A basic element of the mythology Europeans created about both the African and Native American cultures was that these people, before European contact was made, were basically "savages" and lived in a primitive, non-civilized condition. This then justified whatever kind of exploitation and mistreatment that was carried out, from 1492...
A basic element of the mythology Europeans created about both the African and Native American cultures was that these people, before European contact was made, were basically "savages" and lived in a primitive, non-civilized condition. This then justified whatever kind of exploitation and mistreatment that was carried out, from 1492 on. It is a good idea to look at Thomas Paine's essay "African Slavery in America," written in 1774. Paine states,
The managers of that trade [i.e., the slave trade] themselves, and others, testify that many of these African nations inhabit fertile countries, are industrious farmers, enjoy plenty, and lived quietly, averse to war, before the Europeans debauched them with liquors, and bribing them against one another; and that these inoffensive people are brought into slavery, by stealing them, tempting kings to sell subjects, which they can have no right to do, and hiring one tribe to war against another, in order to catch prisoners.
The European slave-trade destabilized the economy of western Africa and inhibited it from benefiting from the technological advancements which were made possible in Europe at least partly by the exploitation of resources and people from non-European lands.
The situation was somewhat different with the Native Americans, but similarly, their existing civilization was dismissed by the Europeans as a form of savagery. In addition, huge numbers of the indigenous Americans were wiped out when they came in contact with Europeans because they had no natural immunity to diseases such as smallpox, which the Europeans carried. The coming of the Europeans was seen as an apocalyptic, almost supernatural event by many Native Americans. The Europeans' weapons, body armor, and horses, all of which had never been seen before on the American continent, made the Europeans appear superhuman or even godlike to some. Two books which are worth consulting for an analysis of the contact between Europeans and the indigenous people of America are American Colonies, by Alan Taylor, and The Invasion Within, by James Axtell.
An aspect of the differing reactions by these two continents to the Europeans is rooted in the fact that Europe did not at first send its own people to "colonize" Africa as it did America. Only later, in South Africa, parts of North Africa such as Algeria, and a few other areas did this happen on a more limited scale. One might consider whether this is the only reason that eventually the African countries were able to form independent nation-states as they are today, while the indigenous Americans were not. The latter were largely the victims of either unintentional (because of the diseases alluded to) genocide, or in fact deliberate genocide, with the relatively few remaining people dispersed, placed on "reservations" or "reserves," or intermarried with people of European and African descent.