When A Slave Becomes A Slave Trader

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Seriki Abass is one of the most prominent African slave traders.

He was a Nigerian slave trader in the 19th century who was first slave to a wealthy Dahomian slave trader, Abass of Dahomey, from whom he got the name “Abbas.” Later, he was sold and taken to Brazil by another slave trader called Williams, from whom he got the name “Williams.”

When Seriki returned to Lagos, he converted to Islam (that’s how he became known as Seriki) and became a slave merchant. He maintained contact with his Brazilian master and shipped African men and women abroad as slaves.

His slave “warehouse” was in Badagry. The cell-like warehouse was where at least 40 slaves (men and women) were crammed in a cell before he shipped them to the Americas.

Seriki shipped slaves to the Americas for cash and kinds. Aside money, he got mirrors, bottles of alcohol and wine and umbrella as rewards. It’s said that during his time, he traded 10 slaves for a bottle of wine, 40 slaves for an umbrella, and 100 slaves for one canon gun.

Seriki made a lifetime of wealth and curried social honor by selling Africans as slaves. He was so wealthy that the Muslim community elected him as their Seriki (Head).

1895 was the beginning of his maddening fame and social acceptance in Lagos and Ogun States.

In 1895 he was made the political ruler of Badagry. In 1896, he built the Badagry Central Mosque. In 1897 he also became Seriki Musulmi of the whole western Yorubaland. In 1898 he founded Egbe Killa. When the Badagry Council was established in 1902, Seriki became its president. In 1902 he founded Aiyetoro, a town in today’s Ogun State, and he became its first ruler.

Seriki Abass died on 11 June 1919. He had 128 wives and 144 children.

Today his grandchildren have converted the cells, where he once bounded and stocked slaves, to livingrooms. His whole house is also now a museum in Badagry— called Brazilian Baracoon of Slaves.

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