few locations, a peculiar feature of Hausa diasporas is that they remained scattered but interconnected and organized as supports for trading and traveling networks. Over time, these Hausa diasporas adapted to structural changes in global trade and politics. They altered their trajectories and strategies in response to transformations induced by West African jihads, the gradual end of trans-Atlantic and trans-Saharan slave trafficking in the age of abolition, and European imperialism.

Enslaved Hausa in the Transcontinental Slave Trades of the Second Half of the 18th Century

Historical reconstructions of pre-19th-century Hausa history always run the risk of anachronism, that is, of projecting backward labels and definitions that may not have been in use or may have carried other associations. The earlier mentions of Hausa people related to slavery outside hausaphone regions come from the Ottoman traveler Evliya Celebi, who described the people of Afnu (Hausa in Kanuri language) and noted “that other people enslave through wars the ones who are not circumcised amongst them and sell them in Awgila,” meaning in the trans-Saharan slave trade.9 Except for this fragmentary mention, earlier sources are few and do not mention Hausa enslavement and forced migration outside Hausa regions, making it impossible to ascertain clearly the role of enslavement and forced migration in Hausa diasporic communities before the 18th century. More broadly, 18th-century sources known to date are scarce and most come from outside the Hausa regions and therefore do not allow researchers to reconstruct exactly how Hausa individuals or groups were enslaved in the hinterland and how they were sold in slave trafficking global networks.

In the second half of the 18th century, Hausa enslaved individuals began to appear in materials relating to the Atlantic and trans-Saharan slave trades. It is important to stress that the people appearing in these documents as Hausa may not have been Hausa. Enslaved people arriving from trade routes coming through the central Sahel and speaking Hausa could be considered Hausa when they arrived in the Bight of Benin or the Maghreb, regardless of whether they considered themselves so or were considered as such in their region of origin. As the distance from the central Sahel increases, the labels become more generic and do not encompass the complexity of self-identification in the region. Moreover, documents reflect the knowledge of their producers, and slave traders were not concerned with the accuracy of the label they projected on the enslaved individuals. Rather, their objective was to apply widely known labels that were useful in the context of their trade.

Traces of the Hausa language and potentially of Hausa communities can be found in the Maghreb city of Tunis in 1738–1739. Ismail Montana studied Arabic manuscripts produced in this town attesting to the foundation of a Dar Kofa, a household bearing a Hausa name where enslaved West African communities would gather, establish corporate organizations, and host newcomers. The importation to the regency of predominantly Kanuri and Hausa slaves started under the Husaynid dynasty when Ali Bey I (r. 1735–1756) recruited Black slaves from the bilad as-Sudan to create his own regiment to counterbalance the influence of the Turkish janissary corps, which was supported by Algerian Deys. After having hired Zwawa mercenaries from Algeria, Ali Bey commissioned the importation of slave soldiers directly from the bilad as-Sudan, who were designated bawwaba (palace guards).10

Decades later, the Fulbe scholar Al-Timbuktawi offered an alternative account of the foundation of the Dar Kofa in Tunis. He speculated that Dar Kofa was a habus (charitable property) that had been endowed in the name of a former slave, a woman named Kofa, which suggests that a gender shift and transfer of this household occurred at some point from the male-dominated bawwaba soldiers to the bori priestesses who rose to prominence during the reign of Hammuda Pasha.11 The bori cult is a widespread spirit possession practice and cult in Hausa communities that serves to improve health and to mediate conflict and disjuncture. The recruitment of Black slave soldiers by the Bey of Tunis seems to have resulted in the opening of a new slave trafficking route between this coastal town and the Hausa regions, leading to the constitution of a community in the city of Tunis. Although it began with predominantly male slave trafficking, at some point enslaved Hausa women arrived in Tunis.

Tunis is not the only Maghrebi town where Hausas are mentioned in the 18th century. There are also traces of Hausa people in materials related to the regency of Tripoli in the second half of the 18th century. In 1772, a Tripolitan ambassador to the Nordic states of Denmark and Sweden, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aġa, traveled to Copenhagen with a party of five, including two Black men designated sometimes as his valets, sometimes as his slaves. One of them was a young man who considered himself Hausa and was born near the Niger River.12 The archives are almost completely silent with regard to the two sub-Saharan Africans, and what is known of them was learned from the scientist Carsten Niebuhr, who befriended and worked with ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aġa. Niebuhr describes him as a “young well-grown Kafr with thick lips and a flat nose,” who “had on each cheek several large scars from stab wounds” and was living in Tripoli in ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aġa’s household.

This individual trajectory sheds light on a broader issue, a number of enslaved West Africans, and among them Hausa enslaved individuals traveled and sometime lived in Europe in the context of European and Maghrebi diplomacy, but the scale of their involvement and their role and functions is still largely to be determined, as is the size of the Hausa community in Tunis or Tripoli in the second half of the 18th century. Based on the record of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aġa and Miss Tully, the Black community of Tripoli seems to have been mostly kanuriphone at this point.13

In 1772, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aġa and the enslaved Hausa young man described to Carsten Niebuhr the trans-Saharan slave trade as follows:

The prisoners of war are slaves of the victors and sold as merchandise to the whites [meaning Arabs]. . . . Unfortunately, however, the whites always demanded more black slaves, especially children; they came to their borders, even travelled to the princes in the middle of Africa, to incite them to wage war against their brothers. . . . For many centuries now, a very large number of slaves have been exported annually from Afnu/Hausa and Bernu/Bornu to the Barbary States and Egypt, perhaps also to the southeast coast of Africa, if not to Guinea.14

The explorer for the African association, Simon Lucas, who in 1788–1789 managed to reach Misurata in what is known as Libya in the 21st century but could not go further, also described this trade. He learned about the trans-Saharan slave trade by discussion in Arabic with local merchants and wrote a report about his findings on his return to London.15 He describes the traffic of slaves across the Sahara from the Bornu and Hausa regions and their re-export through Tripoli to the Levant as the mainstay of the Fezzanese and Tripoline economies. As a result, slaves and gold dust comprised the traditional yearly tribute paid by Fezzan to Tripoli.

At about the same time, in the last quarter of the 18th century, the records of the Atlantic slave trade attest to a shift in the origins of slave exports. Whereas Aja (Gbe) and Yoruba people still predominated, people declaring to be Bariba, Nupe, and Hausa began to appear in the records, showing that the frontier of enslavement had moved inland.16 Their number remained small by comparison with the total volume of the forcibly displaced, amounting to about 183,000 slaves in the second half of the 18th century. According to Manning’s calculations, 95 percent of slaves exported from the Bight of Benin in the 17th century were Aja (Gbe) and only 5 percent were Yoruba; in the 18th century, 78 percent were Aja, 11 percent were Yoruba, 8 percent were Voltaic, and less than 2 percent were Hausa and Nupe, that is, 10,500 of a total of 1,114,600 slaves exported for 1781–1800.17

Each time a trade route was traveled by Hausa people, Hausa communities settled along the way. As the slave trafficking routes from hausaphone areas toward the Atlantic grew, Hausa settlements on the road toward the coast and on the coast developed. In Dahomey, oral tradition recalls that Hausa traders and Muslim scholars settled in the area during the reign of King Agaja (r. 1708–1740). The historical narrative told in this community recalls a story from when Muslim captives began to arrive in Abomey to be sold in the Atlantic trade: if they claimed to be Muslim, they were sent to the chief malam (Muslim scholar in Hausa), and if they managed to prove their claim, they could be authorized to settle with them.18 This oral tradition says that this practice concerned all enslaved Muslims without restriction, but as soon as they were liberated they were assimilated into the hausaphone community, increasing the Hausa Muslim population in the area over the years.

If Hausa people were at this point sold into the Atlantic slave trade, it was as a consequence of the reorganization of the routes that followed the involvement of Oyo in the Atlantic trade. By this time, Oyo was importing a large number of Hausa slaves, both for domestic use and for resale to Europeans on the coast.19 One individual seems to have played a key role in this matter: the foremost merchant of Porto Novo in the 1780s, Pierre Tamata, an educated ex-slave self-identifying as Hausa who had lived in France in the 1770s before returning to Africa and settling in Porto Novo, where he worked as an agent for a French merchant from La Rochelle.20 Pierre Tamata relied on his Hausa origins and French education to turn his business into a profitable enterprise and was instrumental in supplying slaves acquired from Oyo, which included many hausaphone slaves, to French and Brazilian slave traders for their traffic across the Atlantic. As a result of the activities of Tamata (and possibly others like him), Hausa names began to appear in records from the other side of the ocean.

The earliest mention of enslaved Hausas in Saint Domingue is from 1774. In the published runaway slave advertisements from this island’s most important newspaper, the first runaway slave who declared himself to be from the “Hausa nation” was named Pollux; he ran away in July 1774 from St. Marc and was wanted by MM. Grasset, Pitteu & Compagnie.21 Between 1774 and 1790 in Saint Domingue, around eighty-four Hausa maroons were wanted on a total of 17,308 cases of marronage on the island.22

After the slave revolt of 1791–1793 and the occupation of part of the island by British forces, the French produced a population census. Between 1796 and 1797, of 14,167 enslaved people whose names were recorded, 6,188 were of African origin and 124 were Hausa.23 It is impossible to determine if these self-identified Hausa were native or became Hausa somewhere during their journey in these diasporic communities. In 1796, within the enslaved population of British Saint Domingue, there were 3,296 Africans, and Hausa represented 2.4 percent of this cohort.24 On the other side of the Caribbean Sea, the first two recorded Hausa individuals known to date, enslaved in Louisiana, were named Mage and Charles. They were documented in 1779 in the papers of the courthouse of the Pointe Coupee Parish.25

In the last decades of the 18th century, the number of coerced slaves traveling from the northern savannah and Hausa regions to the Atlantic and trans-Saharan and Ottoman slave trade increased. The inclusion from around the 1770s onward of several Hausa regions in the orbit of the Atlantic slave trafficking and the latter’s massive increase in volume in the 1780s, combined with the development of trans-Saharan slave routes to Tunis, Tripoli, and the Islamic world, affected the organization of the region, triggering a major shift in this region’s history.

Enslavement and Jihad in the Central Sahel and Savannah in the Early 19th Century

The inclusion of hausaphone areas in the scope of the Atlantic slave trade, even if it concerned a small number of people, has been considered one of the causes of the eruption of jihad in this region.26 Several reasons explain this inclusion: the expansion of the catchment area related to rising slave exports, the reorganization of trading patterns following the involvement of Oyo in the Atlantic slave trade, and the increased demand for muskets in major Hausa centers such as Kano. Because muskets were paid for in slaves, it is therefore probable that slave raiding from c. 1730 onward increased as local warring parties sought larger and larger quantities of muskets.27 Muslims from Hausa regions who were deported to the Americas were fairly numerous during the last decade of the 18th century, a fact noted by the leaders of the jihad, especially Muhammad Bello, the son of Usman dan Fodio, a fulani born but raised in hausaphone areas, who in 1812 wrote in his Infak al-Maysur about the people of Oyo (which he calls Yarba/Yoruba) who “used to receive slaves from this country of ours, and they used to sell them to the aforementioned Christians” to be deported on ships.28

The enslavement of freeborn Muslims and the involvement of local political authorities in this practice, which was considered an illegal form of slaving in Islamic law, spread discontent through the Hausa regions and played a role in the decision of the Islamic reformist leader Usman dan Fodio to start a jihad.29 The leaders of the jihad were never opposed to slavery, but rather were in favor of its strict regulation according to sharia law and drew attention to this matter in their preaching. The fear of being captured and enslaved, the general resentment against slave raiding by political rulers, and the fact that Usman dan Fodio wrote and preached in Arabic, Fulfulde, and Hausa against illegal enslavement, saying “one who enslaves a freeman, he shall suffer torment / The fire should enslave him,” strengthened popular support for his Islamic reformist movement.30

From the beginning of their Islamic revolution, jihadists redefined what it was to be a Muslim in the area. They were the Muslims, as they called themselves in their writings, and all those who refused to join them were not true Muslims and therefore could be captured and enslaved. Paradoxically, if this movement initially asserted that only pagans could legitimately be enslaved, this redefinition of all enemies and all non-followers as non-Muslims and the extent of conflicts occasioned by the jihad resulted in an explosion of internal slavery that transformed social relations in these regions31.

The jihad enabled the raiding of people who lived beyond an external frontier defined through religious criteria and an internal frontier defined in terms of dissent with the revolutionaries’ ideas.32 This turned the newly funded caliphate of Sokoto into one of the largest slave societies in history.33 The fact that, in the course of the conflict related to their jihad, the jihadists persisted in selling and raiding Muslims is one of the reasons the brother of Usman dan Fodio, Abdullahi, became disillusioned with the jihad.34 There was a contradiction in the attitudes of the jihadists regarding slavery: they were opposed to participating in the slave traffic with Christians, but their actions resulted in an intensification of internal slavery and therefore of transcontinental slave traffic.

In the central Sahel and savannah, the jihad and related conflicts yielded massive enslavement between 1804 and 1810 and large-scale displacements of people, especially enslaved captives in Gobir, Katsina, and Kebbi and in the frontiers of Bornu. On the one hand, many enslaved Hausa Muslims took advantage of the beginning of the jihad to assert their freedom, often by fleeing to the camps of the jihadist armies, where they sought protection. On the other hand, many non-Muslim Hausas, or those considered non-Muslim by the jihadists, joined the resistance against the jihad in Zirmie (Zamfara), Maradi, or Tsibiri in what is known as Niger in the 21st century.35

Before the jihad, the Oyo Empire dominated most of the coast of the Bight of Benin from Badgary to Porto Novo and all the way westward to Ouidah. In 1817, a revolt influenced by Usman dan Fodio’s jihad arose in one of its regions, Ilorin. The slaves were promised freedom if they joined the ranks of the jihadists. Ali Eisami Gazirmabe, a Muslim Kanuri who had been enslaved at Oyo and later sold to the Europeans, remembered in his memoirs: “A war arose: Now all the slaves who went to the war, became free; so when the slaves heard this good news, they all ran there.”36 The jihadists ultimately were victorious, and after ousting Afonja, the chief military leader of Oyo, they turned the old Oyo into the Ilorin Emirate, under the authority of the caliph of Sokoto. These events in what is called Yorubaland in the 21st century resulted in the capture of many prisoners of war who were deported to the Americas. This major conflict in an area connected to the Atlantic slave trafficking routes led to the displacement of thousands of enslaved Hausa to the Americas.

Because the jihad resulted in the massification of slavery in the region and in the increase of slave trafficking toward other continents, it triggered an increase in the scope and size of the Hausa diaspora around the world during the course of the 19th century.

Gendered Slave Trafic in the First Half of the 19th Century

The geographical distribution of slave trafficking routes throughout the world in the early 19th century seems to have been organized along gender lines. On the one hand, the slaves exported from hausaphone areas across the Atlantic were almost exclusively adult males in their prime, most of them seized in wars or raids connected with the jihad and its repercussions. On the other hand, women comprised the overwhelming majority of the enslaved across the Sahel and the Sahara and trafficked to the Maghreb and the Ottoman Empire. Exploring the gendered dimensions of the Atlantic and trans-Saharan and Ottoman slave trafficking is difficult because sources are uneven in quantity and quality. For example, in Ottoman sources and travelers’ accounts in Arabic, the identities and pasts of enslaved Africans are rarely mentioned as a result of racial prejudice and indifference.

In the Americas, the Hausa diaspora is essentially male. In French Saint Domingue not a single Hausa woman was identified, while in British Saint Domingue in 1796 there were 138 Hausa men and 10 Hausa women.37 The situation of Hausas in the Atlantic slave trade in the 18th century was exceptional, because very few Hausa women entered the Atlantic trade compared to women from other groups. Slaves shipped from the Bight of Benin reveal the greatest divergence in sex composition, ranging from the very low ratios of the coastal Hweda and Ewe-Fon to the exceptionally high ratios of the Hausa.38 This pattern continued into the 19th century. Approximately 95 percent of all slaves exported from Central Sudan to the Americas in the 19th century were males, and most of them were in their prime.39 Francis de Castelnau, the French consul in Bahia between 1848 and 1854, pointed out that Hausa men were numerous in Bahia and it was extremely rare to see a Hausa woman.40 The absence of Hausa women, and most of the time of other Muslim women, meant that female partners had to be found in other communities, which raises the interesting question of their conversion.

The causes for the skewed sex ratio of captives from hausaphone areas are debated. It has been argued that it is correlated with the distance they were brought from the interior, with groups coming from more distant areas from the point of embarkation usually having the highest ratio of males to females (Chamba, Bamana, Nupe, and Hausa). This is usually explained by the difficulty of the travel. Another explanation seems more relevant. In West Africa, except for Senegambia, the coastal price of adult males in the 18th and 19th centuries usually exceeded that of adult females by 25–40 percent.41 In contrast, women, especially Hausa women, were more expensive than men in the local markets of the Central Sahel and in Tripoli and Tunis42. In this perspective, central Sahel and Sahara slave traffickers probably preferred to direct males on the trafficking routes to the Atlantic and to keep women in the Central Sahel or to sale them toward the trans-Saharan slave trade to maximize their profit. To know where to sell their goods at the best price, traders from the 19th-century central Sahara and Sahel engaged in commercial correspondence among the trans-Saharan networks and circulated information about the geographic distribution of demand and prices.43

Ismael Montana has shown that in the early 19th century, 700–850 female slaves entered Tunis every year, outnumbering men by a ratio of 2:1.44 In 1845, the vice consul of Murzuk Gagliuffi’s statistics attests that in most years, two-thirds of the slaves traded through Murzuk were female.45 Few were aged over twenty, and many were small children, listed as femminine (“little girls”) by Gagliuffi. Women and girls were said to be more easily taken across the desert than men, because according to Gagliuffi they were more resilient than men, both physically and psychologically. It is interesting to note that this is the same argument used backward: men were said to be more able to cope with the difficulty of travel on the Atlantic roads, but the same was said about women on the trans-Saharan roads. In 1851, James Richardson’s figures show that a female slave bought for $32 at Kano could be sold in Murzuk for $85, a gross profit of $53; by contrast, males bought for only $10–$12 at Kano realized a gross profit of up to $30 in Murzuk.46 In 1854, 662 enslaved individuals described as Hausa arrived in Murzuk, 285 of whom were male and 377 female.47

Women and girls trafficked in the Islamic and Ottoman slave trade were destined for domestic and sexual services in households. In this context, enslaved Hausa girls and women were considered good-looking, especially in the Maghreb, as stated by James Richardson in his 1846 report for the Foreign Office.48 In a book published in 1810, the trader James Grey Jackson, who lived sixteen years in Morocco, explains how the price of slave women depended on their perceived beauty and that during his stay in Morocco he saw a young Hausa girl “of a remarkable beauty, being sold for four hundred ducats: the price of slaves while varying according to the fantasy of the buyer, does not usually exceed one hundred ducats.”49 In 1869, a German traveler named Heinrich von Maltzan described how in Tripoli, even after the abolition of slavery in the regency, several young enslaved girls lived in each house of the elite, performing everyday domestic tasks.50 After they reached adulthood, their masters would free them and often arrange marriages for them. At this point, the Black community of Tripoli included numerous Hausa.

During the 19th century the gendered organization of slave trafficking was reinforced by the evolution of religious practices promoted by the jihad. The Sokoto jihadists encouraged the veiling and seclusion of freeborn Muslim women in their homes.51 As the century progressed, only enslaved or poor women walked freely in the public space, making them even more vulnerable to enslavement and recapture. Young women trafficked on the trans-Saharan trade to the Maghreb and Ottoman Empire were, in this context, more likely to be born in slavery or from lower social status and to be non-Muslim, or considered as such, and therefore familiar with bori practices.

Throughout the 19th century and following the transformation introduced by the jihad, Hausa society became more patriarchal. Women were now considered economic and jural minors of their male relatives and the new religious practices and technologies of writing were almost exclusively in men’s hands.52 Under these circumstances the bori possession cult became an important venue for women, especially women of lower social status, and a social arena in which Hausa women were not forced into a class of inferior status and in which both sexes could enter into competitive relationships.53 In several areas, such as Maradi, or in what is northern Nigeria in the 21st century, the leadership of the bori cult was partially or completely in the hands of women.

But assessing clearly the role of the bori in the diasporic communities settled in the Ottoman Empire is complicated. In the Ottoman judicial documents as well as in nonofficial Ottoman sources, non-Islamic cultural practices brought back by enslaved Africans in the empire are alternatively described as Zar, Bori, Godiya, and Kolbasi, without clear differentiation. As a result, the historiography about these practices in the early 19th century tends to blend various cults originating from different parts of the continent, such as Zar, a cult from the horn of Africa, and bori from West Africa, as well as non-Islamic practices that were not exclusively related to people of African descent.54

In the 19th century Maghreb, Arabic and European sources describe more clearly Hausa bori-related practices. In 1808–1809, al-Timbuktawi’s treaty condemning it portrays bori as a women’s cult centered around a female idol, which seems to stand at the head of various other idols whom the slave women worship and make sacrifices for, especially to cure sickness.55 On December 29, 1845, in his description of Ghât, James Richardson mentioned a festivity of Black slaves: “The slaves of Haj Ibrahim (about fifty) danced and sang and forgot their slavery. One young woman acted various grotesque characters, and, amongst the rest,Boree the devil.”56 In colonial Algeria, several French sources mention a cult organized by African people of slave descent with women participants, practicing possession and healing, but they do not use the word bori. The earliest surviving recorded account of these spirit possession cults in Algeria that seems related to the Hausa bori was observed in 1833 by Rozet (1798–1858), a French geographic engineer who called it djelep.57 In the 1950s, these cults were still practiced and displayed mostly Songhay and Hausa songs.58 In Cairo at the beginning of the 20th century, the British officer Gordon Lethem described a group of around fifty “Nigerian” enslaved or liberated women, some of them Hausa, working in the town as “Bori dancers, sorcerers, women doctor or retailer of aphrodisiacs and so on.”59

In the Ottoman Empire and the Maghreb, Africans practiced healing and possession rituals defined by a series of names in which women played key roles, but which are hard to connect with specific origins or languages. These ceremonies re-enacted African rituals and facilitated the creation of communal bonds and solidarity among adepts. There is no trace of bori practices in the Americas, probably because enslaved Hausa were mostly male in this part of the world.

Hausas in the Americas

Hausa diaspora in the Americas in the 19th century is a numerically weak and geographically scattered phenomenon. Even if Sokoto jihadists were opposed to the slave trade towards theAtlantic, it continued under their rule, and their official efforts to prevent slaves being sold to the Americas were ineffective.60 Most of the Hausa people deported to the Americas, customarily young men, were captured in military actions related to the jihad, consisting in various battles of unequal importance, raids, and predatory expeditions. As a result, fighters from both camps were sold to slave traders—jihadists and nonjihadists—which does not mean Muslims and non-Muslims, because the nonjihadist fighters could be Muslim even though the jihadists considered them pagans. As stated by Sylviane Diouf, it is difficult to assess how many of these people were Muslims when they arrived in the Americas: the data available on these groups provide information on their geographical origin, but they do not give clues as to religious beliefs.61

In the first half of the 19th century, even after the main abolitions and especially the British abolition of 1807, many people coming from hausaphone areas were still illegally trafficked to Saint Domingue, Louisiana, Brazil, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Cuba. Three routes linked the hausaphone areas of Central Sudan to the Americas ad the Carribbeans : one from Porto Novo to Saint Domingue and Louisiana; one from Badagry, Porto Novo, and Lagos to Bahia; and one from the Bight of Benin to Cuba and the Spanish Caribbean islands. It is difficult to quantify how many individuals recorded as Hausa arrived in these regions because the data are only fragmentary. In the 1810s–1820s, Hausa represented 10 percent of the enslaved people coming from the Bight of Benin in Louisiana, which in 1820 amounted to 95 individuals.62 In Trinidad by 1813, there were 109 Hausa men, that is, 1 percent of the slave population.63 In 1824–1835, dozens of Hausa and Fulani names appear in the register of the mixed commission court in La Havana.64 The largest quota was found in Brazil and especially in Bahia.65

Bahia experienced a renewed growth in sugar production as a result of the collapse of Saint Domingue’s sugar exports after the 1793 revolution, which prompted an increased demand for an enslaved workforce. Between 1775 and 1835, the African and Afro-Bahian population, both slave and free, grew by 39 percent, amounting to 72 percent of the total population of the town of Bahia.66 The majority of them were slaves. During the first three decades of the 19th century, Hausas and Yorubas comprised the largest portion of the seven thousand slaves imported annually to Bahia.67

In 1807, a conspiracy was discovered in Bahia: a group of rebels had planned an uprising on May 28 during the Corpus Christi celebration. Enslaved and free Hausa conspirators played a major role in this plan.68 During the insurrection, participants are said to have intended to capture ships in the harbor to sail back to Africa. Seventy-eight Hausas were taken prisoner; they were accused of wanting to establish an independent state in the interior and enslave all the Blacks who had been born in Brazil.69 More revolts happened in the following years (in 1809, 1814, 1816, 1822, 1824, 1826, 1827, 1828, 1830, and 1831).

The largest rebellion took place on January 25, 1835. Over 300 Africans, free and enslaved, dressed in white pants, shirts, caps, and turbans took to the streets of Bahia armed with knives, spears, swords, and a few pistols, shouting “Death to the whites” and “Death to the soldiers.”70 To the sound of beating drums, they assaulted the National Guard barracks; the city jail, to liberate the prisoners held in it; and the police barracks and fought against the cavalry. They faced 1,500 soldiers and were defeated after several hours of fighting in the streets. Seventy of them died, 260 were indicted (176 slaves and 112 free individuals), and 18 were condemned to death. Many of the identified participants in the 1835 uprising in Bahia worked in English households or for British firms and must have learned about the 1833 British Slave Emancipation Act.71 As Joao Reis has demonstrated, it was a revolt of enslaved people seeking freedom as well as a more general movement to change Bahian society, gathering enslaved and poor free classes and also liberal dissidents, unified around a culture of resistance in which Islam played a key role.72

One of the specificities of slaves from the Central Sahel and savannah in the Americas is that many of them were literate Muslims. The fact that many could read and write set them apart and became a distinctive feature, especially in a context where many male colonists and most women could neither read nor write.73 Across the Americas, in Brazil, Jamaica, or Trinidad, various owners and observers described enslaved or recently freed individuals who could read and write in Arabic or Ajami (African languages written in Arabic script), as well as in European languages, and among them several Hausa.

In 1819, as the head of the Ministry for Kingdom and Overseas Affairs in Brazil, José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva decided to draw a map of the interior of Africa by interrogating slaves coming from this area. He sent a request to all Brazilian regions that literate slaves from Central Sudan should be sent to him in Rio. The six whom he chose to interview were all literate Hausa and he obtained from one of them, a certain Francisco from Kano, a paternoster in Ajami Hausa.74 Francis de Castelnau remarked in Bahia that Mahammad/Manuel, an old Hausa man from Katsina, knew how to read and write because he came from a family of scholars.75 In a dispatch to the Foreign Ministry in Paris, Castelnau insisted, “Among the Hausa I interviewed were several intelligent and educated men who could read and write, had travelled extensively and were familiar with the various parts of Sudan.”76 As was discovered after the revolt of January 1835, some of the Africans in Bahia operated Qur’anic schools. Dandara (also known as Elesbao do Carmo), an emancipated Hausa, had given classes in Arabic and conducted prayers in a tobacco shop that he owned at the Santa Barbara market. At his trial, he admitted that he had been a schoolteacher in his country and that he had taught the youngsters in Bahia, “but not to do evil.”77

When the English traveler Cynric Williams journeyed through Jamaica in 1823, one of his attendants was a Muslim slave named Abdallah; he called him a Papau but then said he lived “in Houssa,” meaning he was a Hausa, and “a true believer in the faith of Mahomet,” who could read and write “what might be Arabic.”78 While they were traveling, the latter met someone with whom he was acquainted in his home region and they spoke together in Hausa.79 In 1837, on the southeastern coast of Jamaica near Yallah’s Bay, two English Quaker abolitionists and activists journeying in the West Indies to study apprenticeship met Arouna, a Hausa slave, who claimed to have been born to a royal family and wrote down for them “a formula” he used before eating—probably bismillah al-rahman al rahim, “in the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.”80 In 1828–1866, journalist Jane McManus Storm Cazneau, who spent two years in Jamaica, published what she called an autobiography of Sidi Mahmadee entitled The Prince of Kashna.81 In it, Sidi describes himself as literate in Arabic, educated in Koranic studies, and also familiar with writing in English, and Cazneau said she had in her possession documents he wrote. It is difficult to establish whether this autobiography is fiction or a true story, but in any case, it shows how the theme of the emancipation of a West African Muslim literate prince was a topos in the slave narrative literature. Identifying the tropes of these narratives is crucial to be able to use them to their full potential as sources.

Several samples of West African writing in the Americas reached us and are held in various American and European libraries. One is a manuscript written by a freedman serving in the British army in Trinidad on November 21, 1817, whose author presented himself as an “Arabian priest,” meaning an imam. The author, a recaptive originally named Muhammadu Aishatu (certainly a man of slave descent because in Hausa naming practices the use of a woman’s name is an indication of slave ancestry) and renamed Philip Finlay, was asked to produce the document by an assistant surgeon of the 3rd West Indian Regiment. The complex text, which contains prayers and references to the Qur’an and to the Muslim community, is written in Hausa Ajami with words and sentences in Pulaar, Mandinka, and Caribbean Creole and contains admonitions to follow the sharia, the sunna, the truth, and the Five Pillars of Islam.82

Another example of the literacy in Hausa displayed in the Americas can be found in a letter in the possession of Francisco Lisboa, a Nupe, which was confiscated in 1844 in Bahia, a few years after the uprising. It is a private letter written in Hausa and Arabic to Malam Sani, a religious leader, by a certain Abdul Qādirif, announcing the death of his newborn daughter Fatumata.83 The letter in Ajami Hausa seemed to not have been written by a native speaker of the language, attesting to how the Hausa language worked as a lingua franca in the diaspora, but also revealing the nature of personal relations among literate Muslims. Some Islamic amulets, found by the Bahian police after the 1835 revolt (nine sheets), were examined by a Hausa scholar and translator named Albino. One of them was an alphabet lesson to learn how to write in Arabic, one was a writing lesson, and one was a prayer to protect the body from all weapons and to be protected from arms.84 From the preserved documentation it appears that most of the writings of West Africans in the Americas were related to Islam and most of them had religious functions.85

In the Americasand the Carribeans, Hausa identity seems to have been sometimes transmitted transgenerationally. After the French abolition in 1848, the administration undertook the task of including all the freed slaves from its colonies in the administrative registry. In French Guyana in the registres des nouveaux libres (record of theliberated slaves), four men and one woman have the last name Aoussa/Hausa, some of them born in Africa but two born in French Guyana.86 In the registry of Martinique between 1848 and 1864 the last name Zongo appears, identified as a Hausa name.87 When Maureen Warner-Lewis interviewed in Trinidad the children and grandchildren of immigrants from West Africa between 1966 and 1972, she encountered a descendant of ex-slaves who remembered their Hausa origin.88 Some of them tried to pass their Hausa identity on to their children, such as Auta, who, although Anglican, practiced some Muslim rites at home, like the prayer of the Aïd al-Fitr, and gave Muslim names to some of his children: his first son was named Idi and his first daughter Fatuma. Muslim names were passed on to his grandchildren as well, such as Zainabu and Asetu.89

A Continental Diaspora in the Second Half of the 19th Century and Early 20th Century

In the second half of the 19th century, the dynamics of Hausa diasporas related to slavery and the slave trade were determined by the gradual end of forced migration toward the Atlantic—except for Brazil, which abolished slavery only in 1888, Cuba, and Puerrto Rico—and by the abolitions in the Maghreb. But at the same time, internal slavery and slave trafficking toward the Muslim world and the Hijaz continued . In the central Sahel and savannah, because fewer slaves were exported, internal slavery was at its height and the domestic use of slaves and plantation slavery were most intensive. Therefore, it is on the African continent in this period that Hausa diasporic communities further developed or consolidated along the routes of Brazilian slave traffic, the ones toward Mecca, the kola trade routes, and along the trans-Saharan slave trade routes. Moreover, the status of most of these enslaved individuals or communities changed during the course of the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century because of abolition and colonization. As slavery was abolished by colonial administrations, slaves became technically free, but this did not necessarily mean emancipation in their own society and a change in their social situation.

In each town and settlement along these routes, Hausa individuals and small communities operated in extensive trade networks connecting merchants dispersed across distant markets. These traders collaborated while maintaining family, financial, commercial, and cultural ties with a given homeland, thereby reducing the costs incurred in transacting across long distances while circulating reliable information and sources of capital in a highly personalized financial market.90 More often than not they specialized in or even monopolized trade in certain goods not available in the markets where they worked, like kola, for example, a caffeine-containing nut used as a stimulant to diminish sensations of hunger and fatigue. Slaves acted as agents along these routes.91 They were also commodities: they could be used as porters during part of the voyage and then be sold if their owners desired money or goods. This practice continued well into the colonial period when the French and British used this important presence of enslaved individuals in the pilgrim’s caravans to justify tighter controls on the hajj.92 These outposts along trade routes hosted not only traders, but also all kinds of people: soldiers of fortune, runaway slaves, or individuals who learned Hausa as a second or third language, but who traveled or sought employment as Hausa. Women, though fewer in number than men, were present in these networks as slaves, wives, daughters, sisters, and slave-concubines.93

These communities facilitated the wide diffusion of Hausa as a lingua franca across the continent in the second half of the 19th century. In 1832–1833, the explorer Richard Lander and his Hausa interpreter Pascoa used Hausa as their only medium of communication with people, chiefs, and kings from Badgary to Borgou, Rabba, Boosa, Yaouri, Ega, and down the Ibo country.94 In 1862 in Sierra Leone, according to the missionary and linguist James Frederick Schön, there were “many [people] of every province of Hausa. Near Cape Coast, a little village was pointed out to me inhabited by Hausas, and I have met some at the Island of Fernando-Po.”95 In his autobiography in Hausa, Dorugu, the servant of the explorer Heinrich Barth, says that he observed “many Arabs, Fulani, Tuaregs in Timbuktu, there are also Hausa who have come from Gonsha [Gonja] and are selling kola nuts.”96 The kola route from what is known in the 21st century as Ghana to Nigeria, as Paul Lovejoy has shown, was operated by wealthy hausaphone kola merchants of slave descent.97 Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the Yoruba missionary and linguist, was told in 1854 in Hamaruwa/Muri in what is known as the Taraba state in 21st-century Nigeria that “the knowledge of Hausa will bring anyone to Mecca.”98 In the second half of the 19th century when the trans-Saharan road became more complicated because of the occupation of Algeria and its repercussions, the pilgrimage route through what is known as Chad in the 21st century became more active, leading to the formation of many diasporic Hausa communities.99

Numerous Hausa settlements and travelers can be traced along the trans-Saharan and Ottoman slave trade roads. Hausa was widely spoken in Agadez in 1851 (as attested by Barth), in Ghadames in 1860 according to Duveyrier, and in Ghât in 1884 according to Krause and Harris.100 On the steamer from Tripoli to Malta on his way to Europe, Dorugu met

two Hausa slave boys who spoke Hausa. I asked if they were free. They replied “Oh no.” They said that they were travelling to Istanbul. I was happy to meet people who spoke Hausa, but I felt sorry because they were slaves.101

In Sierra Leone, Schön encountered a traveler named Ari Babaribari who said he visited Egypt and Istanbul or Constantinople, where numerous Hausa communities could be found.102 In Alexandria, the 1868 census mentioned 110 Africans, both freeborn and enslaved, with 17 of them identified as Takrur, meaning they came from Borno, Bagirmi, Hausa are, and Fezzan.103 Charles Henry Robinson in his work on the Hausa language says “ settlements of Hausa-speaking people are to be found in Suakin, Alexandria, Tripoli, Tunis, and on the west coast at Sierra Leone and Lagos.”104

In the Maghreb at the end of the 19th century, large communities of West African slaves and freed slaves settled and organized themselves in communal organizations in several places, as attested in various eyewitness accounts. In 1850 in Tunis, there was a community of freed Africans composed of 1,000 men and 1,600 women, organized in subcommunities by regions of origin, one of them around people from Katsina and one from Kano. These communities paid for houses for the unemployed among them.105 In 1854, while he was traveling toward Great Britain with Heinrich Barth, Dorugu saw the same kind of community outside the city Tripoli:

a small town of slaves who have been set free but who are unable to return to their countries. . . . The Hausa people there would like to return home but they don’t have enough money to get back to their country.106

This community is said to have gathered 2,500 Hausa speakers in 1883.107 Several communities were also attested in what is 21st-century Algeria. A female Hausa liberated slave, Aïcha bent Embarka, wife of Salem ben Abdallah of Kano, was interrogated by the French captain Jean Marie Leroux about the Hausa language and produced with him a dictionary. The captain also collected vocabularies in Hausa communities in Alger, Djelfa, Ouargla, and the Mzab.108 In Algiers in the early 20th century, African communities were organized around a cult connected with the “Fountain of the Jinn,” the “seven springs” (sabʿ ʿuyūn), and through communal houses based on the region from which their members originally came. One of them was named Dār of the East, and gathered people from Katsina, Zouzou (i.e., Zazzau/Zaria), and Borno.109 Delafosse, in 1900, spoke of Hausa communities in Ideles, Ghat, In-Salah, Ghadames, Ouargla, Tougourt, Laghouat, Biskra, Batna, Gabes, Tunis, Gatroun, Moutzouk, and Tripoli.110

The existence of distinct and separate communities whose members continue to adhere to beliefs and rituals of their lands of origin would seem to suggest that emancipation was not accompanied, in the Maghreb, by any great degree of social integration.111

In 1906 Paris, an African dandy named Toukou modeled for artists and scientists. He was a former enslaved Hausa, born in Sokoto, who freed himself by joining a regiment of tirailleur in colonial Algeria. After having fought on the French side during the Crimean War, he arrived in Paris and married a French laundrywoman.112 This kind of path across continents marked by social upward trajectory is both exceptional and symptomatic of the possibility of breaking out of one’s condition in a diasporic context. This is also the case for Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua, the son of a Katsina woman, born to a family of merchants active in the kola trade. He was captured around 1840 and sold in the Atlantic slave trade. Shipped from Whydah to Brazil, he managed to escape from slavery in New York in 1847 and enroll in the New York Central College to study; there, he wrote his autobiography.113 More broadly, Hausa communities have been places of emancipation for individuals who wanted to escape their condition by learning Hausa or sometimes by converting to Islam. Individuals who were not necessarily born Hausa could change their situation. At the end of the 19th century, the Hausa diaspora related to slavery was a global diaspora spanning at least four continents. Toward the 20th century, this diaspora was no longer related to slavery and was headed in other directions, toward new trade routes to China, Dubai, America, Europe, or Saudi Arabia.

Discussion of the Literature

The study of Hausa diasporas has a long history. The famous notion of trading diaspora coined by Abner Cohen in the 1960s and later theorized and generalized by Philipp Curtin in the 1980s came from the Hausa diaspora; in the 21st century, it is applied and discussed widely in a global perspective. The recognition by scholars of the role of diasporas in premodern trade has been shaped by work on African history, such as Paul Lovejoy’s work on Hausa long-distance trading networks. Trust, trading diasporas, and cross-cultural trade have since been topics of heated debate. But not all Hausa diasporic communities were traders, nor were they all shaped by slavery. Paul Lovejoy’s work has been crucial in articulating the study of trade, slavery, and diaspora.


This research received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, ERC-STG 2017, grant agreement 759390.

The author would like to thank Paul Lovejoy for his remark on an earlier version of this paper.

Primary Sources

To research Hausa diaspora and slavery in Africa, the Atlantic, and the Muslim world, four types of sources are especially useful.

    First, records relating to the slave trade and slave trafficking are kept in Europe: in London at the National Archives; in France in the Paris National Archives and in Aix en Provence or in the Diplomatic Archives in Nantes and La Courneuve. Archival records of enslaved or liberated Hausa living in Europe can also be found all across Europe in the records of missionaries or of state monitoring and surveillance of foreigners. For Islamic and Ottoman slave trade and slave trafficking, judicial records of the local cadis are key resources to find the voices of enslaved individuals.

    A second type of source useful to research this topic includes European or American travelers’ narratives to Africa and other parts of the world, because they often describe the journey of well-traveled enslaved or liberated African slaves around the continent and the world. Most of the narratives of French travelers are digitized in this webdossier form the Bnf and searchable on Gallica. Their archives are mostly retained in the archives of the Société de géographie at the Bnf. Other collections relating to the age of exploration or of geography militant can be found in the archives of the Royal Geographical Society or in Germany in the personal archives of explorers, searchable in Kalliope.

    Third, one of the most important types of documents for this topic is the autobiographies or biographies of former enslaved individuals from the global African diaspora. Most were published in the 19th century, some in European languages and some in African languages, such as Hausa.114 Several major collections have been published, but many have yet to be discovered and analyzed.115 The website Freedom narrative lists biographical accounts and testimonies of West Africans from the Era of Slavery.

    Fourth, a major source for following the footsteps of Hausa diasporas across continents is the work of European linguists interested in African languages. From the second half of the 18th century, European science took a growing interest in describing African languages, especially Hausa and Kanuri languages. Missionaries, explorers, and amateurs based, for example, in Tunis, Cairo, Freetown, or Bahia, in Brazil, searched for Hausa and Kanuri people. Most of the people they interrogated and from which they collected materials in African languages were enslaved or liberated individuals, t. The results of these inquiries enable 21st-century researchers to map and identify Hausa people and diasporic communities around the world as in the European project Langarchiv. Archives related to this kind of collect can be found, for example, in the records of the Church Missionary Society.

Further Reading

  • Adamu, Mahdi. The Hausa Factor in West African History. Ibadan, Nigeria: Oxford University Press Nigeria, 1978.
  • Barcia, Manuel. West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba: Soldier Slaves in the Atlantic World, 1807–1844. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Bashir Salau, Mohammed. Plantation Slavery in the Sokoto Caliphate: A Historical and Comparative Study. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2018.
  • Diouf, Sylviane. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas. New York: New York University Press, 1998.
  • Lovejoy, Paul. Caravans of Kola the Hausa Kola Trade, 1700–1900. Zaria, Nigeria: Ahmadu Bello University Press, 1980.
  • Lovejoy, Paul. Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa. London: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Lovejoy, Paul. Jihad in West Africa during the Age of Revolutions. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2016.
  • Mirzai, Behnaz A., Ismael Musah Montana, and Paul E. Lovejoy, eds. Slavery, Islam and Diaspora. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2009.
  • Montana, Ismael. The Abolition of Slavery in Ottoman Tunisia. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2013.
  • O’Rourke, Harmony. Hadija’s Story: Diaspora, Gender, and Belonging in the Cameroon Grassfields. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017.
  • Reis, João José. Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.
  • Rossi, Benedetta, and Anne Haour, eds. Being and Becoming Hausa: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.
  • Works, John A. Pilgrims in a Strange Land: Hausa Communities in Chad. New York: Columbia University Press, 1976.


  • 1. Paul Lovejoy, Caravans of Kola: The Hausa Kola Trade, 1700–1900 (Zaria, Nigeria: Ahmadu Bello University Press, 1980), 53; Paul Lovejoy, Salt of the Desert Sun: A History of Salt Production and Trade in the Central Sudan (London: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 266–267; a detailed example of Hausaization—and of multiple layers of Hausa identity, from more generic to more specific—is provided in Benedetta Rossi, “Being and Becoming Hausa in Ader,” in Being and Becoming Hausa: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, , eds. Benedetta Rossi and Anne Haour (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010), , 121–137.

  • 2. Rossi and Haour, Being and Becoming Hausa, 5–6.

  • 3. Mahdi Adamu, The Hausa Factor in West African History (Ibadan, Nigeria: Oxford University Press Nigeria, 1978), 32–33.

  • 4. Intellectual diasporas related to pilgrimage and scholarship are beyond the scope of this article. They will not be addressed here, except when related to slavery.

  • 5. John A. Works, Pilgrims in a Strange Land: Hausa Communities in Chad (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), 106.

  • 6. Bruce Hall, “How Slaves Used Islam: The Letters of Enslaved Muslim Commercial Agents in the Nineteenth-Century Niger Bend and Central Sahara,” Journal of African History 52, no. 3 (2011): 279–297; and Camille Lefebvre, “Un esclave a vu le monde: Se déplacer en tant qu’esclave au Soudan central (xixe s.),” Locus, Revista de História 35, no. 2 (2012): 105–143.

  • 7. Lovejoy, Caravans of Kola, 77.

  • 8. Paul E. Lovejoy, Slavery in the Global Diaspora of Africa (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2019), 5.

  • 9. Rossi and Haour, Being and Becoming Hausa, 9; and Teresa Ciecierska-Chlapowa, “Extraits de fragments du Siyahtname d’Evilya Celebi concernant l’Afrique noire,” Folia Orientalia, t. 6 (1964): 243.

  • 10. Ismail Montana, “Bori Colonies in Tunis,” in Slavery, Islam and Diaspora, ed. Behnaz A. Mirzai, Ismael Musah Montana, and Paul E. Lovejoy (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2009), 155–156.

  • 11. Montana, “Bori Colonies in Tunis,” 159–160.

  • 12. Camille Lefebvre, “The Life of a Text: Carsten Niebuhr and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aġa Das innere von Afrika,” in Landscapes, Sources, and Intellectual Projects: Politics, History, and the West African Past, ed. Toby Green and Benedetta Rossi (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2018), 386–393.

  • 13. Miss Tully, Narrative of a Ten Years’ Residence at Tripoli in Africa, from the Original Correspondence in the Possession of the Family of the Late Richard Tully (London: H. Colburn, 1817); letter from November 1, 1783, 29; June 20, 1789, 205; and Carsten Niebuhr, “Das Innere von Afrika,” Neue Deutsches Museum, vol. 5,(October 1790), 982.

  • 14. Niebuhr, “Das Innere von Afrika,” 984–985.

  • 15. Simon Lucas, Proceedings of the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa (London: G. and W. Nicol, 1810), 1:180–189; and John Wright, The Trans-Saharan Slave Trade (London: Routledge, 2007), 56.

  • 16. Paul Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa (London: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 80.

  • 17. Patrick Manning, Slavery, Colonialism and Economic Growth in Dahomey, 1640–1960 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 30–31.

  • 18. Adamu, Hausa Factor, 114–115.

  • 19. Robin Law, The Oyo Empire: c.1600–c.1836; a West African Imperialism in the Era of the Atlantic Slave Trade (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 217.

  • 20. Paul Lovejoy, Jihad in West Africa during the Age of Revolutions (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2016), 63–64.

  • 21. Data collected on the Marronnage in the Atlantic World, accessed January 26, 2023,.

  • 22. Data collected on the Marronnage in the Atlantic World website, accessed January 26, 2023,.

  • 23. Gabriel Debien, Les esclaves aux Antilles Françaises (XVIIe–XVIIIe siècles) (Paris: Société d’Impressions Caron-Ozanne, 1975), 67.

  • 24. Jacques Houdaille, “Les esclaves dans la zone d’occupation anglaise de Saint-Domingue en 1796,” Population, 26-1 (1971): 156.

  • 25. Data collected on the Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, accessed January 26, 2023,.

  • 26. Humphrey J. Fisher, “A Muslim William Willberforce? The Sokoto Jihâd as Anti-Slavery Crusade: An Enquiry into Historical Causes,” in De la traite à l’esclavage: actes du Colloque international sur la traite des noirs, ed. Serge Daget (Paris: Société française d’histoire d’outre-mer, 1988), 554.

  • 27. Lovejoy, Tranformations, 99; and Mervyn Hiskett, The Sword of Truth: The Life and Times of the Shehu Usuman dan Fodio (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 78–79.

  • 28. Quoted in Lovejoy, Jihad in West Africa, 65, 90, 147.

  • 29. Hiskett, Sword of Truth, 77; and Lovejoy, Jihad in West Africa, 30.

  • 30. Hiskett, Sword of Truth, 77–79.

  • 31. Abdullahi Mahadi, “The aftermath of the jihād in the central sudan as a major factor in the volume of the Trans‐Saharan slave trade in the nineteenth century”, Slavery & Abolition, 13-1 (1992) 114–128.

  • 32. Lovejoy, Tranformations, 156.

  • 33. Mohammed Bashir Salau, Plantation Slavery in the Sokoto Caliphate: A Historical and Comparative Study (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2018), 20; and Lovejoy, Jihad in West Africa, 102.

  • 34. Lovejoy, Jihad in West Africa, 91.

  • 35. Camille Lefebvre, Frontières de sable, frontières de papier: histoire de territoires et de frontières, du jihad de Sokoto à la colonisation française du Niger, xixexxe siècles (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2015), 92.

  • 36. Ali Eisami,”Narrative of the travels of Ali Eisami”, in Africa Remembered: Narratives by West Africans from the Era of the Slave Trade, ed. Philip D. Curtin (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968), 212.

  • 37. Houdaille, “Les esclaves dans la zone,” 156; and Gabriel Debien, De l’Afrique à Saint Domingue (Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Revue de la Société Haïtienne d’Histoire et de Géographie, 1982), 7.

  • 38. David Geggus, “Sex Ratio, Age and Ethnicity in the Atlantic Slave Trade: Data from French Shipping and Plantation Records,” The Journal of African History 30, no. 1 (1989): 35–36.

  • 39. Paul E. Lovejoy and David Richardson, “Competing Markets for Male and Female Slaves: Prices in the Interior of West Africa, 1780–1850,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies 28, no. 2 (1995): 282.

  • 40. Francis de Castelanau, Renseignements sur l’Afrique centrale et sur une nation d’hommes à queue qui s’y trouveraient: d’après le rapport des nègres du Soudan, esclaves à Bahia (Paris: P. Bertrand, 1851), 9.

  • 41. Geggus, “Sex Ratio,” 37.

  • 42. About the price of enslaved women in hausaland, Beverly Mack, “Women and slavery in nineteenth‐century Hausaland”, Slavery and abolition, A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, Volume 13, 1992, issue 1, p. 98-99; Martin Klein, “La traite transatlantique des esclaves et le développement de l’eslavage en Afrique Occidentale,” in Les dépendances serviles: Approches comparées, ed. Myriam Cottias, Allessandro Stella, and Bernard Vincent (Paris: Harmattan, 2006) 35-54; Martin Klein, “Sexuality and slavery in the western Sudan” in Sex, Power and slavery, ed. Gwyn Campbell and Elizabeth Elbourne (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2014) 63-82.

  • 43. Rudolf Prietze, “Wüstenreise des Haussa-Händlers Mohammed Agigi: In Gesprächen geschildert von Hazz Ahmed aus Kano,” Mittheilungen des Seminars für orientalische Sprachen an der Königlichen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin, vol.XXVII (1924): 1–36; Ulrich Haarmann, “The Dead Ostrich Life and Trade in Ghadames (Libya) in the Nineteenth Century,” Die Welt des Islams, New Series 38, no. 1 (1998): 9–94; Ghislaine Lydon, On Trans-Saharan Trails: Islamic Law, Trade Networks, and Cross-Cultural Exchange in Nineteenth-Century Western Africa (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 34–36; 241–248; and Hall, “How Slaves Used Islam.”, 288–293.

  • 44. Ismael Montana, The Abolition of Slavery in Ottoman Tunisia (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2013), 45.

  • 45. Wright, Trans-Saharan Slave Trade, 77.

  • 46. Wright, Trans-Saharan Slave Trade, 80.

  • 47. Wright, Trans-Saharan Slave Trade, 79.

  • 48. John Wright, “Murzuk and the Saharan Slave Trade in the 19th Century,” Libyan Studies, January, 29 (1998): 93.

  • 49. James Grey Jackson, An Account of the Empire of Marocco and the Districts of Suse and Tafilelt: To which Is Added an Account of Shipwrecks on the Western Coast of Africa and an Interesting Account of Timbuctoo, the Great Emporium of Central Africa (Philadelphia: Francis Nichols, 1810), 207–208.

  • 50. Heinrich Freiherrn von Maltzan, Reise in den Regentschaften Tunis und Tripoli (Leipzig: Dyk, 1870), t. 3, 326; and Amal Altaleb, The Social and Economic History of Slavery in Libya (1800–1950) (PhD diss., University of Manchester, 2016), 194–195, supervised by Steven Pierce.

  • 51. Barbara M. Cooper, “Gender, Movement, and History: Social and Spatial Transformations in 20th Century Maradi, Niger,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 15, no. 2 (April 1997): 195–221.

  • 52. Ismail H. Abdalla, “Neither Friend nor Foe: The Malam Practitioner Yan Bori Relationship to Hausaland,” in Women’s Medicine: The Zar-Bori Cult in Africa and Beyond, ed. Ioan Myrddin Lewis, Ahmed al-Shafi, and Hurreiz Sayyid (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991), 41.

  • 53. Jerome H. Barkow, “Hausa Women and Islam,” Canadian Journal of African Studies/Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines 6, no. 2 (1972): 326; Abdalla, “Neither Friend nor Foe,” 42–43; Nicole Echard, “Gender Relationships and Religion: Women in the Hausa Bori of Ader, Niger,” in Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century, ed. Catherine Coles and Beverly Mack (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), 207; and Ehud Toledano, As If Silent and Absent: Bonds of Enslavement in the Islamic Middle East (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), 221.

  • 54. Yannis Spyropoulos, “Beys, Sheikhs, Kolbaşıs, and Godiyas: Some Notes on the Leading Figures of the Ottoman–African Diaspora,” Turcica 48 (2017): 194.

  • 55. Ismael M. Montana, “Bori Practice among Enslaved West Africans of Ottoman Tunis: Unbelief (Kufr) or Another Dimension of the African Diaspora?” History of the Family 16-2 (2011): 152–159; and Ismael Montana, “Ahmad Ibn al-Qadi al-Timbuktawi on the Bori Ceremonies of Sudan-Tunis,” in Slavery on the Frontiers of Islam, ed. Paul Lovejoy (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2004), 179.

  • 56. James Richardson, Travels in the Great Desert of Sahara (London: Richard Bentley, 1848), t. 2, 67.

  • 57. Claude-Antoine Rozet, Voyage dans la régence d’Alger, ou Description du pays occupé par l’armée française en Afrique: contenant des observations sur la géographie physique, la géologie, la météorologie, . . . : suivies de détails sur le commerce l’agriculture, les sciences et les arts, les mœurs (Paris: A. Bertrand, 1833), 2:145; Marius Bernard, Autour de la Méditerranée, les côtes barbaresques, d’Alger à Tanger (Paris: H. Laurens, 1894), 34–35; and Tamara Turner, “Algerian Diwan of Sidi Bilal: Music, Trance, and Affect in Popular Islam” (PhD diss., King’s College, 2017), 56.

  • 58. Émile Dermenghem, Le culte des saints dans l’Islam maghrébin (Paris: Gallimard, 1954), 258.

  • 59. George John Frederick Tomlinson and Gordon Lethem, History of Islamic Political Propaganda in Nigeria: Reports (London, Colonial Office, 1927), 51.

  • 60. Lovejoy, Jihad in West Africa, 228.

  • 61. Sylviane Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas (New York: New York University Press, 1998), 69.

  • 62. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 124.

  • 63. Michael A. Gomez, Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 69.

  • 64. Manuel Barcia, West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba: Soldier Slaves in the Atlantic World, 1807–1844 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 68.

  • 65. Diouf, Servants of Allah, 55, 220–221; and Pierre Verger, Flux et reflux de la traite des nègres entre le Golfe de Bénin et Bahia de todos os Santos, du XVIIe au XIXe siècle (Paris: Mouton, 1968), 329.

  • 66. João José Reis, Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 5–6.

  • 67. Reis, Slave Rebellion, 93.

  • 68. Reis, Slave Rebellion, 42.

  • 69. Lovejoy, Jihad in West Africa, 186.

  • 70. Diouf, Servants of Allah, 222; and Lovejoy, Jihad in West Africa, 192.

  • 71. Lovejoy, Jihad in West Africa, 185.

  • 72. Reis, Slave Rebellion, 231.

  • 73. Diouf, Servants of Allah, 159.

  • 74. Antonio Menezes de Drummond, “Lettres sur l’Afrique ancienne et moderne,” Journal des voyages XXXII (1826): 190–224.

  • 75. De Castelanau, Renseignements sur l’Afrique centrale, 39.

  • 76. “Parmi les Haoussas que j’ai interrogés, il se trouve plusieurs hommes intelligents et instruits, sachant lire et écrire, ayant beaucoup voyagé et connaissant bien les diverses parties du Soudan,” MAE, CCC sous série Bahia, t. 5, f. 315–319, letter from September 12, 1850, Bahia, dépêche de Castelnau, étude de la population des esclaves noirs de Bahia.

  • 77. Raymundo Nina Rodrigues, Os Africanos No Brasil (São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1976), 56; and Diouf, Servants of Allah, 173.

  • 78. Cynric R. Williams, A Tour through the Island of Jamaica from the Western to the Eastern End, in the Year 1823 (London: Hunt and Clarke, 1826), 31.

  • 79. Williams, Tour through the Island of Jamaica, 80.

  • 80. Joseph Sturge and Thomas Harvey, The West Indies in 1837 (London: Dawsons of Pall Mall, 1968), 287; and Diouf, Servants of Allah, 60.

  • 81. Richard Burleigh Kimball, The Prince of Kashna: A West Indian Story (New York: Carleton, 1841), 16; and William H. Goetzmann, A History of American Thought from Paine to Pragmatism (New York: Basic Books, 2009), 352.

  • 82. Diouf, Servants of Allah, 14.

  • 83. Nikolay Dobronravin, “Escritos multilíngües em caracteres árabes: Novas fontes de Trinidad e Brasil no século XIX,” Afro-Ásia 31 (2004): 297–326; and Nikolay Dobronravin, “Literacy among Muslims in Nineteenth-Century Trinidad and Brazil,” in Mirzai, Montana, and Lovejoy, Slavery, Islam and Diaspora, 226–228.

  • 84. Diouf, Servants of Allah, 174, 186; and Rodrigues, Os Africanos no Brasil, 59.

  • 85. Lovejoy, Slavery in the Global Diaspora, 10.

  • 86. Data collected on the Slaves and Liberated Slaves in French Guiana, accessed January 26, 2023,.

  • 87. Guillaume Durand, “Survivance des patronymes d’origine africaine à la Martinique chez les esclaves et les affranchis avant et après l’abolition de 1848,” Nouvelle revue d’onomastique, issue Anthroponymie antillaise, n°39–40 (2002): 247–305

  • 88. Maureen Warner-Lewis, Guinea’s Other Suns: The African Dynamic in Trinidad (Dover, Massachusetts: Majority Press, 1991), 7–8, 16–19, 24–27; and Gomez, Black Crescent, 77–78.

  • 89. Warner-Lewis, Guinea’s Other Suns, 69–70.

  • 90. Abner Cohen, Custom & Politics in Urban Africa: A Study of Hausa Migrants in Yoruba Towns (Berkeley: University of California press, 1969); Lovejoy, Caravans of Kola, 77; Emmanuel Grégoire, Les Alhazai de Maradi, Niger: histoire d’un groupe de riches marchands sahéliens (Bondy France: Éd. de l’ORSTOM, 1986); and Lydon, On Trans-Saharan Trails, 342.

  • 91. Lefebvre, “Un esclave a vu le monde”, 131–143.

  • 92. Works, Pilgrims in a Strange Land, 23.

  • 93. Harmony O’Rourke, “Beyond the World of Commerce: Rethinking Hausa Diaspora History through Marriage, Distance, and Legal Testimony,” History in Africa 43 (2016): 147.

  • 94. James Frederick Schön, Grammar of the Hausa Language (London: Church Missionary House, 1862), III.

  • 95. Schön, Grammar, III.

  • 96. James Henry Dorugu and Muhammadu Maimaina Na Jega, West African Travels and Adventures: Two Autobiographical Narratives from Northern Nigeria, the Life and Travels of Dorugu, the Story of Maimana of Jega, Chief of Askira, as Told by Himself, trans. from Hausa and annotated by Anthony Kirk-Greene and Paul Newman (London: Yale University Press, 1971), 72.

  • 97. Paul Lovejoy, “The Kambarin Beriberi: The Formation of a Specialized Group of Hausa Kola Traders in the Nineteenth Century,” The Journal of African History 14, no. 4 (1973): 633–651.

  • 98. Samuel Crowther, Journal of an Expedition up the Niger and Tschadda Rivers, Undertaken by Macgregor Laird, . . . in Connection with the British Government, in 1854 (London: Church Missionary House, 1855), 203.

  • 99. Works, Pilgrims in a Strange Land.

  • 100. James Richardson, Narrative of a Mission to Central Africa, Performed in the Years 1850-51, vol. 2, (London: Chapman and Hall, 1853) 2:61; Henri Duveyrier, Les Touaregs du nord: exploration du Sahara (Paris: Challamel, 1864), 256; Gottlob Adolf Krause, Proben der Sprache von Ghat in der Sáhara, mit haussanischer und deutscher Übersetzung (Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus, 1884). “No. 27. Story of Ghât, by Amber a Hausa Slave,” in Herman G. Harris, Hausa Stories and Riddles, with Notes on the Language, etc., and a Concise Hausa Dictionary(Weston-super-Mare, GB: Mendip Press, 1908), 93–95.

  • 101. Dorugu and Maimaina Na Jega, West African Travels and Adventures, 86.

  • 102. Schön, Grammar, III.

  • 103. Terence Walz, “African Slaves in Nineteenth-Century Rural Egypt: A Preliminary Assessment,” in Race and Slavery in the Middle East: Histories of Trans-Saharan Africans in Nineteenth-Century Egypt, Sudan, and the Ottoman Mediterranean, ed. Terence Walz and Kenneth M. Cuno (Cairo, Egypt: American University in Cairo Press, 2010), 52.

  • 104. Charles H. Robinson, Specimens of Hausa Literature (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1896), IX.

  • 105. Auguste Prax, “Variétés: Tunis (6e article),” Le pays: journal des volontés de la France, October 15, 1850, 5.

  • 106. Dorugu and Maimaina Na Jega, West African Travels and Adventures, 85–86.

  • 107. Robert Cust, A Sketch of the Modern Languages of Africa (London: Trübner, 1883), 1:250.

  • 108. Jean-Marie Le Roux, Essai de dictionnaire français-haoussa et haoussa-français (Algiers, Algeria: Adolphe Jourdan, 1886), V.

  • 109. James Bruyn Andrews, Les fontaines des génies: (seba aioun) croyances soudanaises à Alger (Algiers, Algeria: Adolphe Jourdan, 1903).

  • 110. Maurice Delafosse, Manuel de langue haoussa ou Chrestomatie haoussa, précédé d’un abrégé de grammaire et suivi d’un vocabulaire (Paris: J. Maisonneuve, 1901), VII.

  • 111. John Hunwick, “Black Slaves in the Mediterranean World: Introduction to a Neglected Aspect of the African Diaspora,” Slavery & Abolition 13, no. 1 (1992): 28–29.

  • 112. Ernest-Théodore Hamy, “Toukou le Haoussa: souvenirs de laboratoire,” Bulletins et mémoires de la Société d’anthropologie de Paris (1906) 7: 490–496.

  • 113. Robin Law and Paul E. Lovejoy, eds., The Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua: His Passage from Slavery to Freedom in Africa and America (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2001), 1–84.

  • 114. About this kind of source: Pier M. Larson, “Horrid Journeying: Narratives of Enslavement and the Global African Diaspora,” Journal of World History 19, no. 4 (2008): 431–464; and Paul Lovejoy, “Biography as Source Material: Towards a Biographical Archive of Enslaved Africans,” in Source Material for Studying the Slave Trade and the African Diaspora: Papers from a Conference of the Centre of Commonwealth Studies, ed. Robin Law and Douglas Chamber (Stirling, GB: University of Stirling, 1997) 119–140.

  • 115. Philip D. Curtin, ed., Africa Remembered: Narratives by West Africans from the Era of the Slave Trade (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967); Alice Bellagamba, Sandra E. Greene, and Martin A. Klein, eds., African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade, vol. 1 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013); and Alice Bellagamba, Sandra E. Greene, and Martin A. Klein, eds., African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade, vol. 2 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016).