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Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora Hardcover – March 7, 2001

3.6 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Designed as a companion volume to Segal's The Black Diaspora, which traced the movements of blacks in the Western Hemisphere from the Atlantic slave trade to the present, 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." A preliminary dig in a little-explored area, this book has a rough-hewn quality about it; scholars may find it too general, even if it provides seeds for further study. General readers, however, 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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Segal (The Black Diaspora: Five Centureis of the Black Experience Outside Africa), founding editor of the Penguin African Library, has written an overview of black slavery in the Islamic world from its beginnings to modern Sudan and Morocco. Relying primarily on secondary sources, the author explores Islamic slavery in China, India, the Middle East, and Africa and focuses on the differences between Islamic and Western slavery. He notes that while most slaves in the Americas were male and worked as agricultural laborers, in Islam female black slaves outnumbered males, and most slaves worked as servants. Segal concludes his study with an interesting epilog on the Black Muslim faith in the United States. Though it breaks little new ground, this book is an essential survey that serves as a helpful introduction to the topic. Recommended for public and academic libraries.DA.O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (March 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374227748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374227746
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,081,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Considering the amount of ink that's been spent on the subject of the Atlantic slave trade, the lack of writing on the Islamic trade is remarkable, so this book certainly fills a gap. There's always going to be that problem though - especially since Sep 11 - about Westerners writing about Islam. We all know about the dangers of orientalism.
Segal is certainly aware of this, and makes it clear that he regards the Atlantic trade as worse than the Islamic trade, citing the generally more systematic racism by the Europeans, and the greater possibilty of assimilation by the Arabs. Unfortunately the result of this determination not to be seen to be orientalist is to make the whole account rather bloodless. We're treated to a dry summation of the facts, with little to tie them together or, frankly, to make them very interesting. It's only in the concluding chapters, dealing with the trade in the nineteenth century, and particularly in the twentieth century, that Segal's account takes off, as, at last freed from looking back over his shoulder at comparable Western crimes, he manages to summon some indignation, and the true horror of slavery becomes clear.
I have to confess that Segal's insistence - at regular intervals - that the Islamic trade was in some ways less horrendous than the Atlantic trade became counter-productive in my case. Was it really that much better? The numbers involved are, as far as anyone can tell, of a similar order of magnitude. The actual transportation, and the treatment of the slaves en route, was equally appalling in both cases.
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Format: Paperback
I did not enjoy the book as much as i perceived i would. Ronald Segal seems to adopt a completley diffrent line of thinking when tackling slavery in the islamic world as he does for the West.

There is an endless stream of sources to reflect the evil nature of this trade that orginated in the East thousands of years ago, to be legitimised under islam in the seventh century and continued to this very day. Ronald is constantly looking for ways to basically say,' the christian west was much more cruel than the Islamic East'. I cant help but feel that Ronald has been swept along by the wave of apologetic, liberal, modern historians.

It must be remmberd that America went to war over the slave trade, something that has never happened in an Islamic country. Colonisation forced the abolition of the slave trade in the islamic world.

If you want to see a fair reflection of the nature of Islamic African slave trading, you can look at Sudan where it is there for all to see.

Slave trading is a despiciable business at any time, by anyone.

Lastly, Ronald Segal points out early on in the book, how spain was conquered by the Muslims in 711. He states that the Vandals occupied Spain at that time. The vandals, however where in North Africa, not Spain. Spain was a Visigoth Kingdom at the time of the Muslim invasion.
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Format: Hardcover
Christian societies were responsible for an engagement to slavery in its most hideous, dehumanizing form. ... Islam has been, by specific spiritual precept and in common practice, relatively humane in its treatment of slaves and its readiness to free them... -Ronald Segal, Author's Preface to Islam's Black Slaves
This truly odd book details the horrors of the enslavement of black Africans in the Islamic world--a traffic in human beings which equaled in volume that of the better known Atlantic slave trade (totaling some 11 million blacks in each case), and which continues to this day, particularly in places like the Sudan--but at the same time seeks to differentiate Islam's treatment of slaves, which is portrayed as relatively enlightened and beneficent, from the harsher treatment of blacks, both slave and free, in the West. Though I had trouble finding much biographical information on Segal, his motivation in this exercise appears to be twofold. First, there's the simple necessity to explain, not merely the absence of racial tension in the modern Islamic world, but also the absence of blacks : where, after all, did the 11 million go ? Why is there no conspicuous black culture in the Middle East ? Second, based on the admittedly sketchy evidence I could find : that Segal, a white South African, was a significant player in the ANC in the late 50s & early 60s and that his prior books include a biography of Trotsky and Race War, which apparently predicted such a war in America, it seems safe to assume that, if not a Marxist, he is at least a Leftist, which would tend to suggest that his exoneration of Islam may be intended to indict the West.
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Format: Hardcover
Segal has done an impressive job of marshalling important and relatively unknown facts about the eastern slave trade. Unfortunately, he never seems to go anywhere with these facts, or suggest what we are to make of them.
The facts are that Islamic Arabs and Africans ran a significant slave trade for many centuries throughout the Mediterranean, North and East Africa, Arabia, the Middle East, and Northern India. Muslim masters possibly treated their slaves "better" on average than American or other Western colonial masters did, although this seems to have had less to do with religion than with the purposes for which slaves were employed -- as domestics, soldiers and business assistants in the Islamic world, as opposed to agricultural laborers in the West. The process of enslavement was just as cruel, however, whether the destination was the Eastern slave markets or the Atlantic trade. Islam accepted slavery as a fact of life for conquered non-believers (ignoring the fact that many of those enslaved were in fact Muslims) and therefore perhaps had less need than the Christian West to invent a demeaning racist mythology to justify continuing slavery. (As the title indicates, Segal is interested in *black* slaves, and therefore largely ignores the substantial number of Eastern European and Middle Asiatic slaves who were "employed" in the Ottoman and some other Muslim states.) Neverthless, racism did eventually enter the Islamic world, with effects (and slavery) that can still be seen today in places like Sudan and Mauritania.
What should we learn from these facts? The book's title suggests that it is in some way a commentary on Islam, but that point is never really developed in the text.
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