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Portuguese Explorers took every opportunity of kidnapping Moors on Saharan Coast

“During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the great inducement that brought Europeans to the West Coast of Africa was not merely the trade in gold, ivory, camwood, and pepper, but it was first and foremost, slaves. Liberia, however, for reasons which will be shown, suffered perhaps less than most parts of the West African Coast, the adjoining district of the Ivory Coast having even greater immunity. Nevertheless, it was the slave trade that indirectly gave birth to Liberia as a recognized state, and it is, therefore, necessary to treat it to some extent as part of Liberian History. Negro slaves were used by the Ancient Egyptians, and from Egypt, in later days they were sent to Rome and to the Byzantine Empire.”
“Carthage also procured Negroes for the Roman galleys, possibly from Tripoli. Under Islam, however, the modern trade in Negro slaves as we know it really began. The Arab wars of conquest in the Egyptian Sudan and along the East African Coast, and Arab and Berber raids across the Sahara Desert from North Africa to the regions of the Niger,rapidly led to the dispatch of Negro slaves to Southern Persia, Western India, the coast of Arabia, Egypt, the whole of North Africa, and most parts of the Turkish Empire.”
“Negro slaves were occasionally imported into Italy as curiosities during the Middle Ages. The early Portuguese explorers sent out by Prince Henry at first took every opportunity of Kidnapping the Moors whom they met on the coast of the Sahara, and these people were dispatched as slaves to Portugal. Prince, Henry, however, came in time to realize the iniquity of this proceeding and its bad policy on the part of a nation which at that time was aspiring to colonize and rule Morocco.”
“He, therefore, ordered that they should be given a chance of ransoming themselves. One of these Moors explained that he was a nobleman by birth and state that he could give five or six Negroes for his own ransom and another five for the freedom of those amongst his fellow captives who were also men of position. The result was that Antao Goncalvez, their captor, on returning to the Rio de Oro, received ten Negroes, a little gold-dust, a shield of ox hide and a number of ostrich eggs as ransom.”
“The Portuguese learned in this way that by pursuing their journeys father south they might come to a land where it was possible to obtain “black Moors” as slaves. It was already appreciated that the Negro as a captive was a far more tractable and manageable person than anyone akin to the white man in race. Consequently, during the first hundred years of their African exploration, the Portuguese picked up Negroes by purchase from the Fula and Mandingo chiefs of Senegambia, and also by kidnapping them occasionally on the peninsula of Sierra Leone and on the Liberian Coast. They traded for them on the Gold Coast, in the Congo and Angola countries.”
“These slaves were mostly sent to Portugal as curiosities, quite as much as for domestic service. Care was generally taken to have them baptized and even to a certain extent educated. Meantime, North and South America had been discovered and the West India Islands settled by Spaniards. As early as 1501, only nine years since the West Indian Islands had been discovered by Christopher Columbus, it was found that the wretched inhabitants of the Antilles were dying out under the treatment of the colonizing Spaniards. In 1502, therefore, it was decided to export from Spain and Portugal to the West Indies some of the Negro slaves who had been reached converted to Christianity.”
“By 1503 there were already quite a number of Negroes in Hispaniola (Hait–San Domingo). In 1510 the King of Spain (Ferdinand) dispatched more Negro slaves, obtained through the Portuguese from West Africa, to the mines in the island. The celebrated Bartolomeo de las Casas, Bishop of Chiapa in Hispaniola, came to Spain in 1517, to the court of the young King-Emperor Charles V., to protest against the wicked treatment which the West Indian indigenes were enduring at the hands of the Spaniards.”
“As a remedy he proposed that the hardier Negroes of West Africa should be imported directly into the West Indies, to furnish the unskilled labor for which the native Americans were unsuited by their constitution. Charles V. had, however, already anticipated this idea, and a year or two previously had granted licenses to Flemish courtiers to recruit Negroes in West Africa for dispatch to the West Indies. One of these patents issued by Charles gave the exclusive right to a Flemish courtier named Lebrassa to supply four thousand Negroes annually to Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamacia, and Puerto Rico.”
“This Fleming sold his patent to a group of Genoese merchants, who then struck a bargain with the Portuguese to supply the slaves. But the trade did not get into full swing till after the middle of the sixteenth century, when, amongst others, the English seaman John Hawkins took up a concession for the supply of Negroes from Guinea to the West Indies. He mad in all three voyages, the first of which was undertaken in 1562. He obtained his slaves first from the rives between the Gambia and the confines of Liberia, visiting Sierra Leone amongst other places.”
“One the last of these journeys he was accompanied by Drake. (afterward Sir Francis), then a mere youth. They probably touched at the Liberian coast for water on their way to Elmina, where two hundred slaves were obtained by joining a native king in a raid. The coast of Liberia was not so much ravaged by the slave trade as were the regions between the Gambia and Sierra Leone, the Dahome or Slave Coast, the Niger Delta, Old Calabar, Loango, and Congo. Perhaps in all the ravages which the over-sea slave trade brought about, the Niger Delta and the Lower Congo suffered the worst.”
“What damage was done to the coast of Liberia seems to be chiefly attributed to the English, who had already begun to visit that coast at the close of the sixteenth century, and were very busy there all through the seventeenth, The French traveler Villault de Bellefonds mentions repeatedly in his writings the damage the English did on the Grain Coast (Liberia) in attacking the natives for little or no cause, and in carrying them off as slaves.”
“In fact, a slang term, “Panyar (from the Portuguese Apanhar, to seize, catch, kidnap), had sprung up in the coast jargon to illustrate the English methods. Even English travelers such as William Smith (who went out as a surveyor to the Gold Coast early in the eighteenth century) admit that the English had become very unpopular on the Gold Coast, owing to these aggressions on the natives; and William Smith and his companions endeavored to pass as Frenchmen when they visited Eastern Liberia and the Ivory Coast, ‘because of the bad name the English had acquired.”






Black Skin – 16th Century English Literature

Ieremiah, in The Bible and Holy Scriptures, i.e. the Geneva Bible, trans. William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, Thomas Sampson (Geneva, 1560):

Can the blacke More change his skin? or the leopard his spottes? (then) maieye also do good, that are accustomed to do euil. (13.23)

Thomas Elyot, Bibliotheca Eliotae (London: Thomae Bertheleti, 1542): Aethiopem lauas, thou washest a Moren, or Moore, A prouerbe applied to hym that praiseth a thyng that is nought, or teacheth a natural fool wisdom. This prouerb grew of one that bought a Mooren, and thynkynge that the blackness of his saynne happened by the negligence of his fyrste mayster, he ceased not to wasshe the Mooren continually with suche thinges, as he thought wold make him whyte, by the which labour and washynge he so vexed the poor slave, that he brought him into a great sickness, his skynne remainynge styll as blacke as it was before.

Misogonus (Kettheringe: Laurentius Bariwna, 1577):

[Cac.]  I am, by my country and birth, a true Egyptian; I have seen the black Moors and the men of Cyne. My father was also a natural Ethiopian. I must needs be very cunning, I have it by kind. (3.3)

Duarte Lopes, A Report of the Kingdome of Congo (London: John Wolfe, 1597): 

The inhabitantes of this coast, which dwell betweene these two points, are of colour blacke, although the Pole Antarctike in that place be in the eleuation of thirtie and fiue degrees, which is a very strange thing: yea the rude people that liue among the most colde mountains of the Moore  are blacke also. This I write of purpose, to aduise and moue the Philosophers  and such as search the effectes of nature, that they would fall into their deepe contemplation and speculation, & thereupon teach vs, whether this blacke colour be occasioned by the Sunne, or by any other secrete and vnknowne cause: Which question I for this time doe meane to leaue vndecided. (188)

Richard Barckley, The Felicitie of Man (London: R. Young, 1631): 

Black is no deformitie among the Moores. (28)

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great, Part II (London: Richard Jones, 1590):

“Tech.  And, mighty Tamburlaine, our earthly God, Whose looks make this inferior world to quake, I here present thee with the crowne of Fesse, And with an hoste of Moores trainde to the war, Whose coleblacke faces make their foes retire, And quake for feare, as if infernall Ioue, Meaning to aid them in this Turkish armes, Should pierce the blacke circumference of hell, With vgly Furies bearing fiery flags, And millions of his strong tormenting word. (1.6)”

William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus (1593-94), in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997):  

[Aar.] “O how this villainy Doth fat me with the very thoughts of it! Let fools do good, and fair men call for grace, Aaron will have his soul black like his face. (3.1.202-05)”

George Peele, The Battell of Alcazar (London: Edward Allde for Richard Bankworth, 1594): 

“Enter the Presenter.    Honor the spurre that pricks the princely minde, To followe rule and climbe the stately chaire, With great desire inflames the Portingall, An honorable and couragious king, To vndertake a dangerous dreadfull warre, And aide with christian armes the barbarous Moore, The Negro Muly Hamet that with-holds The kingdome from his vnkle Abdilmelec,Whom proud Abdallas wrongd, And in his throne instals his cruell sonne, That now vsurps vpon this prince, This braue Barbarian Lord Muly Morocco. The passage to the crowne by murder made, Abdallas dies, and deisnes this tyrant king, Of whome we treate sprong from the Arabian moore Blacke in his looke, and bloudie in his deeds, And in his shirt staind with a cloud of gore, Presents himselfe with naked sword in hand, Accompanied as now you may behold, With deuils coted in the shapes of men. (A2)”

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (1596-97), in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997):

 “[Serv.]  There is a forerunner come from a fift, the Prince of Morocco, who brings word the Prince his master will be here to-night.”


Por.  “If I could bid the fift welcome with so good heart as I bid the other four farewell, I should be glad of his approach. If he have the condition of a saint and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me. (1.2.124-31)”

George Chapman, The Blinde Begger of Alexandria (London: J. Roberts for William Iones, 1598):

 Enter a messenger. Arme arme my Lord, my Lords to instant armes,Foure  mightie kinges are landed in thy coast, And threaten death and ruine to thy land, Blacke Porus the Aethiopian king, Comes marching first with twentie thousand men.”

Attributed to Thomas Dekker, Lust’s Dominion (ca. 1600), ed. Francis Kirkman (London: Francis Kirkman, 1657):

 Eleaz. I cannot ride through the Castilian streets But thousand eies through windows, and through doors Throw killing looks at me, and every flave At Eleazar darts a finger out, And every hissing tongue cries, There’s the Moor, That’s he that makes a Cuckold of our King,there go’s the Minion of the Spanish Queen; That’s the black Prince of Divels. (1.1)”

King Port.  “Poor Spain, how is the body of thy peace Mangled and torn by an ambitious Moor! (4.1)”

Phil. “And for this Barbarous Moor, and his black train, Let all the Moors be banished from Spain! (5.6)”

Source: Black Skin in Early English Literature 

Source: Black Skin on the Elizabethan Stage

“By the later Middle Ages, Europeans used the word “Saracen” as a pejorative term for any Muslim. However, there was also a racial belief current at the time that Saracens were blackskinned. The Muslims didn’t take this insulting name lying down, however. They had their own none-too-complimentary term for the European invaders, as well. To the Europeans, all Muslims were Saracens. And to the Muslim defenders, all Europeans were Franks (or Frenchmen) — even if those Europeans were English.”

Citing Szczepanski, Kallie. “Who Were the Saracens?” ThoughtCo, Jul. 5, 2018,