Slaves fugitives, and freedmen on the Kenya coast, 1873-1907
Morton, Rodger F
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In the late nineteenth century African slaves played an important role in the major economic, social, religious, and political developments on the Kenya coast. Procured from Zanzibar, Kilwa, and later the Kenya interior, slaves in the l870s totaled approximately forty-five thousand and represented one-quarter of the coastal population. Some were purchased by Mijikenda and other small hinterland groups, but the vast majority were owned by Swahili and Arab Muslims on the coastline. Muslim-owned slaves were used mainly in the rural areas, where they constituted a large agricultural force. From the 1840s they cleared extensive tracts of unoccupied land, cultivated thousands of acres in grain, and stimulated an active export trade at many new ports along the coast. As domestic servants, laborers, and artisans, slaves were also employed in the homes, villages, and towns in Muslim areas , Together with slave farmers, they formed a large, new class of Africans rendered permanently inferior by their manual duties and lack of Arab male ancestry. Despite their low status, slaves emulated the free-born classes by adopting elements of Muslim culture and as farmers spread Islam in the hinterland and enlarged the territorial control and influence of traditionally small Muslim communities.