Internal African slavery can be considered the lesser of the two evils. The slaves in Africa were normally prisoners of war, or born into the life of slavery. Brutality was not very prevalent as a form of punishment. This was because it was not accepted to harm an enslaved person for any reason without any repercussions. In other words, the punisher would have to be punished too. This was not the case outside of Africa. Many slaves faced horrible conditions, not just on the way over to different continents, but also on plantations and in the homes of their new masters. Some evidence of this extreme brutality is the extensive scarring and debilitating injuries inflicted upon slaves by their masters. The slaves in Africa were, in essence, treated as human beings, but slaves in many other places, such as the United States, were treated as property and were considered expendable.
Another aspect that distinguished internal African slavery from external slavery is that the slaves could be mobile in society in slavery on the continent. They were not restricted to being slaves for their whole lives because they were able to work, earning small wages and working towards their freedom. They were also treated as members of the family in which they served. To increase this mobility, internally enslaved Africans often did have the opportunity to learn to read and write. Most importantly, they were able to live with their families instead of being separated from them. The ability to earn small wages, gain an education, and stay with one’s family was not seen in external slavery.
Lastly, another very profound difference was the fact that women who were enslaved in Africa were allowed to marry the person of their master’s choosing. This practice was propagated by the belief that women should be owned by men for their entire lives. This started with ownership by a father and brothers, possibly transitioning to a master, and finally to a husband. Externally, marriage between two enslaved people was not accepted and was hardly acknowledged by slave owners.