A few weeks back I caught up with my friend Nora, who mentioned to me a fascinating documentary she saw called Timbuktu. The premise of the movie was to track West African Islamic customs in African-American communities today. In short, much of West Africa is Muslim. Places like Senegal, Mali and Mauritania are historically Muslim communities. They were also the major places of much of the slave trade. Something that I had never considered until Nora drew the connection for me from the documentary is that many of the slaves taken in the trans-Atlantic slave trade were actually Muslims.
Nora noted that the documentary looked at West African Muslim traditions, and how some of those traditions were perceived in American slave society. Also, about some of the West African Islamic traditions that furtively survived in African-American communities. I guess I had largely thought of the victims of the slave trade as animist (images of Kunta Kinte, etc) not realizing that these were people likely drawn from West African Muslim communities. Fascinating to think of West African slaves trying to maintain their Islamic traditions of prayer, fasting and the like amid the vile institution of slavery- it was just not something that I had thought of prior.