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Publications [#295467] of Bruce S. Hall

Journal Articles

  1. Hall, BS, HOW SLAVES USED ISLAM: THE LETTERS OF ENSLAVED MUSLIM COMMERCIAL AGENTS IN THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY NIGER BEND AND CENTRAL SAHARA, The Journal of African History, vol. 52 no. 3 (2011), pp. 279-297, ISSN 0021-8537 [Gateway.cgi], [doi]
    (last updated on 2017/12/17)

    Historians of slavery in Africa have long struggled to recover the voices of enslaved people. In this article, an unusual set of sources found in Timbuktu (Mali) reveals the existence of a stratum of literate, Muslim slaves who wrote and received letters written in Arabic. These letters make it possible to probe the Islamic rhetoric used by Muslim slaves and ask how enslaved people who adopted Islam understood their faith. Did Muslim slaves arrive at different interpretations of Islam than those Muslims who were free? Using the correspondence of two slaves who worked as agents in their master’s commercial activities in the Niger Bend and Central Sahara during the second half of the nineteenth century, the article demonstrates the extent to which Muslim slaves used appeals to their own piety in attempting to carve out a certain amount of social autonomy. For these Muslim slaves, Islam could be made to serve both spiritual and practical ends. And yet, this did not require slaves to interpret Islam in ways that rejected the legitimacy of slavery.

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