CNN host Don Lemon was left thunderstruck on Tuesday after royal commentator Hilary Fordwich told him she agrees that reparations should be paid for slavery -- but it's the descendants of African kings who sold their own people into slavery who should be paying them.
LEMON: Well, this is coming when, you know, there's all of this wealth and you hear about it comes as England is facing rising cost of living, living crisis, austerity, budget cuts and so on.
And then you have those who are asking for reparations for colonialism. And they're wondering, you know, $100 billion, $24 billion here and there, $500 million there. Some people want to be paid back and members of the public are wondering why are we suffering when you are, you know, you have all of this vast wealth. Those are legitimate concerns.
FORDWICH: Well, I think you're right about reparations in terms of if people wanted, though. What they need to do is you always need to go back to the beginning of a supply chain. Where was the beginning of the supply chain. That was in Africa. And when that crossed the entire world when the slavery was taking place, which was the first nation in the world that abolished slave — slavery. The first nation in the world to abolish it, it was started by William Wilberforce, was the British. In Great Britain, they abolished slavery. Two thousand naval men died on the high seas trying to stop slavery. Why? Because the African kings were rounding up their own people. They had them on cages waiting in the beaches. No one was running into Africa to get them.
And I think you're totally right. If reparations need to be paid, we need to go right back to the beginning of that supply chain and say, who was rounding up their own people and having them handcuffed in cages. Absolutely. That's where they should start.
And maybe, I don't know the descendants of those families where they died at the — in the high seas, trying to stop the slavery that those families should receive something too, I think at the same time.
LEMON: It's an interesting discussion, Hilary. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. We'll continue to discuss —
Dr. Alexander Falconbridge was a European who served as a surgeon aboard multiple slave ships that sailed from West Africa to the Caribbean during the last quarter of the 18th century. He would eventually become an abolitionist. In 1788, he supplied the world with an all too rare account of the African participation in the slave trade.
Since "the black traders" take "extreme care" "to prevent the Europeans from gaining any intelligence" regarding the logistics involved in capturing slaves, Falconbridge drew his impressions—namely, that many, if not most, of the latter were abducted—from what he did observe directly as well as from the testimony of those Africans who had been captured.
One black captive, a man, told Falconbridge that he had been invited to drink with traders. As he proceeded to walk away, they seized him. He broke free, but only to be hunted down by a "large dog" that "compelled him to submit." Dogs were used with regularity by African slave catchers. As the man struggled in vain against the animal, his abductors, "being trained to the inhuman sport," appeared to delight in his suffering.
A pregnant woman explained that she was returning home one evening from visiting with neighbors when traders seized upon her. Since those Africans involved in slave trading increasingly traveled further and further into the interior to find human beings, this woman, like so many others, "had passed through the hands of several purchasers before she reached the ship."
Falconbridge tells of a father and his son who, while tending to crops, were attacked, captured, and dragged off to be sold. Another unsuspecting black man was invited by his companion to behold the gigantic European ships that were parked along the coast. Intrigued, he accepted the invitation. Yet before he could realize that he had been manipulated, the soon-to-be slave was ambushed and taken on board the vessel.
It would be a mistake to think that the Africans didn't have a sophisticated operation. Falconbridge reports that traders would sail "up country" to "the fairs" in 20-30 canoes "capable of containing thirty or forty Negroes each" to purchase slaves. The canoes would be packed with "such goods" as were necessary for this purpose. As the traders embarked, Falconbridge could see "colors flying" and "music playing;" it was a festive affair.
When the canoes return with their cargo, "the purchased Negroes are cleaned, and oiled with palm-oil [.]" Then they are shown to the Europeans.
If, however, for whatever reasons, the captains passed on what the Africans were trying to sell, the latter would "beat those Negroes…and use them with great severity." In a passage that is particularly revealing of the inhumanity of the treatment to which Africans would subject their own, Falconbridge writes: "It matters not whether they [the African slaves] are refused on account of age, illness, deformity, or for any other reason." Off the coast of New Calabar, what is today known as Nigeria, "the traders, when any of their Negroes have been objected to, have dropped their canoes under the stern of the vessel, and instantly be headed them, in sight of the captain" (italics added).
To repeat: Slaves that Europeans didn't want African traders swiftly decapitated.