Black Ottoman Slaves | Their descendents still live in Turkey

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07 Apr 2021

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Today’s population is difficult to ascertain, as ethnicity is not asked on the Turkish census and generations of intermarriage have blurred ethnic lines. It is estimated there are between 25,000 and 100,000, including in Konya, Adana, Istanbul and along the Black Sea.

Nevertheless, few in Turkey seem aware that one million Africans were forcibly brought to the empire, from the Balkans to north Africa and the Persian Gulf, in the 19th century alone, according to an estimate by Hakan Erdem, history professor at Sabanci University and one of Turkey’s few scholars working on slavery.

“Slavery is perceived as a foreign phenomenon, which it is not. … From the beginning, Ottoman society was slaveholding,” he said. “It’s not taught in schools [and] it’s not part of the social and learned memory of Turkish citizens.” [190]

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