They were made slaves by their neighbours before they were made slaves by strangers. They were hated by their cousins before they were hated for their colour. They were outcasts and oppressed in their Old World before they suffered over the sea—before they suffered under the sun in a New World.

They were captives in West and Central Africa. They were cheap labour for rulers from the Ashanti, Dahomey, Oyo and other African kingdoms. 

They were forced to dig ditches for mining, plantation, or their burial. In their own lands, they were citizens yet slaves, persons yet property. Actually, they were considered less valuable than property. They were offered to Europeans by their African owners for weapons, mirrors, and rum. 

But the worst was yet to come.

They were mothers and sisters, fathers and brothers. But they were gathered like lambs to the slaughter. 

They were chained together and forced from their ancestral homes. They were handed over to Europeans and caged in barracoons and imprisoned in slave dungeons near the ocean. 

They became vulnerable to disease and became victims of rape. They were between the narrow edge of land and sea, life and death.

They were outcasts, but they outlasted the conditions that threatened to destroy them. 

But the worst was yet to come. 

They were dragged from the dark dungeons into darker ships. They were exposed to disease in the slave dungeons and exposed to death in the slave ships. They were stripped naked and chained together in groups mixed with men and women, boys and girls.

They were packed over each other on shelves and pinned to the ship. For the entire forty to fifty days journey, they couldn’t stand or sit. They were covered in sweat and blood, urine and feces. 

Many of them suffered to death, and their corpses were dumped into the Atlantic Ocean. They were horrified by the sea—horrified by what they had seen, but most of them survived. 

They were outcasts, but they outlasted the conditions that threatened to destroy them. 

They arrived at a foreign land to a familiar scene. They were pushed out of the ship and gathered, in their nakedness, in front of strangers. 

They received a label in numbers, not their names. They were priced like disposable items at a market—a slave market. 

They were purchased by wealthy plantation owners and treated poorly. They lived in inhumane conditions and were treated like animals. They were regularly whipped to tears and blood. The men were treated like savages and the women were treated like sexual objects. They had chronic pain, restless fear, and shocking hope. 

They were outcasts, but they outlasted the conditions that threatened to destroy them. 

They were liberated from the shackles of slavery. They were not, however, liberated from oppression. 

They were deemed equal but separate. They weren’t slaves, but they weren’t free either. They weren’t dragged to plantations anymore, but they were dragged to lynchings. They were still stained by melanin and marked for injustice. 

They were outcasts, but they outlasted the conditions that threatened to destroy them. 

But the best was yet to come.

They were liberated from segregation. And today, they’re living their forefathers’ dream—the American dream. 

They were the most oppressed black people in the world. Now they’re the most privileged black people in the world. They were slaves—but more than that, they are survivors. 

They were slaves of Africans, and today, they are the standard for Africans. That is the privilege of America and that is the providence of God. 

From Africa to America, tragedy to triumph—they are Black Americans.