Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Pan-African Studies

Degree Program

Pan-African Studies, MA

Committee Chair

Rajack-Talley, Theresa

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Fleming, Tyler

Committee Member

Fleming, Tyler

Committee Member

McLeod, John

Author's Keywords

Zanj; Slavery; Iraq; Race; Arab Slave Trade; Islam


In the ninth century, enslaved Africans from the east coast of Africa, called the Zanj, revolted for nearly fifteen years in southern Iraq against their Arab slave masters and challenged the social order of the Abbasid Empire. This thesis is a socio-historical investigation on the role that race played in starting the Zanj Rebellion of 869 C.E. It examines the Arab Islamic slave trade and the racial stratification experienced by blacks in the early centuries of Islamic history in conjunction with the Zanj Rebellion. The thesis applies a structural framework for analyzing race, to demonstrate the racialization process, prevalent racial ideologies in Arabic literature and Islamic doctrine, and the race consciousness and identities displayed by black poets and authors that lived in the Abbasid era. It utilizes translated Arabic literature and poetry written from the seventh to the ninth century to position the Zanj and other blacks from the period as autonomously motivated historical actors. This thesis argues that because of the racialized social structure, a racial contestation manifested in the form of one of the largest and longest lasting slave rebellions in world history, the Zanj Rebellion.