Slave-market at Zanzibar

Slave-market at Zanzibar


Lithograph illustrating the slave-market in Zanzibar.

The most accurate representation of the slave market are a couople of stereographic photos from around 1860 by James August Grant see e.g. website Geographic Society and the Winterton collection at North Western University.


 Slavemarket Zanzibar

 The slave market at Zanzibar

Details about the slave market in Zanzibar 

The slaves were partly used on Zanzibar itself (clove plantations) and mostly exported to Muscat, India, Persia, Arab counties, but also to Portuguese and French colonies.

The former Slave Market is located on the eastern side of Zanzibar Stone Town, within short walking distance of the main market. Today, the Anglican Cathedral stands on the location of this historical site. Following the closure of the Slave Market by Sultan Barghash in 1873, missionaries bought the site and built the Anglican Cathedral (Cathedral Church of Christ) on this location and freed slaves helped with its construction under the guidance of Bishop Edward Steere (who also designed it) The church is made of coral stone. The altar of the cathedral supposedly stands on the spot of the whipping tree. A window is dedicated to Dr. Livingstone, an important initiator of the abolition of (East African) slavery. The church's crucifix is made from the wood of a tree in Zambia, under which the heart of Livingstone is buried. Despite the abolishment of slave trade in 1873, slaves continued to be kept for many years. Even the slave trade continued on a small scale for many years.

Anglican church Zanzibar slavery

Anglican church in Zanzibar (on the location of the old slave market)

Photo taken by J. Sturtz (1888-1890)

ReferencesOsgood in Notes of Travel or recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar Muscat etc. published in Salem (USA)  1854  page 50: "When in saleable condition of body the slaves are besmeared with oil, decorated with gold and silver trinkets, and taken to the slave bazaar, an open square about three fourths of a mile from town-centre, where they are offered for sale by auction, in lots or singly. At this human cattle-show, these dull pictures of despair are lashed and goaded into a transient show of life and animation, and made to walk and run and prove their strength as chattels for the service of their fellow men etc..

Page 51: If slaves are sold, their ornaments are removed before they are delivered to their purchasers. Some more fortunate than others of their fellow sufferers, are purchased by Arabs who are remarked for the kind treatment of their slaves, and who, owning generally more slaves than they areable to keep constantly employed, require but small service and allow them a moiety of all wages they may earn etc. Some of the most intelligent of the male slaves are adopted into the families of their Arab masters, educated well, employed as clerks, and often raised to high offices of trust. It by no means unfrequently happens that a lapse of a few years finds him who was entered a poor emaciated slave at the custom house, paying at the same place the required duties on the haggard subjects of his own cruel traffic"