Slavery in Africa was often the product of conflict and war between tribes. Unlike in America, it was not based on race. Slaves were not able to travel freely in Africa, but they experienced greater freedom within the tribal compound than American slaves. Slaves in Africa were also not necessarily enslaved for life.
When early colonials first began importing Africans as slaves, they did not have a model or system in place. They looked to the British West Indies as their source, and they defined slaves as chattel. This meant that individual were enslaved for life. Slaves in Africa, on the other hand, were often the product of war and tribal conflict. Though practices varied from tribe to tribe, blacks typically owned other blacks and often regarded their slaves as dependents. It was not unusual for slave owners to assimilate their slaves into their family unit. Slavery status was inherited by the children of African slaves.
Slave practices in Africa began to shift with the entry of Arab Muslims and White Europeans in the seventh century. By the time slaves began arriving in America, the practice had become institutionalized. Millions of African blacks were imported as laborers for white owners in America.