The slave trade had far-reaching consequences on every group involved with it. Nowhere is this more true than on the African continent, where developing nation-states were adversely impacted by the practice in every level of society. The slave trade's negative cultural impact on families, larger social groups and established nation-states fundamentally changed the dynamics of the African continent's population.

Relationship Fragmentation

Families were decimated by the slave trade.
Families were decimated by the slave trade.

The most basic level of negative cultural impact lay in how slavery tore African family units apart. The trauma of losing young family members, people removed from the social frameworks that relied upon them to fulfill roles and provide continuity, took an incalculable toll on the affected regions. The relationships between different ethnic groups and kingdoms were negatively affected as well. Societal hierarchies became more rigid as protection from slave traders took precedence over other matters of state, leading to increased stagnation in cultural and economic development.

Trade Damage

Cultural exchange via trade suffered due to slavery.
Cultural exchange via trade suffered due to slavery.

The slave trade further damaged many aspects of African cultures through a heightened emphasis on guns and warfare. The threat of slave raids placed many African peoples in states of fear or aggression to either procure slaves for European traders or avoid being raided themselves. The influx of gun trading in certain areas of Africa to propagate a steady supply of slaves destabilized many regions and encouraged increasingly vicious raiding, as opposed to the cultural interchange brought by the exchange of regional and international goods.

Depopulation

Millions of Africans were stolen from their homes during the slave trade.
Millions of Africans were stolen from their homes during the slave trade.

Depopulation of the African continent also had a clear negative impact on culture. The people stolen as slaves may have fulfilled any number of societal roles in their community of origin. The loss of so many potential artisans, traders, philosophers and skilled laborers incurred an economic and cultural depletion to the affected regions, slowing the growth of existing population groups and the development of nation-states. It is of particular note that younger, stronger people were often taken for enslavement, thus their opportunity to raise children of their own within their own culture irreparably damaged cultural perpetuation.

Psychological Repercussions

Negative stereotypes of African peoples were a powerful tool for European slave traders.
Negative stereotypes of African peoples were a powerful tool for European slave traders.

An area of lasting harm to African cultures lies in the psychological repercussions of chattel slavery, defined as seeing an enslaved person as subhuman, or property. The slave trade reinforced the stereotypical view of African peoples as savages, and often contributed to European slave traders' rationalization that Africans served no other purpose but as laborers, and their unique cultures were without merit. In some instances, this assumption of inferiority was internalized by Africans, and remains a volatile subject many generations later.