From 1441 to 1950s  

Slave trade and racism as the Cradle of capitalism  

The text is based on a series of articles published in Proletären in the summer of 1997.

Autor Mario Sousa  


A few words from the author

In the early 1960s, a number of books on Africa's history and the Europe-Africa relationship began to be published by authors from different continents. They suppressed old racial prejudices and gave the world a new picture of the great African continent and its people. Writers such as Basil Davidson, Charles R. Boxer, Walter Rodney, José Capela and others were then able to make the reality of colonialism and the slave trade in Africa accessible to the general public for the first time.

However, it is at many years since most of these books were published and the knowledge of the subject has been nailed to the edge of the time. The “Slave trade and racism as the cradle of capitalism” have the ambition to give a description of the slave trade in Africa the greatest emigration in human history and to get the reader interested in searching for further knowledge on the subject.

Such knowledge is important for those who want to orient themselves in the political battles that exist in the world in which we live and, not least, in the fight against racism. I have also focused on the actions of the Christian Church in Africa, which is one of the keys to the victory of slave traders and colonialists and the rise of racism.
Part of the article may seem very focused on Portugal's actions in Africa. The reason for this is that the Portuguese were the first Europeans to come to Africa south of the Canary Islands and they were allowed, for a time, to exploit large coastal areas alone.
Mario Sousa  


Slave trade and racism - the cradle of capitalism  
• They were hunted like animals, captured in millions, branded, sold at auction and shipped across the Atlantic for slave labor in mines and plantations. We are talking about 50 million Africans who, over the course of 450 years from the mid-15th century to the end of the 19th century, fell victim to the European slave trade.

• In the Proletarian's 1997 Summer Series, Mario Sousa tells the story of the slave trade about how the trade in people laid the foundation for wealth and capitalist development in Europe and how it shattered civilization and highly developed culture in Africa.

• It is a dramatic and despicable story, with many victims and many villains. Christianity plays a special and unflattering role in this context. The Christian Church blessed the slave trade. "To everyone who participates in this war, full forgiveness shall be given for all his sins," as it was called in a papal bul.  But not only that, the Church also participated with life and desire in the slave trade.

• And not just the Church. Every king in Europe made sure to make money from the slave trade

So also, the Swedish king. In fact, Sweden's current royal house, the Bernadotte family, through his ancestor Karl XIV Johan, had large private income from the slave trade in the Caribbean.  


"To everyone who participates in this war, complete forgiveness shall be given for all his sins ..."

Pope Eugenius IV, 1441  



Prince Henry the Navigator and the caravels


Everything began in 1441. Before that, the slave trade had been a successful and profitable business for many years on the European continent. The rich in Europe bought slaves, white and black, from the North African slave traders to exploit in households and on country estates.

In turn, the Europeans, including in Venice and Genoa, sold Christian slaves to the kings of Egypt and to other countries in North Africa. No one had had the power or the will to end the trade in people. Not even with Christian slaves.  

Popes Clement V and Martin V threatened excommunication - expulsion from the Christian Church and the Kingdom of God - for those who sold Christian slaves to "infidels." But the popes' threats did not yield any results.

In 1441, something happened that would change the course of history for an entire continent. From Portugal, Prince Henry the Navigator sent a boat under the young commander Antão Gonçalves with orders to sail along Africa's Atlantic coast, pass Cape Bojador and fill the cargo hold with the skins and oil of sea lions.

The mission was carried out well and in good time by Antão Gonçalves. But Gonçalves was not content with it, he had long tried to get up in his master's eyes and wanted to bring to Portugal something special to give his master as a gift. Antão Gonçalves decided to go ashore and catch people.

He went with nine of his men and began the search. They went further into the country to no avail. When they had already given up and returned to the boat, they finally saw a man. He came walking by the dunes alone with his camel. The man was quickly surrounded by the other ten but did not give up in the first place. He defended himself bravely with his spear and only after being wounded in fierce combat by the Portuguese could he be captured to the ship.

So became the first contact between Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans. Spears against spears in a fight for freedom.

Before returning to the boat, Gonçalves and his entourage also captured a woman they found nearby. But the robber's journey wasn't over for this time. At sea, Antão Gonçalves met another Portuguese, Nuno Tristão, commander of a large and well-armed caravel. Tristão had been ordered by Henry The Navigator to capture all the people he could get hold of on the coast of Africa and take them to Portugal in every possible way. Gonçalves and Tristão joined forces.

At night they landed with a great strength and were lucky enough to meet at a couple of camps where fishermen slept. The Portuguese attacked with all their might. Some people managed to escape, the Portuguese killed four and captured ten men, women and children.

Once returned to Portugal, this first robber company caused quite a stir in the court of Henry the Navigator. For his achievement, Antão Gonçalves was given the title of knight and received the Order of Christ.

Henry the Navigator immediately sent a specially appointed ambassador to Pope Eugenius IV to tell about the capture and the great broad plans for new slave hunter companies and conquests. Henry the Navigator wanted the pope's approval and blessing to his plans for Africa. From the Pope he got what he asked for and not just only that.

The Pope also declared "to everyone who participates in this war, complete forgiveness shall be given for all his sins." Not bad, when you consider that the sins of the war that started were robbery, slavery, rape and colossal murder of children, women and men to an extent difficult to surpass. Those in advance "forgiven", many of whom came from the worst side of society, convicts with serious crimes behind them, did not need to be encouraged in order for them to go after defenseless people to rob, enslave and murder.

Pope Eugenius IV's blessing and the remission of sins had a devastating effect on Africa forever. The subsequent popes also followed Eugenius IV's example. In the face of every robber's war or foray on the African continent, the popes have declared the forgiveness of sins to the Christians!


Slave hunting as a commercial enterprise

The Portuguese caravels increasingly sailed towards Africa and the coast of Senegal to hunt and kidnap people to sell as slaves. They were well armed and came in groups of several boats.

The Portuguese usually disembarked at night, attacked the defenseless fishing villages and made its inhabitants slaves. The slave hunters also went further into the country and took people, but this would prove to be associated with a risk to life. The slave hunters therefore remained almost exclusively to the coastal communities.

The number of enslaved Africans rose all the time and began to represent a great and significant value. In 1444, a well-organized and well-funded expedition started on six boats from Lagos on the Algarve coast in southern Portugal, the first expedition of its kind. The goal was to catch black people on a large scale for resale.

When the boats returned to Lagos a few months later, they had no less than 235 people in their cargo. The expedition had had to begin a small war and many Africans had been murdered trying to defend themselves against the Portuguese attacks.

Slave hunting across the seas as established commercial enterprise was a fact. From 1441 to 1448, the Portuguese took over a thousand slaves from the coast of Africa. From the beginning of the 1450s, the number of slaves sold in Lagos and Lisbon ports increased to 700-800 a year. Yet this was only a small part of what was to come.

(The reader who has his way past the city of Lagos can still today see the place where the slaves were sold in action. It is well preserved and is located at Praça da República opposite Santa Maria Church.)


Lagos Slave Market


The Vatican and the gold from the slave trade

With the increase in the slave trade, the Christian Church gained increasing interest in the Portuguese robbers' march in Africa. No agreements on economic relations between Portugal and the Vatican have been traced, as is well known, research is not allowed in the Vatican archives. However, important historical documents show that such agreements must have been reached.

From the reign of Pope Nicholas V and at the request of the Portuguese king, a number of papal bulls were announced, important papal edicts to all Christians, who repeatedly established the Portuguese royal family's rights to the exploitation of Africa and legitimized its actions.

Three important papal bulls had a major impact on the future relations between Europe and Africa. The first, Dum Diversus, came on June 18, 1452, nine years after Gonçalves and Tristão enslaved the first people in Africa. The papal bull Dum Diversus gave the Portuguese king the right to "attack, conquer and oppress all Muslims, gentiles and other infidels and enemies of Christ; to take its properties and territories; to condemn them to eternal slavery and transfer its properties and territories to the Portuguese king and his successor”.

I don't think you can express yourself any clearer than that.

The question of why the Vatican State and the Highest Dignitary of the Christian Church gave such power to a relatively economically and culturally retarded country as the Portuguese of the time.

The explanation is gold.

The astonishing merit of great measure, which was the popes' intention to get their hands on, can be read in a text that attaches itself to "estates, territories, and eternal slavery." The following papal bulls are also continuing with this approach.

The papal bull, Romanus Pontifex from 8 January 1455 is a description of history and glorification of Portuguese imperialism. In this papal bull, Portugal is given a monopoly on shipping, trade and fishing in Africa and in all future conquests south of Cape Bojador all the way to India.

This monopoly that the Portuguese kings now received was enormous. Both for the size of the areas involved and because it was in itself a ban on other countries going to Africa. Once again, such an act on the part of the Pope asks a legitimate question. Namely, what did the Pope get from this?

In the third papal bull, Inter Caetera of 13 March 1456, Pope Calisto III once again established the monopoly given to the Portuguese king with Romanus Pontifex. Furthermore, this papal bull gave the Order of Christ, whose supreme chief was Henry the Navigator, the sole right to the care of soul, and the financial transactions associated therewith, in the conquered territories and in all future conquests "from Cape Bojador and all the way to India".

The papal bulls were of great importance in Europe of the time. They realized in writing the pope's great moral authority, directly derived from God, which had a great influence on the ethics and values of men. As far as the economic side is concerned, it must be said that the popes had also this time gone for the right horse. During the first fifty years, the European slave trade from Africa was tripled.


Henry the Navigator or the slave hunter?

Henry the Navigator died in 1460. This historical personality so well-known from the history books is often described as something of a visionary, a world discoverer. Prince Henry was a visionary, but his visions had to do with the power of money. From a young age, Prince Henry started his career as a conqueror by planning and conducting several war campaigns against Morocco and the Canary Islands. Even Gibraltar had the good Henry planned to conquer from the Spanish king. To believe the history books, the big reason was Henry's willingness to spread the Christian faith.

But mind you that Gibraltar and the Canary Islands were Spanish and therefore as Christian as Portugal, nothing to "Christian", just plunder.

A famous expedition, by many repressed, towards Tangier in Morocco in 1437 shows well this prince morality. A Portuguese army under the direct command of Henry the Navigator disembarked on the coast of Morocco near Tangier with the aim of conquering the city. After heavy blows from Morocco's soldiers, the Portuguese army was beaten and surrounded without the possibility of escaping back to the boats. The end for Henrik and many others from the fine nobility was near.

The Moroccans offered safe passage to the boats if the Portuguese promised to return to Morocco the city of Ceuta, which they had conquered a few years earlier. As security for this pact, the Moroccans wanted the Portuguese commander Henry to be left as hostage. It was an offer that the Portuguese had to make. The alternative was the threat of annihilation.  

But Henry had no plans to go to prison. Speaking of the best interests of the kingdom and the promise of early freedom, he persuaded his younger brother Fernando, who was there under his command, to take his place as a hostage. Fernando agreed after persuasion to the spoils. Once returned to Lisbon, Henry soon forgot his promise. The young Fernando had to end his days in a prison in Fez, from where he sent many calls to his brother, never answered by Henry.

Henry the Navigator had other things in mind. He dreamed of sending people around North Africa by sea to get in direct contact with the great continent he had heard of, to fight dominion over the gold mines and to take over the slave trade to Europe from the North Africans.

Henry the Navigator's visions were the visions of gold and slaves. Surely the Slave and Golden Hunter would be a more accurate name for Henry than the Navigator. After all, Henry's interest in shipping was a byproduct of his hunt for slaves and the struggle for the gold mines in Africa.  


Slave communities in Africa

In the last half of the 15th century, the Portuguese trade in African slaves became a well-functioning company in Europe and Africa. The first few years of manhunt had proved to be a dangerous undertaking with many dead in war and disease among the Portuguese slave hunters. (One of the first slave hunters, the one mentioned above, Nuno Tristão, was killed in 1446 along with 18 others on the Gambia River during his fourth foray.)

A lighter way was necessary for trade success. The Portuguese made contact with kings and rulers in the coastal areas and eventually found trading partners who, in exchange for fabrics and horses, sold gold and antelope skins and were also willing to sell slaves.

"The trade in slaves is a business for kings, rich men and prominent merchants" so was rightly described the affair by one of those involved. It is offensive that Africans sold other Africans to foreign men from other continents. But it is important to know more closely the social systems in Africa in the 15th century in order to understand why this happened.

When the Portuguese, and after them all the other Europeans, made the first direct contacts with Africa by sea, the peoples of Europe and Africa lived in political systems that were very similar but also had great differences. Feudalism in Europe was not the same as the African social order, which is usually referred to as 'African feudalism'.

In Europe under slavery, the slaves had been deprived of all right and all property. With the transition to feudalism, slavery was gradually transformed into serfdom and vassalage, an in itself terrible system for the working people that went on for several hundred years and very much bordered on slavery. (As recently as 1775, Catherine II of Russia tightened the serfdom in Russia and the lords were given the right to sell their peasants as slaves.)

In Africa, "feudalism" had a different meaning. The old egalitarian tribal structure had, over time, given way to a system in which states that grew strong subjugated other weaker peoples. This brought with it a serfdom or a vassal for the defeated, which several historians generally want to describe as "home slavery". The living conditions of these African slaves could vary greatly depending on time and place, but a general pattern can, without great violence on reality, still be described.

The slaves of Africa were normally given a piece of land to settle on that they could not leave. They have to serve their masters with crops and personal services and could eventually gain an increasing freedom of movement. Some became peasants, some craftsmen and the difference between these slaves and the free man of the victorious people tended to diminish as time passed. An African slave could have property, be adopted as a member of the lord family and even become his master's heir.

There are examples of slaves who traded successfully, became rich, themselves slave owners, important men in society and even elected king. That said, to understand the position and opportunities of slaves in communities in Africa.

Many things were bad in a slave's life. For example, a slave could be given away as a gift at any special day of remembrance or sold on to meet the owner's financial needs. The important thing in this context is to understand that the position of the African slave when Europeans came to Africa in the 15th century was very much comparable to the vassalage that then prevailed in Europe for the large mass of men and women.

The status of African slaves at the time had nothing in common with the later slavery origins of Europeans' need for cheap labor in the American colonies, when people were treated like cattle in slave ships, in mines and on plantations.

Against this background, we can make an idea of how an African slave owner reasoned, when he also sold slaves to the Europeans together with gold, ivory and animal skins.

For the African slave owner, it was no more remarkable to sell slaves to European merchants than to African merchants. He knew little about the conditions of the slaves in the new country and probably assumed that they were about the same as in Africa. For him, the slaves simply had to move into the estates of new master families and live their lives there, exercise their skills and begin to climb the ladder of society in an attempt to achieve the final liberation.

In fact, the African slave salesman did not come far from the truth. At that time in the second half of the 15th century, the slaves in Europe were treated in a similar way to those in Africa. The slave was not a completely lawless being but had a given place in a system of mutual obligations between the slaves and the slain society.

However, some important and crucial facts need to be emphasized in order to understand developments in the relationship between Europe and Africa. The African kings or chiefs who sold slaves to Europeans could never have foreseen that this first and relatively very limited slave trade would in future take such proportions that it would destroy the stability of society in their kingdom.

They could not have foreseen that this future instability would lead to a situation in which Europeans became overpowering them. That Europe, which was the active and strong party, in the search for and trade in slaves, because of its superior armament, would always bring home the greatest profits and most benefits.

It is also important to remember that during these years the slave trade was only part of the trade between Africa and Europe, although for Portugal and later also for Spain the slave trade represented the largest part of all transactions.



When sailing on the Africa coast the Portuguese find bigger and better organized cities than the Lisbon



The slave trade begins to expand

At the second half of the 15th century, the slave trade was mainly devoted to meeting the needs of home consumption among the nobility of Portugal and Spain and limited exports to Italy and France. Two of the great potentates of the time, England and France, traded almost nothing at all with slaves, but developed a trade in Africa in goods such as ivory, pepper and gold.

Until the mid-16th century, the slave trade was about a few tens of thousands of African slaves who had been delivered to the countries of Europe and this slave trade could have gone down in history as a reprehensible but limited event in a certain era. Another more valuable trade was, as I said, developing and taking over in importance.

However, this was not the case now. Columbus' trip to the Antilles in 1492 and Portuguese Pedro Alvares Cabral's trip to Brazil in 1500 changed everything. After these years, the Spanish and Portuguese boats increasingly travelled west to the newly discovered American continent. With a large number of well-armed soldiers, war and deception, they eventually conquered the Caribbean and vast lands of South America.  

The population of these areas was enslaved and forced to work in mines and sugar plantations. In their search for riches, the conquerors were ruthless in their exploitation of the Indians that they had made into slaves. The Indian population died out during this slavery. In some places, it was completely deleted.

In Cuba, where Christopher Columbus landed on October 27, 1492, more than a hundred thousand Indians disappeared in less than fifty years. It is not possible here to give a description of the tragedy of the American Indians during colonial exploitation. This requires special articles that tell the story of this drama in a comprehensive and fair way. The author is forced to state only briefly the cruel reality in America and move forward on the issue of the European slave trade from Africa.  




Foot shackles


Foot shackles


The demand for labor force, which in the new colonies in America could take place instead of the murdered Indians, took off like never before. The conquerors began to import slaves from Spain, Portugal and North Africa. These slaves were both white and black and many were Christians.

It may be of interest to know that the export of Christian slaves continued until the end of the 17th century. There are documents from 1692 in which the Spanish royal family (named The Catholic Kings!) granted export permits for white slaves from Spain to Mexico, where they were to take place in the upper-class brothels.

In 1515, Spain received the first cargo of sugar grown by African slaves in the Caribbean. These slaves had been captured in Africa, dragged to Spain and from there sold on to plantations in the Caribbean. But the great shortage of labor caused by the Indian death and the new mines and plantations required a different, more comprehensive solution than the import of slaves from Europe.

From the beginning, the Portuguese and The Spaniards were hesitant to take slaves from Africa. These turned out to be rebellious and had caused carnage on the slave boats and in the Caribbean.

But the development went that way. The royal houses of Spain and Portugal were economically completely dependent on the slave trade and demanded dividends on the money invested. At the same time, the need for labor, large quantities of slaves to the sugar plantations and mines, could only be met from the African continent. With increased oppression, slaves began to be picked up in Africa to be delivered in America.

The first Spanish boatload of slaves directly from Africa to the Caribbean went in 1518.
This opened a new era, when the royal houses in Europe sold permission to the slave traders to buy slaves in certain areas of Africa for further export to the colonies on the American continent. Millions upon millions of people were hunted, captured and sold as slaves. They had no rights, were treated worse than animals and died in millions.

Europe's royal houses, the Christian church and the rest of the upper classes were thrilled at the abominable handling. Slave trade to America was initiated by Portugal and Spain. But these countries were quickly followed by England, France, Holland, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden and later also by two new countries on the American continent, Brazil and the United States.

The relationship between these countries was on the coast of Africa almost by a state of war, all intent on taking the entire spoils without sharing with anyone else. It started with war between Portugal and Spain.

The royal house of Portugal had been given a monopoly by the Pope on the entire trade on the Coast of Africa. But at the risk of getting on the Pope's excommunication and going to hell, the Spanish royal family began to send their ships further and further down the Africa coast.

Portugal's King João II did not see this with ease. According to the Portuguese monarch, his sea captains, who in Africa happened upon “boats with people from Spain or other countries, would not take any prisoners but simply throw them over board as punishment for wanting to do something so forbidden and for others who heard about it to take it as a warning'”.

But such a profitable business could not be kept for itself. It was not many years before the west coast of Africa was served by Spanish and other countries' contraband boats.

One who went down in history as the chief slave smuggler was Englishman John Hawkins. Financed by merchants in London, Hawkins acquired three boats in 1562 and with a hundred men in the crew he sailed from England to the Guinea coast. Through war and looting, Hawkins managed to capture over 300 people after some time on the coast. John Hawkins then set off for the Caribbean where he sold the prisoners as slaves and bought goods to sell in Europe.

The English crown initially did not want to know of Hawkins' adventures and not have anything to do with the slave trade. But when Queen Elizabeth I saw Hawking's shrimp after his first trip, she quickly changed her mind and also invested in John Hawkins' slave hunt.

From Queen Elisabeth I, Hawkins received the slave boat "Jesus"(!) for her second slave expedition to Africa. John Hawkins was later knighted for his merits in Britain and chose a coat of arms with a black slave in handcuffs!

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the slave trade continued to expand at an increasing rate. Portugal's monopoly was shattered when, between 1580 and 1640, the country was left without a king and the Spanish king, the immediate heir, took the Portuguese throne. Until 1640, when uprisings erupted in Lisbon and a new Portuguese king was crowned, the country remained a Spanish province and degraded as a naval power.


Sir John Hawkins


From the beginning of the 17th century, several other countries took over large parts of the slave trade, which by now was the biggest business across all seas. The state of war between these countries was the usual relationship on the world's oceans. Greed and envy for the profits of the slave trade had no limits.

England's naval power grew strong all the time. In its second rank as a slave trader, the country had been forced to obtain goods to offer Spain and Portugal to access gold and silver from the slave trade and the colonies in America.

This would have forced industrialization, which by extension would have made England one of the strongest powers in Europe.

The decision on who would take the lead over trade with Africa, now almost enslaved, came with the Spanish War of Succession of 1702-1714 after the death of Carlos II. The Spanish Empire was at this time the world's largest kingdom, with possessions in the Netherlands, Italy, America, Africa and Asia. The pearl of this empire was the "assiento", the contract that gave the owner the right to all slave trade to Spain's American possessions. That's where the big money came in.

The French Duke, Philip of Anjou selected by Carlos II, became King Philip V of Spain with the support of grandfather, the French King Louis XIV. After his coronation, Philip V gave theassiento rights to Louis XIV, which he had demanded. England's royal house felt best at the best and the Great War was a fact.

For 12 years, each other was slaughtered in Europe and everywhere else where the two camps met. The first peace treaty came in April 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht between Spain and England with its allies. Crucial to the signing of this peace was that Spain and England had signed a trade agreement a month earlier, giving the English royal family a monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa to Spanish America!

On the basis of this “assiento contract, England developed in the 18th century into the world's largest imperialist power, a position that England retained for at least two hundred years.  


50 million disappeared from Africa

How many people disappeared from Africa because of the slave trade between the 15th and 20th centuries? This question has been the subject of many studies but cannot be answered unequivocally. An exact statistic has never existed, only estimates based on incomplete data.   

Not least, the existing figures are incorrect due to extensive smuggling. The slave trade was heavily taxed by the European royal houses and the Church, which lived on this practice. The slave traders always tried to get past these tariffs. It was therefore common for the slave traders to bribe customs officials on the slave markets. The slave traders were then allowed to use the trademarks of the various slave companies with which the branded slaves who could pass without taxes or customs duties.


Neck shackles


The smuggling of prisoners is estimated at one third of the cargo. But how many were they, in the big picture? In the circle of the people who have devoted their lives to studying the history of the African continent, the figure of 15 million people as an absolute minimum and 50 million people most likely, has been accepted as the number of slaves who came alive to America. (In Cuba alone, a million slaves were landed in 15 years, between 1791 and 1840!)


At least 50 million slaves

But these estimates of the number of slaves who came alive to America are, of course, not the same as the number that had been taken aboard the slave ships. Many died during the trip, a low 20 percent. Sometimes this figure could be much higher. To these tragic figures must be added further all the people murdered in forays and wars in the hunt for slaves that for centuries covered large areas of the African continent. It is concluded that the slave trade, while on the table, must have cost Africa at least 50 million people's lives (some scientists report 100 million), which represents a quarter of black Africa's population by the mid-20th century when these studies were carried out.




The slave trade gave birth to industrialism  

The slave trade destroys the structure of the society in Africa


By the mid-17th century, the European colonies on the newly discovered continent of America experienced a new and very strong development. Huge numbers of African slaves were brought there to take their place in production in gold and silver mines and on the plantations of sugar, tobacco, cotton, etc.

Not least, new slaves were constantly needed as the slaves' work capacity was ruthlessly exploited, resulting in many deaths. The mortality rate of the Dutch colony of Suriname in the Caribbean was, for example, so great that the entire healthy slave population, about 50,000 people, was exterminated in total every 20 years!

As demand for slaves increased in America, slave traders' manhunt on the African continent increased. The European slave traders acquired slaves in three different ways: acts of piracy, war alliances and peaceful partnership.

Piracy involved looting and war in which the slave hunters were based in the boats. The acts of piracy soon turned to partnership in war. The Europeans then disembarked armed groups of soldiers to support an African king against his rivals. As a rule, European slave traders were allowed to buy prisoners from among the vanquished, who were transported to America as slaves.

This partnership's first slave trader is said to have been Englishman John Hawkins. On his fourth trip, when he had been on the Guinea coast for some time and had already taken over 150 prisoners, something happened that became decisive for the future of human trafficking.

Hawkins was approached on the coast of Sierra Leone by a chief who wanted Hawkins' support in war with other kings in the area. As payment, Hawkins would have to take all the prisoners who were taken in this war.

Hawkins landed with 300 Englishmen, and together with the African chief and its men, he went into battle with the chief's enemies. The devastation and murder that Hawkins' men were guilty of with their firearms was terrible. But the win was entirely in Hawkins' taste. He brought with him over 300 prisoners, which resulted in large profits from sales in the Caribbean.

Over time, Europeans learned to exploit or incite rivalries between peoples and force states of war to bring out more slaves. In these cases, for example, Europeans were responsible for arming one party against the right to buy slaves among the prisoners. In this way and attracted by the European goods paid for by the slave traders, some African kings eventually became partners of the European slave traders.

But in most cases, the partnership soon passed to the African kings' dependence on the slave traders. If you wanted to get hold of the European goods that the slave traders had to offer, there was only one thing these kings could do, deliver several slaves. Slave hunting spread to ever larger areas and further into the continent.

The European slave traders initially paid mostly with horses, copper and fabrics, but eventually switched to almost exclusively firearms and alcohol. Firearms, muskets, became an absolute necessity for those peoples in Africa who wanted to guarantee their freedom. Without firearms, which could only be obtained in exchange for slaves, strong kingdoms became an easy prey for otherwise weaker peoples in search of slaves.

In the end, it became so much on the African continent that all the peoples had to acquire firearms. Thus, everyone had to hunt slaves. For several centuries, from the early 16th century to the end of the 19th century, uncertainty and instability spread across much of Africa. Almost everywhere there was an imminent risk of being kidnapped and sold as a slave to the European slave traders.

The social structure fell into disrepair and was wasted, and man was demoted and brutalized by the ruthless handling. This can be seen, among other things, in the development of art from very sophisticated forms in the 15th century to increasingly harsh representations until the end of the 19th century.

Social development stalled in many parts of Africa and old kingdoms and cultures perished. The traditional power of the kings, very limited by a system of government ministers and hierarchies, changed to become despotic and without borders. This allowed political opposition and rebels to be wiped out by sales to the slave traders.

Uncertainty was constantly increasing, and people took refuge in inaccessible areas. Production in society fell to a minimum, agriculture was knocked out in large areas, yes, which farmer wants such an earth that he does not know if he can harvest?



The slave trade was a fierce and merciless hunt right into the deepest of Africa. The kidnapped and captured people were driven by their captors to the coast, to the slave markets and the slave boats. This could mean several weeks or months on foot with a lack of food and water.

The prisoners came mainly from western Africa, from Senegal in the north to Angola in the south. In the 19th century, many slaves also came from East Africa. Upon arriving at the slave market, prisoners were imprisoned in sheds or prisons. There they had to stay until the chiefs and Europeans agreed on the price of a pièce de Inde, a price for a normal-strong, healthy man in his twenties. Two men in their thirties generally corresponded to one pièce, as well as two boys aged ten to fifteen or two women.

After weeks of walking in shackles, the prisoners were usually very involved. To this you have to add what they had gone through when they had to fight for their lives and perhaps saw their loved ones murdered and their homes burned down by the slave hunters. The mortality rate in prisons in the slave markets was therefore very high.

On the day the prisoners were to be sold to the Europeans, they were led out to an open space completely naked, men, women and children. There they had to undergo a very thorough examination by the ship's doctor. Those who were over thirty-five years of age, gray-haired or in any way showed symptoms of illness were taken aside. Only the best were good enough to be bought.


Branding of slaves


All purchased prisoners were marked on the chest or arms with annealed iron that burned in the marks of the various slave companies. The British Africa Company's mark was DY, Duke of York, formal name of the British monarch. The Royal House of Portugal used a Cross of Christ. The Great Bible Society, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, branded its slaves with the book-top SPG.

After the branding, the prisoners went back to the prison where they had to wait before being taken to the waiting slave ships. Either the trip went to one of the fortresses, slave depletions, which the European nations had built along the coast of Africa or directly to America.


The branding mark of Guinea Holding Company.


The first major fortress on the West Coast of Africa was S. Jorge da Mina, later called Elmina. It was built by the Portuguese in 1481-1489 about 50 km south of the Cape Coast in present-day Ghana.

The Portuguese king João II who decided to build the fortress sent boats with 500 soldiers, 100 construction workers and all necessary building materials. The fortress was equipped with tall towers, two moats carved in stone and 400 cannons. It was made to keep 1,000 slaves in captivity! The nature and size of the fortress shows well what a great deal with slaves was predicted. King João II received from Pope Xisto IV the full forgiveness of sins for all Christians who died in S. Jorge da Mina.


Petition · To amend the name of Cape Coast and Elmina Castle to ...

S. Jorge da Mina


The trip to America was for the imprisoned people to come to the unknown. None of the slaves knew what was going to happen and most had never seen the sea before. Aboard the slave ship, life was an indescribable hell. The slaves were beaten in iron shackles on their hands and feet and forced into the hold of the boats. There they had to be tightly packed on each other, no more space than the body width required.

The holds were divided into several floors with a height of generally 80 cm, but never over one meter. There the slaves had to lie or try to sit. In the British slave ship Brooks, the floor height was 78 cm. The space for each male slave was at Brooks 183 cm in length and 40 cm in width. For women 175 x 40 cm, for boys 152 x 35 cm and girls 137 x 30 cm. In many slave boats, the slaves were also beaten with neck shackles.

When the cargo hold was packed with usually 300-500 slaves, the boat departed for America in what became known as the Middle Passage. The trip usually took five weeks. Five weeks of famine and thirst. Five weeks during which several hundred people had to carry out their needs and vomit in the place where they lay. The stench of a slave ship could be felt from miles away. Slaves who died or suffered from illness were immediately thrown overboard.


The stowage scheme for the Slave Ship Brookes from Liverpool





The mortality rate on the slave ships was terribly high, 20-30 percent died during the Middle Passage. Sometimes the slaves rebelled against the terrible fate and at some point, they managed to take over the boats. For the most part, the slave traders beat up the rebellious slaves and punished them with sadistic carnage.


The triangular trade

When you pause for a moment and think through the incredible number of people who were sold as slaves, mainly in the years 1650-1850, you understand that this must be part of a very extensive process.      

Millions of people were bought in Africa as slaves in exchange for European goods such as firearms, fabrics, copper goods and spirits. These people were transported to America, where they had to work for free for plantation and mine owners and created on the American continent vast riches in goods such as sugar, tobacco, cotton, rum, gold, silver and precious stones. These goods were in turn transported on to Europe where they received a very profitable outlet. Part of the profits in these transactions were converted into new European goods shipped to Africa to buy several slaves. This trade round is usually referred to as the triangular trade or the circular trade.

The role of slaves in this acquisition of wealth must not be forgotten. The slaves were not ignorant and generally lethargic Negroes just good at using as simple tools of work, as some racist historians would have us believe.

The slaves were kidnapped working people, farmers and craftsmen, with a wide range of professional skills. Their know-how was, in many areas, fundamental and very crucial to the success of mines and plantations. They worked as carpenters, masons, farmers, stonemasons, ironworkers, painters, carpenters, silver smiths, artists, etc.  

They had brought their skills and basic professional knowledge from their home country. Behind the Triangular Trade were the European royal houses and some other financiers. The royal houses sold permits for the trade of slaves or went in with their own money. Some other members of the upper class, nobility, or bourgeoisie, formed companies with the blessing of the royal houses, bought these permits, and entered the trade. Many of them were owners of ships and shipyards, fabric and weapons factories in Europe and plantation and mine owners in America.

The triangular trade was a very profitable business, a deal with triple profits. Britain's income from trade in the Caribbean, at the end of the 18th century, was four times higher than that of trade with the rest of the world. The profits were unimaginably large, and the trade expanded rapidly.

The number of ships operating in the world's oceans soared in a relatively short period of time. In 1719, the port of Liverpool had 18371 ship mares registered. In 1792, the number of ship mares was up in 260382.      

The increase was necessary as the transport of goods increased significantly during these seventy years. As an example, figures for sugar imports into England and British exports of cotton products can be used.

England imported half a million tons of sugar in 1720. At the end of the 18th century, annual imports were five times as high. In 1701, the United Kingdom exported £23,000 worth of cotton products. In 1800, exports were worth £5.5 million.


The triangular trade, the origin of industrialism


En bild som visar text, karta

Automatiskt genererad beskrivning


Liverpool grew with shipbuilding, Manchester and Lancashire grew with the manufacture of cheap cotton fabrics for the purchase of slaves and Birmingham grew with the arms' export of millions of muskets to Africa.

The rapid economic expansion of the triangular trade created the conditions for the Industrial Revolution in England. The need for an increasing number of cheap consumer goods led to new inventions in the industry which in turn led to growth and innovation.

This was particularly noticeable in the textile industry where, at the end of the 18th century, inventions and new machines followed each other.

Industrialism was born with the triangular trade. With it, a new class of big merchants and industrial tycoons came to the top of society. These were immensely rich, willingly wasted money and bought themselves political power, for example seats in the British Parliament, from where they could have influence on the country's business and the terms of the triangle trade. But all these riches created in the triangle trade had a different side, a very dirty side.

In Africa, in addition to all the misery and the dissolution of kingdoms and cultures caused by the slave trade, much of the traditional production and crafts stagnated and partially disappearing altogether. An example. The manufacture of African fabrics, famous for its good quality and which the European countries imported before the slave trade completely overshadowed the rest of the trade, succumbed and disappeared when cheap fabrics from Europe invaded the African kingdoms.

With the continued repression and the increased power of the European countries, the situation got worse. The European rulers deliberately put an end to production and social development in Africa in order to preserve their power and markets.

The transfer of European new technologies to the countries of Africa was completely over, despite the fact that this had been promised by the European kings and businessmen and despite the fact that the African kings repeatedly asked for help in the form of doctors, carpenters, school teachers, priests, boat builders and others they felt were necessary to open new paths for the future in Africa.

Even in Europe, the children of the triangle trade, industrialism, created an unprecedented misery. For the masses of industrial workers, life was a real misery. For adults as well as for children, the working day was almost endless, up to sixteen hours, the payment was terribly poor and the working conditions unimaginable.

Poverty in European industrial cities was worse than ever before. For the poor in Europe, the social changes caused by the triangular trade became a new form of slavery. In Friedrich Engels's “Condition of the Working Class in England” we can get a picture of the situation of the workers in 1845, a truly unimaginable reading.


Sweden and the slave trade

(Author's Note – Sweden is the only country in Europe where the official version of the story denies the participation of the ruling class in the slave trade. But in reality, the Swedish crown also entered the manhunt, albeit in an incomparably smaller way than the other countries in Europe. As this text was originally written for a Swedish newspaper and the Swedish public, it was the author obliged to investigate the correct facts and make his narration in a special chapter. This chapter is included here for its historical interest and not because Sweden played a leading role in the slave trade.)


The wealth in Africa also attracted the Swedish upper classes. In the middle of the 17th century, on the Slave coast (or Gold Coast) off present-day Ghana, a battle began for colonies to fill the Swedish upper classes safe with gold from the African trade. It all started in 1647 when Louis de Geer became aware of the economic opportunities that African transport could provide.

From Queen Kristina, de Geer bought a royal sea pass with the right to travel to Africa and sent a couple of ships in search of slaves, gold and ivory. As payment, Geer used fabrics, brass goods, fishhooks and spirits. These first boatloads paid very well, which led to the next step.

In 1649 the Swedish African Company was formed with Louis de Geer as the main owner. This time the purpose was not simple exchange business. The company was formed to make the colony dreams a reality. A German adventurer, Hendrik Carlof, with experience on the Guinea coast, where he had served under Dutch command, was appointed as head of the Company's first expedition.

In 1650, Carlof came to the coast off Ghana where he as head of the Swedish expedition made an agreement with the King of Fetu, a kingdom on the coast. It was agreed on the construction of a couple of fortresses and some trading stations.

The fortress of Carlsborg began to be built, as well as some trading stations along the coast and the fortress Christiansborg at Accra in present-day Ghana.

Life in the Swedish possessions was not peaceful but filled with battles against the Dutch and the English who wanted the same prey. This led to a certain disadvantage for the trade and company's profits.

After the death of Louis de Geer, the Swedish African Company was transformed in 1654 under the leadership of de Geer's sons. Now came a turning point in Company's life. Carlof didn't get along with Company's management, the sons of de Geer, who tried to cheat him out of money. He deserted and took refuge in Denmark. There he obtained a Danish hijacker's letter with the aim of capturing the Swedish possessions on the Guinea coast on behalf of Denmark.

In 1658, Carlof arrived again on the Guinea coast. With the help of an African chief, he succeeded in defeating the Swedish commandant at Carlsborg, von Krusenstierna, and taking over the fortress, trading stations and Christiansborg. Thus, the Swedish African Company had no possessions and the history of colonial power Sweden in West Africa should be over.

One last act, however, existed. The African chief who had helped Carlof against the Swedes stormed Carlsborg, which the Danes had sold to the Dutch, and offered the fortress for sale to the Swedish African Company. The company bought Carlsborg back for expensive gold money and the shops started to roll as before. But the brightening of Company's colonial existence did not last long. The Dutch attacked Carlsborg shortly afterwards and the fortress fell after 13 months of siege. The Swedish colonial adventure in West Africa was now forever over.

What about the slave trade? Was Sweden involved? Here the history description goes apart. Some Swedish historians have wanted to claim that the Swedes never dealt with slaves. However, this is not true. Already during a survey of The Swedish African Company's books, it can be seen that the Company had slaves as labor at the fortresses and trading stations. These slaves had of course the Company bought. In addition, some African slaves were brought by Swedish ships to Sweden, where they work on the nobility's estate.

As regards trafficking in human beings to America, it was on Swedish and Danish ships from the West Coast of Africa to the Caribbean on the initiative of Swedish and Danish entrepreneurs.

But the real breakthrough of the organized slave trade came only in the 18th century. In 1755 Denmark bought three islands in the Caribbean, the so-called Virgin Islands, Saint Croix, Saint Thomas and Saint Jan.

Sweden did not want to be worse than the outside world and made sure to also acquire a colony in the Caribbean. In July 1784, King Gustav III bought the island of Saint Barthélemy of France for trade privileges in Gothenburg. In March 1785 Saint Barthélemy was taken over by the Swedish commandant Salomon von Rajalin. At the same time was formed in Sweden the West India Company, which gained great trade rights and power at Saint Barthélemy.


The Swedish king Gustav III introduced the slave trade in Sweden.


Gustav III declared the island Porto Franco, free port open to all the ships of the world. This would prove to be a very profitable move. The end of the 18th century was a very troubled period in the Caribbean with ongoing wars between England, France, Holland and North America. However, the war did not reduce the need for trade contacts among the capitalists of the warring countries. On the contrary, the need for trade was only greater.
The Swedish policy of neutrality together with the free port declared by Gustav III made Saint Barthélemy, mainly the capital Gustavia, a focal point for merchants and trade transactions in the Caribbean.

Another factor that was crucial to economic success was the changes in legislation created to make the slave trade legal. In 1785, at the suggestion of The Commandant Rajalin, the Government Council and King Gustav III decided that the slave trade would be allowed on Saint Barthélemy so that the inhabitants of the island would be given the opportunity to participate in the slave trade. "A necessary factor to the island's cultivation and the expansion of plantations," it was said.

Gustav III goes down in history as the king who introduced the slave trade in a country that 500 years earlier had abolished bondage. In October 1786, the Company was given the right to run a slave trade on the African coast. In fact, the slave trade was officially sanctioned without anyone in the Government Council ever objecting.

It may be interesting to know that this complete unity among the ruling upper classes representatives had very little support among the people. By this time, public opinion against the slave trade had begun to grow strong in the world and these winds of change had spread to Sweden and won the majority of the Swedish people.

At Saint Barthélemy, the situation was such that the new legislation made the slave trade one of the largest commercials on the Swedish island. Human trafficking on Swedish ships went from West Africa, Guinea and Angola to Saint Barthélemy and the Danish Virgin Islands.

The Africans who could not be sold to the plantation owners were kept in Saint Barthélemy to be offered for sale to other plantations in the Caribbean. To this end, there was a slave shed on Östra Strandgatan in Gustavia, owned by one of Saint Barthélemy's most successful entrepreneurs, the West India Company's representative on the island, Adolf Hansen. Hansen also chartered his own slave ships.  


The Swedish king Karl XIV Johan stopped the income from the slave trade in its own pocket.


It has been discussed whether the West India Company officially joined the slave trade. The legal formalities are sometimes difficult to get right. But in addition to the fact that Company's representatives were among the most active in the slave trade on the island, another thing is also proven.

One of the Company's largest shareholders (the largest was Crown Prince Gustav Adolf), director Lars Rejmers P:son, ran the slave trade to Saint Barthélemy and on to other islands in the Caribbean and even to Havana. Rejmers made partnerships with several of the island's entrepreneurs and used the Company's administration for the financial transactions in connection with the slave trade. Such deals were very successful in this haunt for all the world's smugglers and warring countries.

During the time the war raged in the area, Gustavia experienced an indescribable success. From being almost uninhabited in 1785, Gustavia with over 5000 inhabitants in 1800, was one of Sweden's largest cities after Stockholm, Gothenburg, Karlskrona and Norrköping (compared to Gävle with 5410 inhabitants or Uppsala with 5105).


The city of Gustavia in Saint Barthélemy



The leading business partner on the island was The Swedish West India Company, which had been formed in 1786. In 1806, the business was taken over by the Swedish state and only six years later, in 1812, finally taken over by the Swedish royal family.  


Two ads are about black men, Richard Crump and Joseph Raphael, sold on behalf of the Swedish King.


The incomes from Saint Barthélemy were transferred after 1812 to the Barthélemy Fund under the possession of King Karl XIV Johan. Income also came from customs and port duties, much of it from slave boats and taxes from the slave trade.

The sale of escaped slaves from other islands or negroes and mulattoes without identity documents, which were captured and auctioned on the governor's orders, was also awarded to Karl XIV's Barthélemy Fund!

But say the happiness that lasts permanently. The years passed and most wars in the area eventually began to end. Saint Barthélemy and Gustavia became less and less interesting as a port for shady business. Besides, the slave trade was running out. France abolished the slave trade in 1794 and England in 1807, which also led the English navy to procure and seize the slave boats. 

The Royal House of Denmark also had to take a stand on the issue of the slave trade and abolish it. Paradoxically, this was for some time the salvation of both Swedish and Danish slave traders. The Danish Government's decision, in March 1792, that all slave trade should be prohibited from 1 January 1803, aroused an insurgency among the plantation owners of the Danish islands.

The Danish crown then decided to generously grant beneficial so-called negro loans to the plantation owners so that they could provide themselves properly with slaves before the new law came into force. The result was the hoarding of slaves and a temporary upturn in human trafficking, which was mainly used by Danish and Swedish slave traders.

Despite this exception, the shops at Saint Barthélemy irreparably began to get to the bottom. The manslaughter battle came in 1831 when England permanently opened its West Indian ports to American shipping.

The fall in income led to the Swedish krona's decision to get rid of Saint Barthélemy. Contacts were established with the former owner France and an agreement on France's takeover of Saint Barthélemy was prepared. Before going to work, they wanted to get the opinion of the inhabitants and a referendum on Swedish or French ownership of Saint Barthélemy was carried out.

The outcome of this referendum must have gone down in history as a unique result. All but one of the citizens voted for France! It revealed the emptiness of the claim about the islanders' love for Sweden and the Swedish Royal Family!

The referendum marked the end of the history of Swedish colonial domination in the Caribbean. On 16 March 1878, 94 years after Sweden had taken over, Saint Barthélemy returned to the possession of France.


The slave trade and racism

The effects of the slave trade and the triangular trade on European and African countries and later in the countries of the American continent are asking some important questions about people-to-people contacts.

How did people in the different continents look at each other? What was the relationship between blacks and whites and later also between them and the Indians on the American continent?

Without delving into the matter, which would require a long account outside our possibilities, some historical findings can nevertheless be made. The first contacts between Europeans and Africans, as the Portuguese did, were primarily a manhunt, a hunt for slaves. The human hunters were driven by a desire for riches.

The Portuguese began by abduction and looting, but when the Portuguese kings found their classmates in Africa, they traded with these African kings in a transaction between two equal partners. The white and black upper classes looked at each other in much the same way. A mixture of curiosity and fear, an opportunity for good business and increased wealth. The underclass on both continents was in their eyes what they had always been, work tools.

Racism was initially an unknown thought.


Lisbon, a painting from 1570-80.

The Chafariz d'El-Rey (King's Fountain) in the Alfama District, Lisbon.

Many of the persons in the painting who come for water or were passing through on the way to their business are black Africans.

The workers or slaves and the rich or businessman were both white and black.
The color of the skin was not important.


En bild som visar byggnad, vatten, utomhus, personer

Automatiskt genererad beskrivning


En bild som visar utomhus, häst, personer, promenerar

Automatiskt genererad beskrivning


En bild som visar sitter, katt, svart, bord

Automatiskt genererad beskrivning


En bild som visar person, grupp, personer, stor

Automatiskt genererad beskrivning


Racism was initially an unknown thought. The course of times changed this attitude. If, from the outset, contacts between Europeans and Africans were without racial prejudice, after many years of slave trade, Europeans' views on Africans changed.

A gentleman's mentality prevailed among the white supremacists and after that black people were no longer treated like human beings. The slave trade was the reason for this change. On the one hand, the very manhunt in Africa where the slaves were taken, on the other hand, the commercial interest and desire for profit of Europeans.

Let us start with the conditions in Africa. The black kings and chieftains who began to sell slaves to Europeans in exchange for European goods were from the beginning proud masters of stable societies, most prosperous ones. However, in order to maintain and extend all the splendor and luxury of European goods, more and more slaves must be sold to Europeans and shipped away. This slave sale without borders made societies in Africa unstable and its kings and chieftains increasingly dependent on Europeans.

When Europeans began to sell muskets, this development was further reinforced, and it became an absolute necessity for the African chiefs and kings to obtain these new weapons both for the sake of slave hunting and for defense purposes. Not least because Europeans pursued an active policy among the African kings to start new wars that would result in more prisoners that Europeans could buy as slaves.

In this active war propaganda, the Christian Church was very much involved and, as always, a mainstay of the European royal houses. A couple of concrete examples of how this process could be made are here.

Let's start with the Kingdom of Congo. In 1482, the Portuguese caravans came to the mouth of the Congo and made contact with the Kingdom of Congo, of about the same size as Portugal. Congo was led after 1506 by a king, Mani Congo Nzinga Mbemba, who, after the first contacts with the Portuguese in the 1490s, had become a Christian and named Dom Afonso. Dom Afonso ruled for forty years.

The correspondence between the kings of Portugal and King Dom Afonso is well preserved in Portugal and the relationship between them is well known. It all started with trade, the Portuguese's help in war and Dom Afonso's repayment with African goods and a limited number of slaves.

That a great king like Mani Congo gave another equal king a number of slaves was no big business, it was part of tradition. The correspondence between the kings is clear on the equality between the "royal brother of Portugal" and the "most powerful and most brilliant king of Mani Congo". But King Dom Afonso could not foresee the consequences of the slave trade that he had started.

It set in motion a process in which small chiefs in Dom Afonso's land made great profits as a result of the constantly increasing and eventually uncontrollable slave trade. The Christian faith of the Portuguese was not helpful to the Christian brother in the Congo. Dom Afonso's letter on helping to end the slave trade and developing the country with European technology was not dealt with in the reply letters.

Even priests and missionaries felt Dom Afonso had to address and ask them not to buy so many slaves and "in any case not women so it becomes so obvious (the priests' violation of the vow of chastity, my note. MS) and the king appear to be a liar before his people." The priests stood for chastity and godliness, Afonso had taught his people. But the priests didn't want to change their lives.

To avoid revelations, the clergy instead threatened excommunication from the Church of God and the kingdom of God for all who uttered a word about their handling. However, the Portuguese slave traders continued to enslave all the people they got their hands on in Congo. Even the young members of the Congolese nobility, who were sent to Portugal for further study to priests or officials, were sold as slaves. Technical assistance from Portugal never came up, the Congolese only received consumer goods that were soon consumed, which meant that new goods had to be bought against several slaves.

In 1526, Dom Afonso made an attempt to gain control of the slave trade in order to reduce or completely stop it. On this subject, he wrote a sharply worded letter to the King of Portugal revealing the Portuguese merchants as thieves and unscrupulous men who captured and sold the country's sons so "that Our country is being depopulated altogether".

And Afonso continued:

"From the kingdom of Yours we need nothing but priests and people who can teach in schools, and no goods other than wine and flour for the Holy Supper. It is for this reason that we ask Your Highness to help and assist us in this matter by commanding your agents that they should send neither merchants nor goods here, because it is our will that in these Kingdoms there be no trade in slaves and no market for slaves."

Afonso's attempt to stop the slave trade did not yield any results, after all, the slave trade was an important part of the Portuguese king's livelihood. The slave trade continued to increase and at the death of Dom Afonso in the late 1540s, Congo was a society in disrepair and chaos.

It was at that time that the Portuguese began to experiment for the first time with plans to completely take over the area through a military invasion. Crucially, it was possible to destroy the system of vassalage and alliance between countries that existed around Congo.

In this case, it was especially important to separate Congo from its allies in the south, the king of Dongo, who received the title Ngola, from where the name Angola comes from. Breaking these traditionally strong ties was not easy.

The task was given to those who were most suited to it, namely the slave traders and Jesuit priests on the island of São Tomé, who were also established in the slave trade.

On this island there were large sugar cane plantations with slaves from the continent, while the island was the largest slave market on the entire West Africa coast. The Jesuit priests and slave traders of São Tomé therefore acted in their own right with increased proceeds from the slave trade in mind.

By scheming, they got Ngola in Dongo to break off relations with Mani Congo in 1556. In response, the Mani Congo sent an army to subjugate Ngola. But Congo was a society in disrepair, its army was weakened and not long what it once had been. Ngola's army resigned with victory. Thus, Congo's power was destroyed and the Portuguese were able for the first time to install themselves with a military force on the continent.

Nine years later, the Portuguese defeated what was left of the Mani Congo army and began the occupation of the African coast south of the River Congo. It became a long and dirty war against various kings, where cannons and modern rifles alongside priests and missionaries were a power factor in machining, destabilizing and conquering.

Mani Congo and several of the defeated kings and chieftains were allowed to keep their posts but now as puppets of the Portuguese.

The consequences of the Portuguese conquest were devastating. The looting and murder seemed to have no limits. In 1576, in a letter from the Jesuit priest, and the slave trader, Garcia Simões, who bought slaves from the then Mani Congo Dom Álvaro, Simões complains about the high mortality rate among the slaves, over 30 percent.
Despite this, no less than 1.5 million slaves were exported from this area over the next 120 years, until 1680! In total, the total for the living slaves taken in this area is estimated at well over 5 million people, a bit higher than the population of Angola in the 1950s.

One brutality and humiliation against the defenseless black man led to the next and the next. In this spirit, the master's mind of the white man arose over time.


The East Coast of Africa and the Portuguese

Around the same time as the dramatic events that led to Congo's demise, the Portuguese established contact with India by sea. Vasco da Gama's first voyage began in 1497. He crossed the Tip of Africa in December 1497, the east coast of Africa in early 1498 and came to Calcutta on May 20, 1498. (Portugal's royal family got through a papal bull monopoly by sea to India; one can only ask why)

Vasco da Gama examined the area on behalf of the Portuguese king. He encountered several cities on the east coast built of stone with harbors and bustling shipping whose development and prosperity stood over many of the European cities of the time.

These cities, Kilwa, Mombassa, Zanzibar, Brava, Quelimane and many others were a product of many years of connections between Africans, Arabs, Indians and even far getting travelers all the way from China.

In 1502 Vasco da Gama returned to the east coast of Africa and the Indian Ocean, but now with orders from the Portuguese king to take over all trade in the area. No one else would be allowed to buy the Indian, Arab or African goods, there would in future be a Portuguese monopoly. After all, the King of Portugal had been given this from the pope!

Mainly it was the Indian spices and other Indian goods that the Portuguese king wanted to sell on in Europe. Vasco da Gama was tasked with subcontracting all rich cities, the centers of civilization in East Africa and gaining power over India. The Portuguese under Vasco da Gama's command were ruthless. They had a much stronger force of arms and used their cannons and firearms to completely destroy and subjugated the cities of East Africa and on the Indian coast.

When Vasco da Gama arrived in India on his second trip, he gave an ultimatum to the Indian prince of Calcutta to put an end to trade relations with the Arabs. "Expel all Arabs," Gama demanded. The Indian prince tried to negotiate, but Vasco da Gama wanted complete submission. He caught merchants and others in the harbor, chopped their hands, feet and head off and hung up the dismembered body parts of the rig. Some of these severed parts sent Vasco da Gama to the prince with the message that he could do curry stew on them.

For 1400 years, the Arabs and Indians had acted with each other in a civilized way and no one had ever experienced such violence. In ten years of the most ruthless and bloody aggression, the Portuguese destroyed cities that it had taken hundreds of years to build.



Kilwa's conquest, this African gem of the Indian Ocean, may stand as an example worth describing. The bloody honor of attacking Kilwa was vested in one of Gama's disciples, Admiral Francisco de Almeida. Almeida anchored his vessels squadron in Kilwa's harbor and disembarked with her army. He met no resistance from the surprised residents.

After Almeida and the soldiers came the vicar and the Franciscan monks. They carried two crosses and went in procession singing Te Deum. At the king of Kilwa's castle, they put the crosses in the ground and Admiral Almeida read a prayer for all those gathered, soldiers and monks.

When the prayer session was over, the Portuguese began to plunder Kilwa for all the riches and food. All the inhabitants who did not have time to escape were subjected to the most ruthless violence. Every attempt at resistance put an end to the Portuguese with immediate beheading. Two days later, they set the city on fire.

For the marauding Portuguese, this barbaric attack, like the other looting and murderous marches, was legal in every way. They had received the pope's permission and been forgiven in advance for all sins!

The Portuguese won the war and the monopoly over trade in the Indian Ocean, but the war meant that trade collapsed and disappeared. Afterwards, the Portuguese were unable to relaunch trade and the African cities and civilizations on the east coast of Africa fell into disrepair and its inhabitants perished in the slave trade. The next generation of Europeans who came to these regions could only see what they called inferior uncivilized people.


Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara from Tanzania, Africa ...Kilwa - Ancient History Encyclopedia


Europe's upper class and racism

The first royal house in Europe to set out on the world in search of slaves was the royal house of Portugal. But the quick eras to follow were all the others. Spain, Holland, the UK, France, Prussia, Denmark and Sweden also invested heavily in trade in Africa, which in most cases almost meant trade in slaves.

Europe's royal houses and other economic potentates, including the Christian Church, demanded a dividend of money invested, a demand that simply meant a continuous increase in the slave trade. More and more slave boats traveled the Atlantic Ocean and later the Indian Ocean.

The manhunt in Africa increased enormously, with disastrous consequences for these communities, but investors became storm rich. One might think that all this was given for the rulers of the European countries. One might think that the European upper classes found no resistance among the people of Europe against the abominable slave trade. However, this was not the case.

The notion that the whites as a group were rallying against the blacks, that there was no opposition not the slave trade, is widely spread. It depends on what we've gotten from the school's history books. What history book, in any of the former slave traders, ever deals with the slave trade in a reasonably fair way? When is the slave trade given the central place it had from the end of the 16th to the 19th century during the development of the capitalist society we live in today? The usual thing is that the slave trade in today's society is only mentioned in passing as if it were an insignificant phenomenon.

Take a recent example from Portugal. In 1996 there were some festivities taking place in Portugal to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the so-called Portuguese "discoveries". Priests, doctors and professors make speeches, debate and write, for good financial compensation, of course. But the slave trade was hardly mentioned at all and when it hade to come up at some point, it was only as if it had been an insignificant phenomenon without repercussions. What knowledge and impression do the public in Portugal got about the events in Africa over these 500 years? A total forged image!

The same type of relationship with the slave trade is among the rulers of each European country. Today's upper class is the cultural heir to the slave-acting upper class of the time and does his best to continue to hide the truth from the subjects, to us. It is important for us to watch out for the megaphones of the upper classes and unearth the truth about the past. It is important for us to look out for those who want us to believe that all the people of Europe had the same attitude towards the slave trade, that the people of Europe had some sort of common interest in the slave trade, that everyone was equally guilty in this crime against the people of Africa.

Europe was also in the Middle Ages, a class society. There were different views in society, bound to class affiliation, about the desired development of society. The fact that today we are almost only told about the upper class of the time, also on the issue of the slave trade, is because the upper classes had the means to spread their opinions and assert them. They had police officers, priests, military, prisons, judges and propagandists of all kinds, all things that were part of the government.

All this dominated society and has left a trail behind. But there were also those who opposed the slave trade and the oppression that prevailed in Europe. Those had few opportunities to express their views and are much of an unexplored chapter and an unknown area for the general public.

Even among the upper classes, the nobility and the clergy, there were such exceptions confirming the rule, which opposed the wars and the slave trade in Africa, and which went against their class interests. In contrast to the people, who were not literate and who therefore have left no trace other than abstracts in the upper-class stories, the opposition figures among the upper classes had the opportunity to command someone to write their ideas.

In this way, it has come to our attention of their existence. An example must be given here, probably one of the first opponents of the slaughter of the European upper classes in Africa. His name was João, nephew of Henry the Navigator. The writer Rui de Pina wrote down João's attitude to the wars in Africa that Portugal was waging against the Moors i.e. the North Africans. Where the nobility willingly went in contrast to the people, who did not want to leave their homes and their farms.

João believed that if war were to serve God "those who go would not have such intentions, that some would come with them for glory, others for the riches and the profits; the soldiers and all the others betray their faith, it is sad; he who kills Moors with such intentions sins no less than he who kills a Christian; how do you serve God when you give so many souls to the devil? It's more of a disservice than a service, that's for sure."

An interesting testimony, just a shame we weren't told what the people who didn't want to leave their homes thought about the war. In order to counter all these oppositional people and currents in society and to make their point of view, the upper classes used everything that was available in government.

In this matter, the issue of upper-class propagandists is of the most interesting point of understanding of the rise of racism. These propagandists, governed by Europe's royal houses and financial headquarters, were among the scholars, power people in schools and universities and in the Christian churches, from which racial prejudice spread and were given a "scientific" and "moral" basis.

By telling about them, we can better understand how racism against the black man arose. Let's take some examples.


The Christian Church spreads racism

One of the first sources describing in words and pictures life and customs in Africa is a writing by Father Cavazzi, an Italian missionary from the Capuchin, published in Bologna in 1687. In his story, Cavazzi dishes out the prejudices and fantasies that had long existed in Europe about the African continent and develops them further.

Cavazzi, for example, talks in detail about Africans as people with a good appetite for human flesh, which is illustrated by illustrations of a cannibal scene in which Africans cut people up and prepare a meal of the body parts.

The good Father Cavazzi described the people of Africa constantly involved in war with many victims. He wrote: "Humans are more like animals than one can imagine. Among these barbarians, the dance is not the task of demonstrating a virtuoso skill in body movements or witty foot movements, but the only purpose is to satisfy voluptuous inclinations". One can only imagine what such a book was in a pact in Europe of the time.

But Father Cavazzi was not the first to propagate such views. If you want to start from the very beginning, the main propagandists of slavery and racism were the popes at the Vatican. As we have already told us, it was the popes who, with their great moral authority and through papal bulls, made it a right for the white upper classes in Europe to “attack, conquer and oppress all Muslims, gentiles and other infidels and enemies of Christ, to take its estates and territories, to condemn them to eternal slavery”. In addition, the popes gave to those who participated in war and the conquest of Africa "complete forgiveness for all their sins".

One might think that these were occasional statements made by the 15th century. It wasn't like that! At each war and company of conquest, the popes repeated the advance "full forgiveness of all sins". This has marked the actions of priests, monks and soldiers for centuries. In fact, none of the fifty-six popes from 1447 to the present, ever annulled or distanced themselves from the popes who turned the black man in Africa into a quarry only to murder or condemn to eternal slavery. If you want to take church formalities seriously, these criminals papal bulls still apply today.

The actions of the popes were of great importance to the people of Europe and their worldview. But more than this, the popes had a bearing on the activities of priests in Africa and their views on Africans. Anyone who wants to familiarize themselves with and study the history of Africa will find a completely different picture of the activities of churches and missionaries in Africa than that which the churches want to give the appearance of today.

The priests and monks always walked hand in hand with the conquerors and harbored the same prejudices as those against people of a different color of skin. Among the clergy in Africa, from the early 16th century, the general view was that "missionary should be done with the sword and the iron bar".

Thus, in an April 1563 letter, the Jesuit priest Anchieta (canonized by Pope John Paul II) explained the method used by his colleagues in Brazil against the Indians. The saint Anchieta wrote that "to this kind of people there is no better missionary than the sword and the iron bar, for with this people, more than any other, compelle eos intrare must be the case". Anchieta quotes here the Bible, Lucas XIV 23 - compelle eos intrare - means forcing people to enter, forcing them to repent to the Christian Church.


The Christian churches missionaries in Africa, by the French artist Sinés


The Jesuit priest Garcia Simões wrote to his superior in Portugal in October 1575 that in Angola "almost everyone has the view that the transformation of these barbarians cannot be achieved by love, but only after they have been forcibly subjugated and made vassals for our King."

Another Jesuit priest, Francisco de Gouveia, wrote that "these wild barbarians cannot be converted by methods of peaceful persuasion. Christianity in Angola must be determined by force." In passing, it must be said that this view marked the Christian missionaries all over the world, with the exception of those countries where they did not gain the military upper hand.

In India, for example, the clergy used the same methods of violence as in Africa to convert the people to Christ. The Christian Church's religious oppression of Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, once the Christians gained the military upper hand in India, is an unprecedented history of violence, oppression and racism.

The tastiest of all the good Christians, the sainted Francisco Xavier, whose stately mausoleum is still well preserved in the Bom Jesus Church in Goa, had its own method of converting the fisherman, which were his favorite work area. He threatened anyone who did not join the Christian Church to be punished by force and deprived of fishing rights and trade, to be deprived of his livelihood.


Francisco Xavier mausoleum in the Bom Jesus Church in Goa


This view of the black people in Africa marked the entire slave trade period and also the colonial period after it. Racist views and the appalling treatment of black people spread and materialized as the social structure was broken up by the slave trade and people became increasingly defenceless.

In Congo, it had unimagined consequences. At the beginning of the Portuguese incursion into Congo and Angola, the missionaries and priests were paid, a very good salary, by the Mani Congo, the King of Congo. With time and the collapse of society, Portugal forced Congo to accept many more missionaries. At the end of the 18th century, there was no money enough for the parasitic clergy.

But the priests didn't give up. They set up a system where they were directly paid through the slave trade. All slave traders had to pay a "baptismal tax" to the priests for each prisoner who was taken aboard the slave ships. The Bishop of Luanda received a personal "baptismal treasure" for each prisoner!

The priests thus had a vested interest in the increase in the slave trade. The more people sold, the higher the wages for the priests! Here we have the true picture of the Christian mission. Of course, all these parasites in their dealings with Europe, always defended the justification in their actions. By talking about Africans as inferior beings, they became one of the upper classes' main assets for the dissemination of racist ideas.

So far we have talked about the Christian Church without making any difference between Catholics and Protestants. In fact, we have mostly referred to events related to the Catholic part. This has been the case because it was the Portuguese Catholics who first came to Africa and it is these first human hunters that we have focused on describing.

In fact, the difference between the two parts of the Christian Church in terms of racist views and the treatment of Africans by priests and missionaries was not great.

In short, the Catholics saw the black man as an underdeveloped man, who, for biological reasons, which they associated with the black skin color, could not become like a "real" man, a white man.

The Protestants, for their part, believed that the black people had no soul and that they were more like an anthropomorphic animal.

In practice, for the most part, this was of little importance, both Catholics and Protestants treated the black man worse than they treated their animals. But sometimes the different interests of bourgeois society struck and the question of soul or not soul became decisive in economic goals.

This was the case when living slaves were thrown overboard from the slave boats (sometimes in the hundreds) in case of illness or to relieve the battleship in distress. In the legal proceedings concerning the insurance money for the “cargo”, the question of the existence of the soul could be crucial.

The question was, according to the insurance contract, much as follows. If the slaves had no soul, they were to be regarded as any goods. If they were thrown into the sea dead or alive, the shipowner had to stand for the loss. But if the slaves had soul, they were to be regarded as human beings. If they died on board, their human dignity was exhausted and there was no compensation from insurance. But if they were thrown into the sea alive, it was people who were lost which entitled to compensation from the insurance. The latter, of course, was murder, but still perfectly legal.

In conclusion, both Catholic and Protestant shipowners struggled to get the court to recognize the Catholic view of the black man as a "real" man with soul. If the court went on their line, the shipowners got the insurance money out for the Africans they had murdered. On the other side of the scuffle, both Catholic and Protestant insurance capitalists fought to get the court to take a stand for the Protestant view of the black man as an "anthropomorphic" animal without a soul so that they did not have to pay out any insurance!

Nobody cared of the fate of the murdered Africans, neither Catholic or Protestant shipping capitalists and insurance capitalists, nor the very judiciary of civilized Europe! Bear in mind that this took place in 19th-century Europe! Such was the situation of the captured and enslaved Africans who ended up in the hands of the lackeys of the European upper classes.

However, this did not prevent the clergy from blessing the slave trade. In 1778, Protestant priest Thomas Thompson wrote a pamphlet entitled "The African Trade for Negro Slaves Shown to be Consistent with the Principles of Humanity and the Laws of Revealed Religion". 

Thompson was one of the first European teachers on the Gold Coast and knew well what was going on. What his interest was, everyone can imagine. An example of the actions of Christian Protestants in Africa in the 17th century with ramifications to the current situation may be interesting to know.

In 1652, the Dutch East Asian Company landed a number of men on the Cape of Good Hope to form a recovery station on the route to the Far East. They would grow vegetables and get meat for the Dutch herds on this route. New colonists arrived all the time and the small colony at Cape Town eventually became an expanding self-sufficient colony of peasants. They stopped calling themselves Dutch and called themselves instead of Boer.

The Boers were deeply religious, conservative and part of the Dutch Protestant Church. Labor problems solved the Boers by enslaving the African tribes bushman, Nama and others, which they encountered during the colony's expansion. The Boers had modern armaments, rifles and cannons and did not hesitate to use them to subdue the Africans. This right for the Boers to enslave other peoples they had taken from the Bible.

According to the Boer, in the Bible's story of the Sons of Ham, all Boer had been appointed of God to have slaves as labor! The story of Ham's sons is in Genesis, chapter 9, 18, and beyond. In short, it is as follows. Ham, who was the son of Noah, happened to see his father drunk and naked lying in his tent. When Noah learned this after waking up from the rush, he punished Ham by cursing Ham's sons into becoming slaves. This story has been used by Christians at various times in history to explain the existence of slavery or simply to explain the existence of the human masses forced into a life of economic misery. They are the offspring of the sons of Ham!

For those of us who do not believe in religious hocus pocus, the story above is unacceptable. But for the Boers with their Bible faith, it was obvious that the black people were less worthy and that they had been placed by God in Africa to serve the white man when this one once arrived there.

In the color symbolism of the Christian Church stood for a long time black (and still stands) for hell, death, sinfulness, evil, deceitfulness, dirt, decay, ugliness and so much else negative. The Boers' attitude towards the people in the areas they had conquered with rifles and cannons was marked by all this. They explained slavery by saying that "we let the people work for us as a substitute for letting them live in our country."

This attitude spread over time in South Africa, where Europeans had power and still exist in many places today. In the mid-19th century, the British forbade slavery in the Cape Colony and the Boers had to change their actions against the blacks by the circumstances. They could no longer be held as slaves, but it was possible to continue to exploit them.

The Boers of the Dutch Protestant Church campaigned to separate white and black people. They said that if God had made black and white people, it was to keep them separate. If God wanted all people to live in community, everyone would have been of the same color. Boers' opinion gained support in the white community of South Africa and eventually became one of the grounds for dividing the country into a white and a black part, apartheid. The black part of the country served as a large concentration camps where the black population was a labor market to be used by the white community. Medieval Christian fanaticism has for several hundred years had a devastating effect on the lives of millions upon millions of people.  


The devil and the female devil in Amarante

When you think you've seen most things, something new always comes. The truth of the claim appeared to me in Amarante, a small charming town in northern Portugal, not far from Porto. There we came attracted by a tourist handbook that described a couple of statues of devils to view in the city museum, the former S Gonçalo monastery, next door to the church of the same name. Especially, was the fact that there was a "female devil", which seemed exciting. We thought that a female devil we had never seen, what had the Portuguese made up?

According to the tourist handbook, the statues originated in the 18th century. The pair of devils were then placed among saints and angels, surely to show the contrast between good and evil and strengthen the believers in their faith. This did not turn in this way, instead over the years these statues were very much loved for the people!

It went so far that on August 24 th every year became a kind of holiday, a feast day for the devils. That day, no one worked in the city, and many went to church to give offerings to ... the devils! People decorated the devils with fabrics and flowers and gave them food and money.

In 1870, the bishop of the region tried to put an end to this. He was worried about the popularity of the devils, and on the pretext that the male devil had a big penis, he ordered the to burn the statues, that's not what you could have in the church among all the saints and angels! Now it was not easy to find an "arsonist" among the city's inhabitants. Those who received the assignment decided instead of sawing off the attributes of the male devil, and the devils were back in church.

But the clergy had decided to get rid of the devils and a few years later they sold the devils to England. They shouldn't have. The clergy had to buy back the devils because of the pressure of opinion in the city.

With such a background in our pocket, we couldn't help but steer the cow towards Amarante and look at the devils.



In front of the devil statues, we were shocked! The statues, in black wood about 1 meter high, depict a pair of black Africans with horns and bird feet which are the devil's hallmarks of the Catholic Church in Portugal. The fact that the devil statues depicted black Africans could not be read in the tourist handbook!

The appearance of the statues is worth a while. In addition to the devil's characteristics, the Africans are distinguished in the statues because they exude a great joy, with a big smile on their face, in contrast to the statues of saints who always show suffering and seriousness. In addition, the African man had a huge penis.

All this alludes to two of the racist myths that the slave-acting upper classes spread about the black Africans. Joy alluded to the myth of African childishness and innate underdevelopment, the penis on the myth of the excessive sexual desires of blacks, the only thing they lived for.

The devil and the female devil in Amarante openly show the Catholic Church as one of the propagandists of racism. But the history of the devils also shows that it was not always so easy for the upper classes to get the people to embrace the racist propaganda even if priests and bishops agreed with it. In Amarante, it was the other way around!


Professors' "scientific" racism

Enough talk about the racist clergy. Let us now instead look at what scientists, professors and travellers had to say about Africa and the Africans. A good way to get an idea of what beliefs spread about Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries is to study the maps of the continent at the time.

Europeans knew nothing about the interior of Africa because no European had been there before the middle of the 19th century. In addition to the coastal strip, therefore, the maps should have looked completely shiny. But it wasn't like that.

It allowed scientists' imaginations to flow freely and at random fill in both mountain ranges and rivers, deep forests and savannahs, all spiced with monsters of various kinds, elephant-like beasts, deadly creatures in the evil and uncivilized world.

In this spirit also went books and writings. One of the first published books on Africa, which became crucial for scientific debate and for shaping the view of the continent, was Daniel Defoe's "Captain Singleton" published in 1720. The book, which is a novel, describes how a group of shipwrecked ones make their way from Madagascar, all over the continent all the way to the west coast. The group went through terrible adventures where each page of the book competes with the previous one about the most horrific atrocities that animal people took.

The group was saved by the language of the musket, "the only thing these wild natives respected". From here and from similar stories grew one of the great myths of the propaganda of slavery. The slave traders affirmed that the Europeans were doing the black man a favour when he was sold as a slave and finally had to move away from African barbarism.

The same theme with some variations was addressed in a number of books and brochures which circulated among the educated class at schools and universities. A pamphlet published in Liverpool in 1792 knows to tell us that "the Africans are the most lecherous of all human beings and is it therefore not unlikely that their cries when they are pulled away from their wives are due to the fear that they will never have the opportunity to satisfy their lusts in the land to which they are transported?"

That is how they wanted the people of Europe to perceive the people of Africa, who were forever abducted from their families.

About a hundred years later, in 1896, the situation was no better. Rather, the "scientific" tone grew unhindered. Professor Keane wrote, for example, that the "spiritual inferiority of Africans, which is almost more pronounced than their bodily characteristics, has physiological causes".

Bear in mind that such views raised generations of Europeans as highly proven truths. The kneeling of European intellectuals for the demands of the upper classes went so far that there were those who were prepared to deny their knowledge and experience in order to fit into the general racist pattern.

The English consul, Sir Harry Johnston, wrote the following paragraph on the Kingdom of Congo worth remembering: "The influence of the Portuguese brought about some surprising changes in the coastal areas of West Africa and in the southern part of the Congo basin, whereby the kingdoms that created and stimulated trade and whose impact on people were, on the whole, less terrible and gloomy than the anarchy of the cannibalistic savages."

There's not a gram of truth in Johnston's claim. The Kingdom of Congo existed long before the arrival of the Portuguese and was a stable and prosperous society. The Portuguese transformed Congo and coastal areas into a camp of death and slavery, a misery and human humiliation that has persisted for several hundred years.

But Sir Harry Johnston did not content himself with the above "scientific" declaration, he further wrote: "As far as the great human misery in Africa is concerned, it is unlikely that the trade in slaves between this continent and America in any way increased it; for when this trade had started and it paid off to sell a human being, slave traders bought many men, women and children who would otherwise have been killed by a whim or because someone would gladly see blood flow or would offer a deliciousness at a greater feast."

Thus, Sir Johnston campaigned for the slave trade as a way for Europeans to counter cannibalism, the slave trade as a way for Africans to escape being eaten by other Africans! Sir Johnston's books were among the most important works to discuss in schools and universities. How much have Johnston's and his likes' claims helped to nourish, empower and spread racism? And then an inevitable question. How much did Johnston and his like put in their pockets to falsify reality?

Another example of an intellectual low-water mark comes with a quote from the standard British handbook in East Africa's history. It was conceived as recently as 1928 by Coupland, a scientist in the field. In his book, Coupland wrote: "A new chapter in African history begins with David Livingstone. You could say that Africa so much had no history of its own. For countless centuries, most of the Africans had been immersed in barbarism. It almost seems that this had been a law of nature, they stagnated without moving either forward or backward, Africa's heart had almost stopped clapping."

Imagine that the history of Africa would have begun with the arrival of Europeans! Such ideas, which as recently as 1929 were vehemently "science", can only stem from a racist mindset that completely overshadows and overrides the scientific investigation.

Denying Africans their own history is one of the worst crimes the European upper class has done. The aim was to definitely turn Africans into creatures deep down the scale of human dignity and make the former slave trade and 20th century colonialism acceptable and legal.

The racist propaganda of capitalism and imperialism does not end with the modern society in which we live. A 20th-century author who has distinguished himself for an extensive work (over ten books) on the heyday of British imperialism is James A. Williamson. Among other things, he has written two books about 16th-century slave trader Sir John Hawkins, who chose a black man in shackles as a symbol on his coat of arms.

Williamson is a big fan of Hawkins and wants to explain his hero's involvement in the slave trade. He writes in 1949 in his book "Hawkins of Plymouth" about Hawkins and his time. "No one saw anything wrong in the slave trade. John Hawkins, who was afraid of his name, was not ashamed of this, otherwise he would not have chosen the coat of arms with the black man in shackles. He saw the bloody and capricious tyrannies under which the blacks lived in Africa, he knew that some blacks voluntarily went to the slave traders to escape, and he also knew that the blacks were valuable enough in the Western colonies to be guaranteed to be treated by their owners in a way that these poor creatures must have perceived as decent."

What a concoction of historical fakes! There is not an ounce of truth in Williamson's description of the situation in Africa in the 16th century. But Williamson's reactionary fabrications continue to spread to new generations, as the capitalist class sees.

The hero book about Hawkins was published in a new edition as late as 1969 and is referenced in such a prestigious work, a bourgeois id, as Encyclopedia Britannica.

This Encyclopedia Britannica is also a regrettable case of lost memory. In the 1910 copies, one could read that the slave trader Hawkins had chosen as his weapon, a coat of arms with a black man in shackles (he was granted a coat of arms with a demi-Moor or negro chained, as his crest). This enlightenment has fallen away in the 1995 editions of Britannica.

In today's time of freedom, the truth about the heroes of the bourgeoisie is apparently uncomfortable, something to sweep under the carpet, pretending it is raining.


How Portugal lost its king

As a brief parenthesis, a few words must be said about the background to the sudden disappearance of the Portuguese royal family in 1580. The story is simple. In 1557, the throne was inherited by the three-year-old Sebastião. The little boy was given a very strict religious upbringing by Jesuit priests under the direction of his great-grandfather Cardinal D.Henry, archbishop of Lisbon and chief of the Inquisition.

King Sebastião became a religious fanatic. He hated the idea of getting married and giving the country an heir. Chastity was purity. Jesuit upbringing focused on this little boy, once becoming a man, launching new crusades against the infidels in North Africa and winning great battles for Christianity with weapons in hand.

When the boy was fourteen years old, he took over the throne and the dream would be made a reality. His entire reign was marked by religious activities and was to prepare a decisive crusade against the infidels in Morocco. In 1578, the matter was clear.

King Sebastião invited all knights and all nobility to take their place in the new crusade. Swords were forged and boats were prepared. The king himself vouched for incredible victories already won beforehand, and the immense riches the Crusaders would bring home what God and the Jesuit priests had promised. So the nobility lined up as one men, took the mistresses and butlers with them, and with the greatest luxury and best tableware, they set off for this picturesque walk when they would take over the land of the unfaithful by god's chosen Portuguese Christians.

The nobility's luggage required over a thousand wagons when they were to be carried to the boats. Butlers, kitchen staff, slaves and prostitutes went on over thirteen thousand people. This compares to an army of seventeen thousand men!

On the other side, anything but a walk was waiting. There the famous Mulei Abdelmalek commanded. The Arab army was well prepared and the Portuguese promenade came to an abrupt end. In El-Ksar-el-Kebir, (Alcácer Quibir), the Portuguese army was completely mesmerized. Half, about 7,000 men, were slaughtered in a matter of hours. Less than a hundred managed to escape.

The destruction and subsequent looting were so total that it took several days to find King Sebastião's corpse! Few managed to buy their way free back to Portugal, almost exclusively nobility. Most became slaves in Morocco. Religious fanaticism had led to very hard times for the people of Portugal, they had to pay large ransoms for the prisoners and were exploited by the Spanish kings.


Berlin conference 1884-85.

The partition of Africa among the European states

In the early years of the 19th century, public             opinion and the organized movement against the slave trade and slavery began to grow strong and gain political influence in some countries in Europe. Growing public opinion was rooted in the fact that the true scale and vile conditions of the slave trade began to become known to broad stocks of people in European countries.

This mainly happened in Britain, which since the beginning of the 18th century completely dominated the slave trade. Brave and dedicated men and women, attacked the slave traders, revealed the whole deal and made the slave issue part of the political struggle of the time.

In 1807, Britain finally banned the slave trade on British ships. The British navy was ordered to seize the slave ships and free all slaves found on British ships, which were usually brought ashore to the English colony of Sierra Leone. The British navy also attacked other countries' slave ships. This was an important and decisive turn in human trafficking.

The transoceanic slave trade declined significantly in the 19th century, although smuggling traffic did not stop until the beginning of the 20th century. The abolition of slavery, of course, went hand in hand with the development of society. On the one hand, the activities of slavery campaigners were an important tool for obtaining a ban on the slave trade. On the other hand, the changes in the production process in most European countries called for a different regime. It was mainly in the largest imperialist country England.

The country had become an industrial society with a need for raw materials and large markets. The triangular trade, its plantation owners and slaves became less and less important to the new industries in England. Kidnapping millions of people, shipping them across the Atlantic and selling them was no longer of interest to the money magnates. The main thing now was to bring cheap raw materials to the industries and to get cheap products to sell all over the world.

But where were the raw materials? Answers to this crucial question for the development of European society were not a foregone conclusion. We now know that important raw materials were widely present in Africa. But the question had not been given a real answer in the early 19th century. The exploration of inner Africa began to be planned only at the end of the 18th century.

The British African Association was founded in 1788 with the aim of finding out what the African continent looked like and promoting Christianity and trade. Christian missionary activity also began to take off in the early 19th century. The British Church Missionary Society began its operations in Africa in 1804. Both Catholics and Protestants sent their missionaries all over Africa. They began on the coasts and at the end of the 19th century there were very few places in Africa that were unknown to the Christian missions.

The Christian missionaries were, in fact, those who had the greatest knowledge of the interior of Africa, its people, its riches, its raw materials. By sharing their African experiences in Europe, the Christian missionaries gave their knowledge of the sources of raw material to the European capitalists. Such knowledge was worth gold.

Imperialist plans for the occupation of the territories of Africa began to be forged in every European capital in the mid-19th century. Some European nations joined in alliance, a part in enmity. Anything to get a piece of Africa!

The incursion into Africa began at the end of the 19th century with the occupation of large areas by several European countries. Everyone was eager to take the biggest and best piece, which made the risk of war between European countries a threat to the entire imperialist enterprise.

The ruling came with King Leopold II of Belgium. Leopold II had acquired a few trading stations on the Congo. Now he took possession of a huge area of Central Africa as his personal property, today's Congo, an area 75 times larger than his own kingdom of Belgium!

He called it the Congo Free State, a country free from customs for all interested European powers. Leopold II's occupation of the Congo Free State upset other imperialists, something must be done to bring about some sort of order.

The German Chancellor, Bismarck, therefore convened a conference in Berlin in 1884-85. Participants were Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the Belgian King Leopold II. At the conference, Leopold II was allowed to retain the Congo free state as personal property, despite the fact that much more powerful gentlemen had interest in the area.


Berlinkonferensen – Wikipedia

Berlin conference 1884-85


The conference also decided on the partition of Africa among the European states present. This was done by using rulers and providing longitudes and latitudes, without any regard whatsoever to peoples, nationalities or geographical circumstances. Even today, the borders of many African countries show this 'ruler policy' from the Berlin Conference.

Furthermore, the Conference agreed that no European state could take possession of a new country without first informing the others and obtaining its approval. The occupation of Africa began thereby from all sides. Large and well-armed modern armies penetrated everywhere and crushed ruthless resistance. After four hundred years of slave trade, the social fabric was very weak in most places and the people of Africa had little chance of successfully defending their countries.

The slave trade was not only a huge drain on young people, the great hope of development and the future. The slave trade also meant that the production ratios stopped because the trade in African goods was constantly declining, the only thing that could be used in trade was people.

Europe's upper classes now subjected the African peoples to the most ruthless exploitation and oppression, in many places worse than during the slave trade. The colonialists of all European nations found themselves in this barbarity without much difficulty. Everyone, from kind grey-haired Belgian grannies, tech-savvy English engineers, charming and perfumed French lieutenants, German linguists with cultural ambitions, Portuguese patriarchal peasants, to the soldiers, police, priests and missionaries from all the countries of Europe.


Leopoldo II of Belgium and the Congo free stat

In order for the reader to be able to gain an insight into the conditions under colonization of Africa, I would like to give a testimony here. It is the Swedish missionary E V Sjöblom who talks about his stay in Congo free state. It is a long quote but absolutely necessary to account. Also pay attention to Sjöblom's attitude.
"I continued my walk and greeted the natives kindly. As usual, I managed to dispel their fears and at least partially gain their affection. Some of the youth followed me, and by the time we arrived at the camp, several people had already gathered there. More and more of the natives returned from their search for kautschuk (
the milky latex extracted from the rubber tree, the primary source of natural rubber) in the forest.

Soon I had a crowd of several hundred people in front of me. Suddenly, one of the soldiers - himself a native but from another village - caught an old man and tied him up. The soldier turned to me and said: I intend to kill this man because he has no kautschuk with him.

I replied: Actually, I have nothing to do with it and have no right to stop you. But I would wish you didn't do it before my eyes and just when a large crowd of people are gathered to hear the word of God.

He replied: If we do not kill those who come without kautschuk, then the officers of the free state will shoot us. Rather than die ourselves, we shoot the others. Having said this, he rushed like an angry tiger up to the old man. He dragged him a few steps to the side, put the rifle to the man's tinning and shot him.


"Leopoldo II seized the Congo and initiated a ruthless exploitation"



Immediately thereafter, he tucked a new cartridge into his rifle and pointed the mouth at the assembled crowd, which of course dissipated like chaff for the wind. Most likely he feared assault and wanted to instill fear in the assembled. Within minutes, everything was quiet. The crowd had escaped, and like myself, my men stood silently.

A little boy of about nine years was commanded by the soldier to cut off the dead man's higher hand. This, together with a number of other hands, which had previously been similarly severed, would be handed over to the Inspector as the sign of victory of a civilization."

The background to the collection of the severed hands is that for every cartridge the soldiers used, they must carry a right hand to hand over to Free State officers. No cartridge was lost, all must be accounted for. Sometimes the soldiers used shots when hunting, then they cut off the hand of a living human being. Tens of thousands of empty casings were regularly handed over to free-state officers along with as many right-wing hands from killed or mutilated people.

But the murdered were still more than that. The children, the soldiers, used to kill with the rifle school. In 1919, an official Belgian Commission concluded that the population of Belgian Congo had been reduced by half since the European occupation in 1884. Reduced by half in 35 years! What we're talking about is at least 10 million dead!

The soldiers who carried out the act were a force of 25,000 black mercenaries under the command of a white Belgian commanding officer with Major General Emile Janssens as chief. Janssens demanded of the village chiefs to send him "the worst men", who were subject to a "strict and absolute discipline" for a period of 7 years, a brainwashing under the name "Boula Matari, i.e. our king, who commands over Belgium and Congo, two kingdoms forever united".

According to Major General Janssens, the goal was to make these men absolutely loyal to the King and colonial power. According to him, "all means had been used to achieve this: education, press, radio, social services, control of the G2 intelligence service, information officers, very close and effective relations with the state intelligence service".

During World War II, the colonial repression and exploitation of the population of Congo, which had to pay for Belgium's war effort, was increased. We quote Mr Goddin, who during the Second World War was the Colonial Secretary of the Belgian Government in Exile in London.

Mr Godding said: "During the war, Congo was able to finance all the costs to the Belgian government in London, including the diplomatic service and the costs of our armed forces in Europe and Africa, totaling £40 million. In fact, thanks to Congo's resources, the Belgian government in exile in London never had to borrow a shilling or a dollar, and the Belgian gold reserve could be kept intact."

The events in Congo are not an isolated phenomenon, they have their counterpart in all other colonial possessions regardless of which European country was in power. The attitude of the colonialists can be summed up by the statement by the German general von Trotha on the subjugation of the Herero and Nama peoples of South-West Africa, which von Trotha carried out on behalf of the German financier Lüderitz.

Von Trotha wrote about the war of extermination against herero and nama: "I know these African tribes. They're all the same. They respect nothing but strength. To show this strength with brutal terror and even cruelty was and is my policy. I annihilate rebellious tribes with streams of blood and streams of money. Only in this way can something new grow up, something that is lasting."


After five hundred years!

In 1441, the first Europeans arrived by boat to the sub-Saharan African continent. Since then, the African continent has been subjected to changes that its people have been unable to determine or master. The Pendens, a people originally from the Angolan coast, were forced in the 16th century to flee the Portuguese to the hinterland of the Kasai River, having preserved in their narrative tradition the memory of the Portuguese conquest. "From these days to our days, the whites have only given us war and misery." A simple and fair verdict on the European exploitation of Africa.

But circumstances have changed radically. After five hundred years of exploitation and oppression, the time has come for Africans to take up a decisive battle to rule their continent! The world capitalists do not want to lose their grip on Africa and do everything in their power to prevent this social development. But the winds of change are strong.

Africa's struggle for emancipation against colonialism and neo-colonialism can no longer be stopped.


Mario Sousa




Basil Davidson

Mãe Negra, 1978. (Black Mother, 1961)

Africa in History, 1968

Angola’s People, 1972

The Politics of Armed Struggle, 1976

Can Africa Survive? 1974


Charles R. Boxer

The Portuguese Seaborne Empire 1415-1825, 1969

Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire 1415-1825


Walter Rodney

West Africa and the Atlantic Slave-Trade, 1967

How Europe Underdeveloped África, 1972


José Capela

Escravatura. Conceitos. A Empresa de Saque, 1978

Imposto de Palhota, 1977

O Vinho para o Preto, 1973

Moçambique pelo seu Povo, 1974


Ludo Martens

Pierre Mulele ou la second vie de Patrice Lumumba, 1985



Crónica da Guiné, 1453


Younès Nekrouf,

A Batalha dos Três Reis, 1984