Vol. 1 No. 1 (2020): Global Connections

Racialization and the Politics of Lineage in the Zanj Rebellion

Published May 14, 2020


In the Ninth century, a group of enslaved Africans called the Zanj, from the Bantu speaking regions of East Africa, revolted against their slave masters. Under the leadership of Ali Ibn Muhammad, they staged several bloody guerilla wars until their inevitable fall. This paper looks at the role of politicization of lineage, racialization in Islamic societies, specifically the Abbasid Empire, and how racial contestation and class subjugation can manifest amongst a group of people. All these things led to the Zanj rebellion, which was one of the largest and longest-lasting slave rebellions in the history of the world.