Neha Patil (Editor)


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Similar  Lomboko, Danish slave trade, White slavery

Maafa (or African Holocaust, Holocaust of Enslavement, or Black holocaust as alternatives) are terms used to describe the history and ongoing effects of atrocities inflicted on African people. The Maafa includes the Arab and Atlantic slave trades, and continued through imperialism, colonialism, and other forms of oppression to the present day.


History and terminology

Usage of the Swahili term Maafa ("Great Disaster") in English was introduced by Marimba Ani's book "Let the Circle Be Unbroken: The Implications of African Spirituality in the Diaspora". It is derived from a Swahili term for "disaster, terrible occurrence or great tragedy". The term was popularized in the 1990s.

The term African Holocaust is preferred by some academics, such as Maulana Karenga, because it implies intention. One problem noted by Karenga is that the word Maafa can also translate to "accident", and in the view of some scholars the holocaust of enslavement was not accidental. Ali Mazrui notes that the word "holocaust" is a "dual plagiarism" since the term is derived from Ancient Greek and thus, despite being associated with the genocide of the Jews, no one can have a monopoly over the term. Mazrui states: "This borrowing from borrowers without attribution is what I call 'the dual plagiarism.' But this plagiarism is defensible because the vocabulary of horrors like genocide and enslavement should not be subject to copyright-restrictions."

Some Afrocentric scholars prefer the term Maafa to African Holocaust, because they believe that indigenous African terminology more truly confers the events. The term Maafa may serve "much the same cultural psychological purpose for Africans as the idea of the Holocaust serves to name the culturally distinct Jewish experience of genocide under German Nazism." Other arguments in favor of Maafa rather than African Holocaust emphasize that the denial of the validity of the African people's humanity is an unparalleled centuries-long phenomenon: "The Maafa is a continual, constant, complete, and total system of human negation and nullification."

The terms "Transatlantic Slave Trade", "Atlantic Slave Trade" and "Slave Trade" have also been said by some to be deeply problematic, because they serve as euphemisms for intense violence and mass murder. Referred to as a "trade", this prolonged period of persecution and suffering is rendered as a commercial dilemma, rather than as a moral atrocity. With trade as the primary focus, the broader tragedy becomes consigned to a secondary point, as mere "collateral damage" of a commercial venture. Others, however, feel that avoidance of the term trade is an apologetic act on behalf of capitalism, absolving capitalist structures of involvement in human catastrophe.

In scholarship

Maulana Karenga puts slavery in the broader context of the Maafa, suggesting that its effects exceed mere physical persecution and legal disenfranchisement: the "destruction of human possibility involved redefining African humanity to the world, poisoning past, present and future relations with others who only know us through this stereotyping and thus damaging the truly human relations among peoples."


Maafa Wikipedia