The Spanish Conquest in America: and its Relation to the History of Slavery and to the Government of Colonies: Volume I

“As to the Canary islands “Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Genoese, Normans, Portuguese, and Spaniards of every province (Aragonese, Castilians, Galicians, Biscayans, Andalusians) have all made their appearance, in these islands.* The. Carthaginians are said to have discovered them and to have reserved them as an asylum in case of extreme danger to the state. Sertorius, the Roman general, who partook the fallen fortunes of Marius, is said to have meditated retreat to these “islands of the blessed,”…

“We learn that Prince Henry had conversed much with those who had made voyages in different parts of the world, and particularly with Moors from Fez and Morocco, so that he came to hear of the Azenegues, a people bordering on the country of the negroes of Jalof. Such was the scanty information of a positive kind which the prince had to guide his endeavors. Then there were the suggestions and the inducements which to a willing mind were to be found in the shrewd conjectures of learned men, the fables of chivalry, and, perhaps, in the confused records of forgotten knowledge once possessed by Arabic geographers. The story of Prester John, which had spread over Europe since the Crusades, was well known to the Portuguese prince. A mysterious voyage of a certain wandering saint, called Saint Brendan, was not without its influence upon an enthusiastic mind. Moreover, there were many sound motives urging the prince to maritime discovery, among which a desire to fathom the power of the Moors, a wish to find a new outlet for traffic, and a longing to spread the blessings of the faith, may be enumerated.”

“In the course of Prince Henry life he was three times in Africa, carrying on a war against the Moors; and at home, besides the care and trouble which the state of Portuguese court and government must have given him.”

“A contemporary chronicler AZURARA, whose work has recently been discovered and published, tells the story more simply, and merely states that these captains were young men, who after the ending of the Ceuta campaign, were as eager for employment as the prince for discovery, and that they were ordered on a voyage having for its object the general molestation of the Moors, as well as that of making discoveries beyond Cape Name.”

“In 1442, the Moors whom Antonio Goncalvez had captured in the previous year promised to give black slaves in ransom for themselves, if he would take them back to their own country; and the prince, approving of this, ordered Goncalvez to set sail immediately, “insisting as the foundation of the matter than if Goncalvez should not be able to obtain so many negroes (as had been mentioned) in exchange for the three Moors, yet that he should take them; for, whatever number he should get, he would gain souls, because they (the negroes) might be converted to the faith, which could not be managed with the Moors. Goncalves obtained ten black slaves, some gold dust, a target of buffalo hide, and some ostriches’ eggs, in exchange for two of the Moors, and, returning with his cargo, excited general wonderment on account of the color of the slaves. These, then, we may presume, were the first black slaves that made their appearance in the Penninsula since the extinction of the old slavery.” * BARROS does not say of what race these slaves were, but merely calls them” almas.” Faria v Sousa gives them the name of”Moors,” a very elastic word. I imagine that they were Azenegues.”

“In 1444, a company was formed at Lagos, who received permission from the prince to undertake discovery along the coast of Africa, paying him a certain portion of any gains which they might make. This has been considered as a company founded for carrying on the slave-trade. The expedition accomplished, successfully attacking the inhabitants of the islands Nar and Tider, and to bring back about two hundred slaves. Prince Henry awarded Lancarote large honors for this and received his own fifth of the slaves. We have an account from an eye-witness of the partition of the slaves brought back by Lancarote, which, as it is the first transaction of the kind on record, is worthy of notice, more especially as it may enable the reader to understand the motives of the prince, and of other men of those times. “
“From Ca da Mosta the reader at once learns the state of things with regard to the slave-trade. The Portuguese factory at Arguim was the headquarters of the trade. Thither came all kinds of merchandise, and gold and slaves were taken back in return. The “Arabs” of that district (Moors the Portuguese would have called them) were the middlemen in this affair. They took their Barbary horses to the negro country, and “there bartered with the great men for slaves,” getting from ten to eighteen slaves for each horse. They also brought silks of Granada and Tunis, and silver, in exchange for which they received slaves and gold. These Arabs, or Moors, had a place of trade of their own, called Hoden, behind Cape Blanco. There the slaves were brought, “from whence, Ca da Mosto says, they are sent to the mountains of Barka, and from thence to Sicily, part of them are also brought to Tunis, and along the coast of Barbary, and the rest to Argin, and sold to the licensed Portuguese. Every year between seven and eight hundred slaves are sent from Argin to Portugal. Before this trade was settled,” says Ca da Mosto, “the Portuguese used to seize upon the Moors themselves (as appears occasionally from the evidence that has before referred to), and also the Azengues who live father toward the south; but now peace is restored to all, and the Infante suffers no farther damage to be done to those people. He is in hopes that by conversing with Christians, they may easily be brought over to the Romish faith, as they are not, as yet, well established in that of Mohammed, of which they know nothing but hearsay.” 

Africa And The Discovery Of America

leo-wiener“Each group on the shores of Senegal has its griots, the Moors as well as the Peuls, the Mandingos as well as the Tukolors; but, as one proceeds southward, this institution is seen to change, the griot by degrees becoming fetishist, he who is in contact with the spirits and who recognizes and furnishes the sorcerers. His action on his compatriots has not by any means lost by this change; on the contrary, the fetishist has greater profit and kills off more easily those whom he dislikes among the idolatrous tribes than the griot in the Moslem conglomerates of Senegambia. Page 106

“Tattooing and cicatrization are universal practices and are recorded from antiquity, but we know them chiefly as a manner of adornment or as a religious practice. In Africa the custom is distinctly one of clan or tribe distinction and, as such, cannot be separated from the Arabic wasm. Delafosse says: “Tattooing of the face by scarification is widely distributed over the High-Senegal-Niger, but is not met with every where. Certain peoples completely reject these mutilations: the Moors, Tuaregs, Peuls, Tukolor, Bozo, Malinke, Fulanke, Birifo, Lobi, Puguli. Among others the scarification’s exist on;y in part of the population or in certain families. Thus, though the Songay are in general not tattooed, some have very long vertical cicatrices on each temple, or upon the brow a long vertical incision, surrounded by a dotted line, from right to left; the Soninke are not tattooed, except the Dyawarea… ”

Click Here Read Moor Africa and the Discovery of America, Volume 3  By Leo Wiener

Living with Colonialism: Nationalism and Culture in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan


“In the early-twentieth century Northern Sudan, use of the term “Black” described more an idea than a color. In short, both “Black” and “Sudanese” were a comment on low social status made by those who claimed a higher status. These terms usually referred to slaves, or to those of slave descent, whose relatives had belonged to a non-Muslim group from the South or from the Nuba mountains (possibly from even farther afield, e.g., from Abyssinia). Islam figured in this story of slavery through legal custom; since Islamic law proscribes the enslavement of Muslims, non Muslims had been historically the targets for enslavement. In the Sudan today, a memory of this connection between Southerness and the stigma of slavery recurs in the term abid, meaning “slaves,” which Northern Sudanese in the post colonial period have sometimes used in derogatory, belittling manner to refer to Southerners.”

“The history of slavery and the slave trade in Sudan stretches back to ancient Egyptian times. The early nineteenth century, however, witnessed a burgeoning domestic, as opposed to export, trade in Muslim northern regions. The stimulus came from the region’s new Turco-Egyptian rulers, who sponsored raiding in non-Muslim regions as a way, first of securing male slaves for their armies, and second, of profiting through the sale of women and children in both internal (Northern Sudanese) and external (Egyptian, Arabian and Ottoman) markets. Slaves became so plentiful and cheap as a result of this intensified raiding that even the humblest families of the central river in North were able to purchase a slave or two.”

“This influx of slaves transformed patterns of labor and attitudes toward labor. For example, whereas free cultivators from the region north of the Nile confluence had performed most agricultural work before 1820, by the end of the nineteenth century slaves had come to do virtually all of that labor. According to one historian, slaves accounted for approximately one-third of the Northern population by the tim of the 1898 conquest. In the Sudan, as in northern Nigeria, Zanzibar, and others British African territories, post conquest policies aimed to abolish slave raiding and to trans form ex-slaves into wage laborers, who would in turn generate tax revnues and stimulate cash based markets. As slave men and women asserted their freedom (by obtaining manumission papers or simply by fleeing), many migrated from rural areas to the growing urban centers, where they provided important labor (e.g., as construction and sanitation workers) for both the public and private sectors.”

“Although British officials welcomed the transformation of slaves into workers, they nevertheless tolerated or encouraged the continuation of some slavery. They particularly encouraged slave women to remain under or return to the control of their masters, fearing that the women would otherwise slip into prostitution and thence become vectors of vice and venereal disease. By taking such a gradualist policy toward slavery, especially vis-a-vis slave women, officials also hoped to appease and accommodate the slave owning classes, who were potential allies of the new regime. Patterns of assimilation were complex for slaves who gained freedom in the Anglo-Egyptian period or in previous generations. Although slaves taken North had routinely converted to Islam and had learned Arabic, it was far easier for them to become Muslims than to become Arabs in the eyes of the slave owning classes. Moreover, such cultural assimilation on the basis of religion and language rarely entailed a dramatic improvement in status, since low social status stuck to those of servile descent even after manumission.”

“One anthropologist who did fieldwork in the 1960s in a village along the Nile near Merowe, for example, noted that the village’s continued to have social obligations toward families who had owned them or their forebears. Since those of higher status frowned upon intermarriage with them, the group had remained largely endogamous. Slave descent, therefore, “blackened” an individual in social terms. Skin color was no index, since in the years before the nationalist transformation that would make Sudanese-ness acceptable, a person of high status could have had dark skin without being regarded as “Black,” or “Sudanese,’ by his community. Such an individual would most likely have identified himself instead as “Arab,’ which conveyed not simply his use of the Arabic language, but, more importantly, his claim of distinguished parentage. Good parentage derived from membership in a patrilineally reckoned tribal group (e.g., the Sha’iqiyya or Baqqara) that claimed a distant Arabian progenitor. The father’s line was paramount, though high status on the mother’s side enhanced social position.”

“Ultimately, “Arab” and “Black” were both more important to the Northern Sudanese as labels of status and class rather than of ethnicity or color. The British appear to have absorbed some of these attitudes, in the form of an “Arab”/”Black” classification system that easily dovetailed with their own prejudices and notions of race. The system was also reinforced by their partnership with the Egyptians in the Condominium, since Egyptians tended to carry their own racialized stereotypes about Sudanese slavery and servitude. The result, by and large, was the promotion of policies that favored Arabs over Blacks–high status over low—for the finest academic educations and the most lucrative office jobs. A British soldier, D.C.E. Comyn, provided an insight into this rough classification system in his memoirs, publishd as follows: “Of the 150 men, 50 were pure, straight-haired Arabs; 70 were Kordofan Arabs, who, by intermarriage with the Nubas, tc., have the curly hair of the latter. The remainder were Sudanese.”


Click here to Read Moor! Living with Colonialism: Nationalism and Culture in the Anglo-Egypt…