During the Middle Ages, European slaves were sold to Africans and Asians. White people, particularly Slavs, were despised as an inferior race in the non-European world.

The 8th century conquests of the Abbasids in Europe, Asia, and Africa resulted in the enslavement of native populations. Romans, Franks, Persians, Hindus, Kurds, Ethiopians, Sudanese, Berbers and Armenians were brought to Baghdad as slaves. Europeans continued to be slaves in the Arab world for centuries to come. An early ninth century geographer, Ibn Kurradadhbeh, tells of Jewish merchants from the south of France "who speak Arabic, Persian, Greek, Frankish, Spanish and Slavonic. They travel from west to east and east to west, by land and by sea. From the west they bring eunuchs, slave girls and boys, brocade, beaver skins, sable and other furs, and swords."

A 11th century Baghdadi doctor wrote a book "Risala fi shari al-raqiq" on the purchase of slaves, giving advice such as "blue eyes denote stupidity" and "wide eyes indicate laziness".

When the Mongols conquered large parts of Russia in the 13th century, they sold their new subjects in the slave markets of West Asia and North Africa. One Russian chronicler, describing the enslavement of his people by the Mongols, wrote, "The (Mongols) ... learn warfare from their youth. Therefore, they are stern, fearless and fierce towards us ... We cannot oppose them, but humiliate ourselves before them..." .

The Mongol's Slavic slave trade filled the harems of Turkish sultans with Slavic women. Slavic men rowed the galleys or worked the fields for Muslim masters, while Slavic children were sold in slave auctions from Cairo to Baghdad.

Contrary to the common belief that sub-Saharan Africa had a strictly one-sided role in the slave trade - only exporting slaves and not importing them - medieval writings show it is not so. 14th century North African travel writer Ibn Battuta journeyed to West Africa. He noted without any surprise that a black governor he visited owned an Arab slave girl from Syria.

When the the 60,000-strong entourage of Emperor Musa of the Mali empire passed through Cairo on their way to Mecca in 1324, the historian al-Maquriz reported the West Africans purchased Turkish slave girls, in addition to slaves of other ethnicities. In fact, the Mandingoes spent so much gold on slaves and goods in the markets of Cairo that they caused the value of gold to plummet.