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Nii Ayikwei Parkes @BlueBirdTail
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So, that long-promised lowdown on rice and slavery. There's a couple of things to understand from the off: "jollof wars" might be playful but they indicate a long West African history with rice.
That history also means that industrial head hunting actually began during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Rice has been cultivated in West Africa for centuries although the variety native to the region was not considered to have high yields.
Soon, the WA strains were largely replaced with Asian oryza sativa strains and is now mainly cultivated in Nigeria, Mali, Sierra Leone and along the Ghana-Togo border. Locals continue to cultivate it because they consider the native rice more filling and sweeter... (call break..)
Crucially, strains of rice that derive from the WA original are still used specifically for healing and rituals in places like Suriname, Brazil, El Salvador and Costa Rica. Essentially, rice & peas is not accidental, neither is jambalaya, neither is Charleston/Savannah red rice..
These dishes share DNA with jollof and waakye (a rice and beans dish), which were originally made with West African rice - which has darker husks and often has red streaks - until the Portuguese introduced Asian rice varieties in the 16th Century
European travellers, including Valentim Fernandes, a German travelling w/ the Portuguese in 1506-1510, noted of the Mandinka: “They eat rice, milk, and millet. Their food is like that of the Wolof except that they eat more rice.” (from a book, Black Rice, by Judith A. Carney)
The long history of rice cultivation meant that WA locals, already masters at production under different conditions including tidal floodplains, mangrove swamps, inland wetlands and rain-fed uplands, soon incorporated the Asian varieties into their output, producing surpluses.
These surpluses were sought after by Portuguese explorers and, later, captains of slave trading ships to feed their crew. Oral accounts from South Carolina, South America and the Caribbean suggest that captured women smuggled husked rice in their hair into the new world.
On a more mercenary level, the expertise of WA rice farming communities would soon lead to their being targeted specifically for capture - a cruel early form of head hunting that decimated communities from what at the time was often called the rice coast or the Windward coast.
It is for precisely this reason that #Gullah communities in South Carolina, for example, are among the most homogeneous of the #African communities forced to work in America. They were skilled workers kidnapped primarily from areas around modern day #SierraLeone.

Their expertise was not limited to rice, but also knowledge of similar terrain in WA e.g. the coast of S Carolina & the coast of W Africa both get around 50 inches of rain a year: the captives knew how to farm using a network of rivers and irrigation systems they knew from home.
The quest for their expertise led to adverts specifically seeking them and to slave traders advertising their presence in their 'cargo' e.g. the attached boasting captives from the Windward & Rice coast
Judith Carney's 2002 book 'Black Rice' states: 'Carolina planters even knew which African ethnic groups were expert in rice growing and explicitly favored them in their purchases of new slaves...
A newspaper in Charleston, for example, advertised the sale of 250 slaves ''from the Windward and Rice Coast, valued for their knowledge of rice culture.'''

[ You can read a review of the book here:… ]
Other online sources for context:……

...and go to real libraries too and talk to elders in the Southern US and West Africa. There is so much knowledge!!

Anyway, all this destroys the notion of unskilled labour.
These people were key drivers of wealth in the American South. It is also the reason, I believe, that the South leads innovation and craftsmanship in the United States. Think of food products and haircare products...
Even with many owners taking credit for the work of Africans, Willie Dereef, Mary Jackson, Philip Simmons, Sylvia Woods, Madam C. J. Walker etc are renowned.

I hope you never look at #jollof the same way again!! Rice is knowledge, rice is history!
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