Islam's Black Slaves The Other Black Diaspora

Ronald Segal

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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Segal here provides the fascinating and horrifying story of the Islamic slave trade, a centuries-old institution that still survives. Islam's Black Slaves also traces the business of slavery—and its repercussions—from Islam's inception in the seventh century onward. Slavery's history in China, India, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, and Spain is thus also considered—as well as its ongoing presence in Sudan and Mauritania.

The book reveals for the first time the numbers involved in this trade and explores the differences between traffic in the East and the West. Segal also examines the continued denial of even the existence of this sector of the black diaspora, although it can be found today in significant numbers. In an illuminating conclusion, he addresses the appeal of Islam to African-American communities, as well as the perplexing refusal of Black Muslim leaders to acknowledge black slavery and oppression in present-day Mauritania and Sudan.


Praise for Islam's Black Slaves

"Segal deserves great credit for putting the history of Islamic slavery on the record in a carefully documented way."—Adam Hochschild, The New York Times Book Review

"Valiant . . . Well weighed and well judged."—Basil Davidson, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Excellently written . . . Very enlightening."—Harriet Klausner, The Midwest Book Review

"No summary can do justice to the author's many provocative conclusions."—Lee Milazzo, The Dallas Morning News

"This book is an essential survey that serves as a helpful introduction to the topic."—A.O. Edmonds, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, Library Journal

"This book undertakes the formidable task of recounting the dispersion of black Africans in Asia and the Middle East, most of which was forced by the Islamic slave trade. 'In Islam, slavery was never the moral, political, and economic issue that it was in the West, so there are fewer sources about its history,' notes Segal, the founding editor of the Penguin African Library and the author of 14 other books. Still, he pieces together a compelling drama of conquests and conversions, beginning with an illuminating chapter about the differences between the Atlantic and Islamic trades: the Islamic trade began some eight centuries before the Atlantic one, and preferred women slaves over men. His account then moves from early Islam, when laws did not subject slaves to any special racial discrimination, into the 19th century, when the process of enslaving blacks came to involve violence and brutality on a gigantic scale. Segal also discusses the extension of the Islamic trade into China, India and Spain, the role of the Ottoman Empire, slavery in Iran and Libya, and the effect of European colonization, which he argues 'preserved the force if not the face of old subjugations' . . . Readers will find much that is new, particularly in the early chapters, where Segal trains his eye on the part slaves played in the development of the high civilization attained by imperial Islam."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Ronald Segal

  • South African-born Ronald Segal is the founding editor of the Penguin African Library, and the author of over a dozen books, including The Crisis of India, The Race War, The Americans, and The Black Diaspora.

  • Ronald Segal Copyright Jerry Bauer