Black Morocco: A History of Slavery, Race, and Islam Chouki El Hamel

Black Morocco: A History of Slavery, Race, and Islam Chouki El Hamel

“Black Morocco: A History of Slavery, Race and Islam chronicles the experiences, identity, and agency of enslaved black people in Morocco from the sixteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. It demonstrates the extent to which religion orders society but also the extent to which the economic and political conditions influence the religious discourse and the ideology of enslavement. The interpretation and application of Islam did not guarantee the freedom and integration of black Moroccan ex-slaves into society.” 

“It starts with the Islamic legal discourse and racial stereotypes that existed in Moroccan society leading up to the era of Mawlay Isma’il (r. 1672-1727), with a special emphasis on the black army during and after his reign. The first part of the book provides a narrative relating the legal discourse on race, concubinage and slavery as well as historical events and developments that are not well known in printed scholarship and western contexts”.  

“The second part of the book is conceptually ambitious; it provides the reader with a deeper sense of the historical and sociological implications of the story being told across a long period of time, from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries.  Though the strongest element of theses chapters concerns the “black army,” an important component of the discussion is the role of female slaves.  One of the problems the historian faces with this kind of analysis is that it must rest on a limited “evidentiary base.” This book has broadened this base and clarified the importance of female slaves in relation to the army and Moroccan society at large.”


“Black Morocco redefines the terms of the scholarly debate about the historical nature of Moroccan slavery and proposes an original analysis of issues concerning race, concubinage and gender, with a special focus on their theoretical aspects.  The Moroccan system of racial definition was clearly “racialist” and was in fact a curious inversion of the Western racist model.  Whereas in the western model “one drop” of black blood identifies one as black, in the Moroccan model, “one drop” of white blood identifies one as Arab (i.e., privileged).” 

This process helped create a “nationalist” Moroccan Arab majority and at the same time subjugated black ancestry (i.e., those without the “one drop” of Arab blood), seen as having more bearing on the historical antecedents of slavery.  It offers a new paradigm for the study of race in the region that will transform the way we approach and understand ethnicity and racial identities in North Africa and most crucially, it helps eliminate the culture of silence — the refusal to engage in discussions about slavery, racial attitudes, and gender issues.”

For more information, see www.cambridge.org/9781107651777

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                   Chouki El Hamel (CEH)

“Written history about Morocco is generally sillent regarding slavery and racial attitudes, discrimination, and marginalization, and paints a picture of Morocco as free from such social problems. Such problems are usually associated more with slavery and its historical aftermath in the United States. 
The objective of my book is to fill a gap in the scholarship concerning slavery and race in North Africa and to demonstrate the role that Morocco played in slavery’s history in the African diaspora and the Islamic world. The history of slavery in Morocco cannot be considered separately from the racial terror and horrors of the global practice of slavery.”
For ethnic groups such as the blacks in Morocco, the problems of slavery, cultural and racial prejudices, and marginalization are neither foreign nor introduced by European colonial discourse. Blacks in Morocco have been marginalized for centuries, with the dominant Moroccan culture defining this marginalized group as ‘Abid (slaves), Haratin (a problematic term that generally meant freed black people or formerly enslaved black persons), Sudan (black Africans), Gnawa (black West Africans), Sahrawa (from the Saharan region), and other terms which make reference to the fact that they were black and/or descendants from slaves. My book poses new questions that examine the extent to which religion orders a society, and the extensive influence of secular conditions on the religious discourse and the ideology of enslavement in Morocco.”
The interpretation and application of Islam did not guarantee the freedom and integration of Black Moroccan ex-slaves into society. The book starts with the legal discourse and racial stereotypes that existed in Moroccan society leading to the era of Mawlay Isma‘il (r. 1672-1727), with a special emphasis on the black army during and after the Mawlay Isma‘il era. I have written the story of the “black army” to inform readers beyond those with narrow specialist knowledge. Hence, the first part of my book provides a narrative relating the legal discourse on race, concubinage, and slavery, as well as historical events and developments that are not well known in printed scholarship and western contexts.”
“The second part of the book, and especially chapters four, five, and six, oscillates between narrative and analysis in order to give the reader a deeper sense of the historical and sociological implications of the story being told across along period of time, from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. Though the strongest element of these chapters concerns the “black army,” an important component of my discussion was the role of female slaves. The short comings of this analysis rest on a limited “evidentiary base.” My goal was to broaden this base and make clear the importance of female slaves in relation to the army and Moroccan society at large.”

El Aemer El Mujaddid

American born Moor, Author, History Researcher, Modernist, 720 Entrepreneur/ Corporate Mogul in the making; who observes & analyzes human nature for data mining purposes. Knowing is Half the Battle, Wisdom is needed for appropriate application of knowledge and right reasoning.

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