“In 1494, a Papal decision, followed by the Treaty of Tordesillas, had already divided Morocco into a Spanish and a Portuguese sphere of influence ( as we should say nowadays). The Spanish half was the Moorish Kingdom of Tlamsan (Tlemcen) or Eastern Morocco; the Portuguese division was the western portion of the country, the Moorish kingdom of Fez or Al-gharb (Algarve); and the boundary between the two spheres commenced on the north coast at Velez, in the Riff country. As the Portuguese domain in Morocco was that which was best supplied with negro slaves (because most accessible to the Senegal country and Western Nigeria, Spain was additionally dependant on Portugal for negro workers in Southern Spain as in America. Under this arrangement of Tordesillas, Melilla, first occupied in 1490, remained finally ceded to Spain until 1688. The long connection of Portugal with Morocco (not terminated until the loss of Mazaga in 1770) resulted in a brisk trade in slaves for Brazil and the Spanish Indies and was one of the routes by which Bornuese and Songhai slaves–many of whom were superior types of negroid—-reached America.” 

“The Moorish conquest and occupation of Western Nigeria between 1590 and about 1730 greatly stimulated the slave trade with America through Saffi, Tangier, and Mazagan. But after 1590, the Moroccan oversea slave trade gradually passed into English hands.” “The Turks and Arabs in the Crusades and the Moors of Spain and North Africa had introduced to the mind of medieval Europe the idea of negro slaves, of “black Moors” who were strong, willing, and faithful servants to their white employers. Although Moor enslaved Christian and Christian attempted to enslave Moor from the eighth to the eighteenth century, neither found it a paying game. 

“The two races were too near akin mentally and physically, too nearly equal in endowments to reign over each other. When the Portuguese discoverers, urged on by Prince Henry of Portugal, had rounded Cape Bojador, and after reaching the Rio d’Ouro in 1435, had, in 1441, captured some Moors on that desert coast and brought them back to Portugal to become slaves; the latter soon attracted the attention of the Portuguese notabilities by their noble hearing. They explained that it was impossible for persons of their race and religion to pass into servitude; they would either die of a broken heart or commit suicide. On the other hand, there was a race cursed by God–the race of Ham and Canaan–the blackskinned people who were predestined slaves and who dwelt in enormous numbers to the south of the great desert. If their Portuguese captors would release them (the Moors of Sahara coast) they would show the Christians the way to a river of crocodiles and sea-horses, to the south of which dwelt the black people who might justifiably and conveniently be imported as slaves into Portugal.” 

“It was not, therefore, until the middle of the seventeenth century, when Portugal was once more independent and seeking alliances against Spain, that the English were able to set up in a permanent fashion slavetrading establishments on the Gambia River (1618, 1664) and on the Gold Coast, (1618, 1626, and 1668). Before that, they generally bought the slaves they required from the Dutch; or exported them from Morocco. The Sharifian Empire in that country had felled the Portuguese dominion of Al Gharb by the Battle of Kasr-al-Kebir (1578), and soon afterward (1590-5) had conquered Timbuktu, Jenne, Gao, and the Upper Niger, thus affording a great impetus to the overland slavetrade between Nigeria and Morocco. The English began to establish a trade with Morocco in 1577, owing to the embassy sent in that year by the canny Elizabeth, who saw her way to building up a Mediterranean trade for England by allying herself in friendship with the Moors and Turks. In 1588 a patented or chartered company-the Company of Barbary Merchants–was founded an included on its “Board” the Earls of Warwick and Leicester. From that time to the middle of the eighteenth century the British had almost the monopoly of Morocco trade and exported numbers of slaves thence to the British and Spanish American.”

Source: The Negro in the New World by Harry Johnston

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