European Powers, Islamic Movements, and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

In the 18th century, Senegambia was bitterly contested for slave-trading purposes by France and Great Britain. But a third power, the Islamic theocracy of Futa Toro on the Senegal River, rose to prominence and opposed both foreign powers while seeking to put an end to the transatlantic slave trade and slavery.

L to R: Chris Brown, Rudolph Ware

A full Berger Forum welcomed Christopher L. Brown, Professor of History and Vice-Provost for Faculty Affairs at Columbia University and a member of the Lapidus Center Council of Advisors, and Rudolph Ware, Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. They engaged in a fascinating conversation about Ware’s book The Walking Qur’an: Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa

Among other compelling topics, Ware discussed the fierce resistance to the enslavement andquran deportation to the Americas of the so-called “Walking Qur’an”, the memorizers of the Holy Book; and how the Almamy –the Muslim ruler– Abdul Kader Kane of Futa Toro preceded Western abolitionists in his efforts to end the slave trade and slavery, and was acknowledged as a pioneer in that regard by British abolitionist Thomas Clarkson.


This event was presented in collaboration with the  Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, The New York Public Library.

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For more on African Muslims in the Americas:


Alryyes, Ala. A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011)

Austin, Allan D. African Muslims in Antebellum America (New York: Routledge 1997)

Diouf, Sylviane A. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas (New York: New York University Press, 1998. New edition, 2013)

Reis, Joao Jose. Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993)

Blog Post: “The Autobiography in Arabic of a Senegalese Enslaved in North Carolina