Some Historical Account of Guinea

“The most ancient account we have of the country of the Negroes, particulary that part situate on an between the two great rivers of Senegal and Gambia, is from the writings of two ancient authors, one an Arabian, and the other a Moor. The first wrote in Arabic, about the twelth century. His works, printed in that language at Rome, were afterwards translated into Latin, and printed at Paris, under the patronage of the famous Thuanus, chancellor of France, with the title Geograophica Nubienses, containing containing an account of all the nations lying on the Senegal and Gambia.”

“The other written by John Leo, a Moor, born at Granada, in Spain, before the Moors were totally expelled from that kingdom. He resided in Africa; but being on a voyage from Tripoli to Tunis, was taken by some Italian Corairs, who finding him possess of Several Arabian books, besides his own manuscripts, apprehended him to be a man of learening, and as such presented him to Pope Leo the Tenth.”

“This Pope encouraging him, he embraced the Romish religion, and his description of Africa was published in Italian. From these writings we gather, that after the Mahometan religion had extended to the Kingdom of Morocco, some of the promoters of it crossing the sandy deserts of Numidia, which separate that country from Guinea, found it inhabited by men, who, though under no regular government, and destitute of that knowledge the Arabians were favored with, lived in content and peace.”

“The first author particularly remarks, “That they never made war, or traveled abroad, but employed themselves in tending their herds, or laboring in the ground.” J. Leo says, page 65, “That they lived in common, having no property in land, no tyrant nor superior lord, but supported themselves in anequal state, upon the natural produce of the country, which afforded plenty of roots, game, and honey. That ambition or avarice never drove them into foreign countries to subdue or cheat their neighbours. Thus, they lived without toil or superfluities.”



“The ancient inhabitants of Morocco, who wore coats of mail, and used swords and spears headed with iron, coming among those harmless and nake people, soon brought them under subjection, and divided that part of Guinea which lies on the rivers Senegal and Gambia into fifteen parts; those were the fifteen kingdoms of the Negroes, over which the Moors presided, and the common people were Negroes.

“These Moors taught the Negroes the Mahometan religion, and arts of life, particularly the use of iron, before unknown to them. About the 14th century, a native Negroe, called Heli Ischia, expelled the Moorish conquerors; but though the Negroes threw off the yoke of a foreign nation, they only changed a Libyan for a Negroe master. Heli-Ischia himself becoming King led the Negroes on to foreign wars and established himself in power over a very large extent of country.”



“Since Leo’s time, the Europeans have had very little knowledge of those parts of Africa, nor do they know what became of this great empire. It is highly probable that it broke into pieces, and that the natives again resumed many of their ancient customs; for in the account published by Francis Moor, in his travels on the river Gambia, we find a mixture of the Moorish and Mahaometann customs, joined with the original simplicity of the Negroes.”

“It appears by accounts of ancient voyages, collected by Hackluit, Purchas, and others, that it was about fifty years before the discovery of America, that the Portuguese attempted to sail around Cape Bajador, which lies between their country and Guinea; this, after divers repulses occasioned by the violent currents, they effected; when landing on the western coast of Africa, they soon began to make incursions into the country, and to seize and carry off the native inhabitants.”

“As early as the year 1434, Alonzo Gonzales, the first who is recorded to have met with the natives, on that coast, pursued and attacked a number of them, when some were wounded, as was also one of the Portuguese; which the author records as the first blood spilled by Christians in those parts.”

“Six years after, and took Gonzales, the same Gonzales again attacked the natives, and took twelve prisoners, with whom he returned to his vessels; he afterward put a woman on shore, in order to induce the natives to redeem the prisoners; but the next day 150 of the inhabitants appeared on horses and camels provoking the Portuguese to land; which they not daring to venture, the natives discharged a volley of stones at them, and went off, after this, the Portuguese still continued to send vessels on the coast of Africa; particularly we read of their falling on a village, whence the inhabitants fled, and being pursued, twenty-five were taken: “He that ran best,” says the author, “taking the most.”“In their way home, they killed some of the natives and took fifty-five more prisoners.”

“Afterwards, Dinisanes Dagrama, with two other vessels, landed on the island of Arguin, where they took fifty-four Moors; then running along with the coast eighty leagues father, they at several times took fifty slaves, but here seven of the Portuguese were killed.”

“Then being joined by several other vessels, Dinisanes proposed to destroy the island to revenge the lost of the seven Portuguese; of which the Moors being apprised, fled, so that no more than twelve were found, whereof only four could be taken, the rest being killed, as also one of the Portuguese. Many more captures of this kind of the coast of Barbary and Guinea, are recorded to have been made in the year 1481, the Portuguese erected their first fort D’Elmina on that coast from whence they soon opened a trade for slaves with the inland parts of Guinea.”

“From the foregoing accounts, it is undoubted, that the practice of making slaves of the Negroes, owes its origin to the early incursions of the Portuguese on the coast of Africa, solely from an inordinate desire of gain. This is clearly evidenced from their own historians, particularly Cada Mofto, about the year 1455, who writes, “That before the trade was settled for purchasing slaves from the Moors at Arguin sometimes four, and sometimes more Portuguese vessels were used to come to that gulf, well armed; and landing by night, would surprise some fither men’s villages; that they even entered into the country, and carried away Arabs of both sexes, whom they sold in Portugal.”

“And also, “That the Portuguese and Spaniards, settled on four of the Canary Islands, would go to the other island by night, and seize some of the natives of both sexes, whom they sent to be sold in Spain.” After the settlement of America, those devastations, and the captivating the miserable Africans, greatly increased.”

“Anderson, in his history of trade and commerce, at page 336, speaking of what passed in the year 1508, writes, “That the Spaniards had by this time found that the miserable Indian natives, whom they have made to work in their mines and fields, were not for robust and proper for those purposes as Negroes brought from Africa; wherefore they, about that time began to import Negroes for that end in Hispaniola, from the Portuguese settlements on the Guinea coast: and also afterward for their sugar works.”

“This oppression of the Indians had, even before this time, rouzed the zeal, as well as it did the comparison, of some of the truly pious of that day; particularly that of Bartholomew De las Casas, bishop of Chapia; whom a desire of being instrumental towards the conversion of the Indians, had invited into America.”

“In the History of the Piratical States of Barbary, printed in 1750, said to be written by a person who resided at Algiers, in a public character, at page 265 the author says, ” The word exclaims against the Algerines for their cruel treatment of their slaves, and their employing even tortures to convert them to Mahometism; but this is a vulgar error, artfully propagated for selfish views. So far are their slaves from being ill-used, that they must have committed some very great fault to suffer any punishment?”

“Neither are they forced to work beyond their strength, but rather spared, lest they should fall sick. Some are so pleased with their situation, that they will not purchase their ransom, though they are able. It is the same generally through Mahometan countries, except in some particular instances, like that of Muley Ishmael, late Emperor of Morocco, who is naturally barbarous, frequently used both his subjects and slaves with cruelty.”

“Yet even under him, the usage the slaves met with was, in general, much more tolerable than that of the Negroe slaves in the West Indies. Captain Braithwaite, an author of credit, who accompanied consul general Ruffiel in a congratulatory embassy to Muley Ishamel’s successor, upon his accession to the throne, says, “The situation of the Christian slaves in Morocco was not near so bad as represented.”

“That it was true they were kept at labor by the late Emperor, but not harder than our daily laborers go through. Masters of ships were never obliged to work, nor such as had but a small matter of money to give the Alcaide. When sick, they had a religious house appointed for them to go to, where they were well attended: and whatever money in charity was sent them by their friends in Europe, was their own.” Braithwaite’s revolutions of Morocco.”

“Lady Montague, wife of the English ambassador at Constantinople, in her letters, vol. 3. page 20, writes, “I know you expect I should say something particular of the slaves, and you will imagine me half a Turk, when I do not speak of it with the same horror other Christians have done before me; but I cannot forebear applauding the humanity of the Turks to these creatures; they are not ill-used; and their slavery, in my opinion, is no worse than servitude all over the world. It is true they have no wages, but they give them yearly cloaths to a higher value than our salaries to our ordinary servants.” 

Source: Some Historical Account of Guinea: With an Inquiry Into the Rise and …By Anthony Benezet

Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire

“Timbuktu is a town inhabited by people of various races, but the greater part is made up of Whites, such as Arabs; they are subject to the king of Gao. This town is the entrepot for all goods in transit from the kingdom of Morocco to the kingdom of Gao. The king Mulay Ahmad has a fortress in the province of Lektaoua where everything was exchanged against gold dust that came from these kingdoms. From Timbuktu a Moorish qa id, a renegade, and an Andalusian were sent to Marrakesh with news of what happened during the expedition.”

“They arrived on 1 June of the present year 1591. Great celebrations were held to mark this happy success. But the king, although proud to be the first king of Morocco to have carried his victorious arms as far as Guinea, felt much resentment at Jawdar’s having withdrawn from Gao without having first constructed a fortress, as he had orders to do; or rather that, having withdraw, he had done so without having previously taken some good hostages from the black king as surety for his carrying out his promises. But in fact, it is within his power to do so or not to do so.”

“It is said that two months journey from Gao, in the interior lands, there is another kingdom of the Blacks that is called Bornu, whose king is very powerful. The Turks, having marched by way of Egypt to conquer this kingdom suffered so much from thirst while crossing the sandy deserts, that when attacked by the king of Bornu in this exigency, they could not defend themselves because of their thirst, and were beaten. Some who survived received such good treatment from the king that they remained in his service.”

“Through the industry of these individuals, and with the arms they took off the others, he has armed about five hundred musketeers, who, together with the numerous troops of his kingdom, make him very formidable in these regions of Guinea. It has been learned that this kingdom borders on some kingdoms of black Christians, who have been recently converted by the Portuguese during the discoveries they have made in Guinea. The judgment made about this expedition by natives of the kingdom of Morocco who have experience of these regions is as follows.”

“There are various opinions about this expedition. Some think it is very advantageous for the king of Morocco, because besides the glory he gets from carrying his victorious arms into Guinea–something none of his predecessors dared do because of the difficulty of the route, the length of the journey and lack of water they think he will get a lot of gold from this conquest, by means of which he will enhance his greatness.”

Source: Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Saʻdī’s Taʼrīkh Al-Sūdān Down to 1613 By ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʿAbd Allāh al- Saʿdī…

The old Moorish City is full of history written in Stones, Archives, and Races

Oran. Negro Village. Grand Mufti. Co 19, 1985 conference.

(Arrived in Oran, February 1985.)

“The old Moorish city is full of history written in stones, archives, and races. It was alternatively the great stronghold of Moors, Turks, and Spaniards, during centuries of expeditions, invasion, warfare, and piracies. Its physiognomy to-day is a composite: Moorish, Spanish, and European, the foreign population predominating over the native, making the aspect of the city much less picturesque, to say nothing of the value of its primitive race. The result of the infinite crossing is certainly not in this present generations at Nature’s best. The pure Arab or Moorish type is unfortunately obliterated among this mottled mixture from every African latitude with that of other continents.”

“It must be explained here that since the conquest of Algeria by the French, the natives: Arabs, Moors, Kabyles, and the conglomerate mass of all other African tribes, as well as Jews, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, etc., who are native-born residents, are all, necessarily, subject; but citizenship is optional, save to the French-born. Mussulmans form the great majority of the inhabitants, there being almost as many French Moslem subjects in Africa as there are citizens in France, i.e., thirty million. Once the oath of citizenship is taken, they must, of course, abide by French law, the Code Napolean; while the Moslem subjects are governed by the laws of Muhammad, the Code of the Koran, of which they are most tenacious, living and dying by it. While the Code of Napolean is based upon the Roman legislature, the Koran is a faithful exponent of Mosaic Law, added to which are rules and regulations by the Prophet concerning the details of life: civil, religious, public and private. There is, therefore, little need for legislation; and this banishes simplicity and unity, as well as peace, to its world. It is the adjustment and reconciliation of the two codes which renders legislation and magistrature very difficult in all the French colonies, and all other Christian nations whose colonies contain follower of Mohammed. Though Moslems are a conquered race throughout the different great and small French colonies in Africa and the Protectorate of Tunis, their religion is scrupulously respected and even provided for by the French government: for instance, all that relates to worship, to the family, marriage, property, etc., is left entirely in the hands of the Cadi (the Moslem Magistrate or judge). Citizenship gives the right of suffrage to the subject and prohibits polygamy, which under French law, of course, is bigamy, and is punished with severity, while Moslem subjects who are not citizens following the patriarchs are free to have from one to four wives if they like. It is with great satisfaction, we state at once, that this great evil-the legacy of our common ancestors and patriarchs is rapidly disappearing throughout Islam, and especially with progressive culture and civilization.” 

“France had long been an ally of the Arabs in North Africa against the Turks and Moors, but in 1830 arose the warlike difference between her and the great Arab Emir, Abd-el-Kader, who sought to make Tlemecen his capital, as it was of its ancient sultans.”

Source: Jerusalem through the lands of Islam: among Jews, Christians, and Moslems By Emilie Jane Butterfield Meriman Loyson

The Jews and Moors in Spain By Joseph Krauskopf


“The great peninsula, formed the Red Sea, by the Euphrates, by the Gulf of Persia and by the Indian Ocean, and known by the name of Arabia, is the birthplace of our creed. It was peopled soon after the deluge by the children of Shem, the son of Noah. In course of time, the brave Yarab established the kingdom of Yemen, whence the Arabs derive the names of themselves and their country.”

“In Alexandria, the Mohammedans wrought direful vengeance on Christians for the crimes which the arrogant and fanatical St. Cyril had committed there two centuries before, by extirpating Grecian learning and by inciting his monks to under the wise Hypatia. The extreme northern part of Africa brought their armies to a sudden halt. Here they encounter two strong foes. First, the people called Berbers “the Noble,” a tall, noble-looking race of men, active, high spirited and indomitable.” 

“They [Berbers] had the same patriarchal habits, the same Shemitic features, were equally skilled in the use of arms and the breeding and handling of horses, and so the Arabs believed them to be of their own race. The Northern coast of Africa has been called by the Romans, from the dark complexion of its people: Mauritania and its people were called Mooriscos, or Moors. When the superior force of the Arabians compelled the Moors to submit, at last, the conquerors and the conquered coalesced so completely, that in less than a decade the one could not be distinguished from the other.”

See The Jews and Moors in Spain By Joseph Krauskopf


Iberia and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History (Transatlantic Relations)

“Portuguese slavery inherited the Roman peculium, the practice by which slaves could have their own property and reap the fruits of their work. Portuguese slavery, like its Spanish counterpart, rested heavily on the Roman, Visigothic, and Muslim law and practice. That is, slavery was a temporary situation in which freedom was always the ultimate goal. In the search for workers, Portuguese colonizers used different free and coerced labor, including free workers, Iberian migrants, and Berber or black African slaves; all were put to work (under various terms) on the islands. However, the preference for slave labor on the Atlantic islands later influenced the labor patters the Portuguese would use in plantation Brazil. “

“Slavery had long been known in Iberia, but slaves never constituted more than a small percentage of society. By 1492, although more than 35,000 black slaves had been introduced in Portugal, most of them were intended to be reexported to other European markets and to the Americas. By 1550, there were 9,500 African slaves in Lisbon–comprising nearly 10 percent of the total population–and 32,370 slaves and 2,580 freedmen in Portugal as a whole. Black slaves increasingly replaced slaves from other racial origins as the Portuguese became less involved in the wars against the Turks in the Mediterranean and in general against Muslims.”

“The Moors were visible in Portugal in the most southern part of the country, where a relatively large population of Christianized Moors (Moriscos) toiled the fields and worked as artisans in towns and cities.  The term Moors, derived from Mauritania, designated those Muslims and their descendants from the north of Africa who established themselves in Spain through different waves of Islamic invasions beginning in 711. In general, the Christian monarchs, who conquered Iberian dominions from Islam during the Middle Ages respected the customs and religion of the Mudejar, or Muslims among Christians, in exchange for obedience and heavy taxes. These mudejars, in spite of their marginal status, reached important numbers at given times and places.”

“Towards the end of the fifteenth century, mudejars constituted a minority in Castile and Navarre. On the other hand, in the Kingdom of Granada, the mudejars vastly outnumbered old Christians. Large groups of Moors also resided in Aragon and, above all, in Valencia, where nobles received and protected them in their seigniorial dominions in exhcange for submission and cheap labor. In spite of apperanaces, there was always a fraigle equilibrium in the coexistence not convivencia (harmonious cohabitation), between Muslims and Christians.”

“In addition to an ancestral hatred, those Chistians who, encouraged by the Crown, settled in the Moors’ territory also usurped their principal economic resources. At the same time, ecclesiastical authorities persistently worked to coerce and to assimilate the Islamic population. Together, these circumstances produced an inevitable clash of civilizations. Such confrontations culminated in the rebellion of the Moors of the Alpujarras region of Granda in 1499, which led the Catholic Monarchs to order the general conversion of all the mudejars of Granada to Christianity and the expulsion of those who refused baptism. The forcefully converted were known as Moriscos or new Christians. Although Charles V conceded the moriscos forty years grace from the Inquisition in order to achieve full integration in the Christian population many continued practicing their religion and defending their customs against the acculturating policies of Church and Crown.”

“The title and the practice of granting hidalgo status for meritorious service to the Crown began when the Christian kings of the northern peninsula first set out on the Reconquista, the campaign to drive the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula, a quest that lasted more than 700 years. By 1492, when the southernmost Moorish stronghold of Granada was finally overcome and Jews were also compelled to convert to Christianity, it became all the more imperative for men from central and southern Iberia, especially those whose purity of blood (religious heritage) might otherwise be questioned, to validate their loyalty, merit, and service by somehow achieving the status of Hidalgo.” 

See Iberia and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History 3 Vols: Iberia and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History (Transatlantic Relations), 3 Volumes Set