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In many African communities, where land could not be owned, enslavement of individuals was used as a means to increase the influence a person had and expand connections.Chattel slavery is a specific servitude relationship where the slave is treated as the property of the owner.As such, the owner is free to sell, trade, or treat the slave as he would other pieces of property and the children of the slave often are retained as the property of the master.
Systems of servitude and slavery were common in parts of the continent, as they were in much of the ancient world.
In most African societies where slavery was prevalent, the enslaved people were not treated as chattel slaves and were given certain rights in a system similar to indentured servitude elsewhere in the world.
Slavery in historical Africa was practiced in many different forms and some of these do not clearly fit the definitions of slavery elsewhere in the world.
Custom, however, has established certain rules with regard to the treatment of slaves, which it is thought dishonourable to violate.
Thus the domestic slaves, or such as are born in a man’s own house, are treated with more lenity than those which are purchased with money. But these restrictions on the power of the master extend not to the care of prisoners taken in war, nor to that of slaves purchased with money.
All these unfortunate beings are considered as strangers and foreigners, who have no right to the protection of the law, and may be treated with severity, or sold to a stranger, according to the pleasure of their owners." Slavery in African cultures was generally more like indentured servitude, although in certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa, slaves were used for human sacrifices in annual rituals, such as those rituals practiced by the denizens of Dahomey.
The forms of slavery in Africa were closely related to kinship structures.
Debt slavery, enslavement of war captives, military slavery, and criminal slavery were all practiced in various parts of Africa.
Multiple forms of slavery and servitude have existed throughout Africa during history and were shaped by indigenous practices of slavery as well as the Roman institution of slavery (and the later Christian views on slavery), the Islamic institutions of slavery, and eventually the Atlantic slave trade.