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Ransoming of Captives and Redemption of Slaves in sub-Saharan Africa  

Jennifer Lofkrantz

The ransoming of captives and the redemption of slaves in precolonial and early colonial sub-Saharan Africa refer to two distinct practices. The ransoming of captives refers to the practice of paying for the release of a captive at the time of capture or soon afterwards and where the freed captive usually returns to their own society with their social status intact. In contrast, the redemption of slaves refers to the practice of the purchasing of the freedom of an enslaved person who then usually remains in a subservient status in their owner’s society. The redemption of slaves has been a well-studied subject throughout sub-Saharan Africa as both a form of indigenous African and colonial manumission policies as well as part of the growing field of social abolition of slavery. The ransoming of captives in precolonial sub-Saharan Africa, unlike in North Africa, is a more recent area of research, with most research concentrated on West Africa. The existence of both ransoming and redemption practices demonstrate that people and their family and friends valued freedom and used a myriad of strategies to achieve and maintain it.