I am reading Out of Africa by I Dinensen. The author wrote about African people in Colonial Africa 1930s.

"They were friends with God in foreign countries, and in chains. They also kept up a peculiar self-feeling in their relations to those who persecuted them. They were aware that the profit and prestige of their tormentors lay with them themselves: they were the central figures in the chase and the commerce, they were the goods."

Please help me on meaning of underlined word. May I read it as "feeling they are the center"?