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.”






First “enslaved Africans” introduced into North America by the Dutch in 1620

“It is generally that as early as 1442, the Portuguese accepted some negroes from the Moors, as a ransom for Moorish captives. These were reduced to servitude, and their value rose so rapidly that in a few years upwards of thirty ships were fitted out for importing negroes.”

“In 1502, the Spaniards began to employ African slaves in the mines of Hispaniola, the island now called St. Domingo, or Hayti; and in 1517, Charles V. of Spain, at the solicitation of a Roman Cardinal, (Las Casa,) granted his panted for the importation of four thousand slaves annually into Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Poro Rico.”

 “The first enslaved Africans were introduced into this country by the Dutch in 1620 and were landed and disposed of, (20 in number,) at Jamestown, the first settlement in Virginia.”

“They were subsequently introduced in great numbers by the English, but not without the serious remonstrance of the colonist. They even proceeded so far as to present, in 1772, to George III. a petition, praying that the introduction of slaves might be discontinued. They speak in strong and decisive language:

“We are encouraged to look up to the throne and implore your Majesty’s paternal assistance in averting a calamity of a most alarming nature. The importation of slaves into the colonies from the coast of Africa, hath long been considered as a trade of great inhumanity, and under its present encouragement, we have too much reason to fear, will endanger the existence of your Majesty’s American dominions.”

Mr. Burke, in a speech on American conciliation, says,

“her refusals to deal any longer in the inhuman traffic of human slaves, was one of the causes of the quarrel with Great Britain.” And it is much for the credit of the framers of our Declaration of Independence, that among other grievances set forth in that memorable manifesto, it is declared that the king had violated our rights by “prompting our negroes to rise in arms against us –those very negroes, whom, by inhuman use of his negative he has refused us permission to exclude by law”

“This generous feeling at length died away, and the ships of the north and south have vied together in the odious practice of importing slaves into the United States.”


“As early as 1792, Sweden passed laws prohibiting the importation of slaves into her borders after 1803. In 1807, the governments of Great Britain and the United States passed similar enactments, to take effect after March 1808. But these were nearly a dead letter until it was further declared, afterward, that the Slave Trade is piracy, and that those proved to be engaged in it shall suffer death.” 


“In defiance of all laws enacted, it is estimated that not less than 50,000 Africans were, during the last year, (1831,) carried into foreign slavery. During the months of February and March of the same year, 2,000 were landed on the island of Cuba.”

“Two English vessels, the Fair Rosamond and Black Joke, tenders of the Dryad frigate, cruising off the coast of Africa, captured three slave ships which had originally eighteen hundred slaves on board. The Fair Rosamond first captured a vessel with 106 Africans, shortly after saw the Black Joke in chase of two others: she joined the pursuit, but the vessels succeeding in getting into the Bonny river where they landed 600 slaves before the pursuers could take possession of them. They found on board only 200 Africans, but understood that the crew had thrown overboard 180, chained together, and four only out of the whole, were picked up and delivered from a watery grave.” 

Source: American Colonization Society, and the Colony at Liberia By Massachusetts Colonization Society



American Colonization Society: The Bornu People were of Berber Origin

“At this period his territory did not extend to the northern bend of the Niger, which was occupied by Berbers. Jenne, the town which M. Dubois describes in his interesting book on “Timbuctoo the Mysterious” as still at the present day constituting a bit of Egypt in the heart of the desert, is said by the Arabs to have been founded by pagans in the year 800 (the year in which Egbert ascended the English throne), and was specially famed as the resort of the learned. Timbuctoo was founded by Berbers in the year 1087, about twenty-five years later than the town Morocco, and was never sullied by pagan worship. As the march of ancient Egyptian civilization can be traced through Negroland, moving gradually from east to west, so the march of this relatively modern Arab civilization can be traced steadily from west to east.”

“Thus we have come gradually eastward to our own territory of Nigeria, where the Hausa States, probably of mixed Berber and Coptic origin, were founded at a period of which the narrative takes us back to mythical history.  The Berber state of Audaghost, lying northwest in the desert, paid tribute to Ghana up to the middle of the eleventh century. The Bornu people were also of Berber origin, illustrating, like the Hausas and the mixed people of Ghana and the Berbers of Timbuctoo, that pressure of the northern races upon the fertile belt of which I have spoken.”

“Dugu appears to have been the name of the first sultan of any modern dynasty of which we have continuous records. He resigned about 850, and toward the end of the eleventh century, Bornu would seem to have been in some way the suzerain of the Hausa States. The earliest of Arab writers speak of the kingdom as spreading between the Niger and Lake Chad. It also included Kanem, on Lake Chad, at that time pagan, though at a later period it accepted Islam and produced distinguished men.”

“A black poet from Kanem is spoken of as enjoying considerable success at the Spanish court of one of the Almoravide sultans. Bornu appears as early as 1489 on Portuguese maps. In the early part of the sixteenth century, their kings maintained regular diplomatic relations with Tripoli and the outer world.”

“I have kept you already too long in speaking of these five divisions of Negroland-Ghana, Melle, Songhay, Hausa, and Bornu–in the northern portion of the Negro belt. There were many others of secondary importance, but these were the kingdoms which in turn were most directly exposed to Berber influence and rose to the most decided preeminence during what may be called our own historic times.”

“The mystery of the decadence of peoples is among the great operations of nature for which we have no explanation. The civilization of Negroland was inspired in the first instance by Egypt. It disappeared as the power of Egypt declined. It rose again with the rise of the western Arabs; it fell with their fall. The power of the Moors was destroyed in Spain, and the onward pressure of the at that time very partially civilized Christian nations had nothing to substitute for the highly cultivated standard of Arabian life. Gradually the African Arabs were driven out of Europe, and there began a reflex action of Europe upon Africa. The end of the fifteenth century saw the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope. The navigation of the Atlantic became general, and a wholly new chapter of foreign influence in West Africa was initiated.”

“The European coast colonies came into existence, but they were founded for the most part in the midst of the very lowest class of pagan natives. It is impossible for me to speak of them tonight. At the same time, the higher civilizations of the northern edge of Negroland was destroyed by the decadent Moors, who feeling the pressure of Europe upon their shores, overran the center of North Africa about the year 1592, and established by force of arms a purely brutal military domination.”

Source: Liberia, Issues 19-27