Sunday, February 7, 2010
THE PORTUGUESE/Black History Month
Twenty-five years would elapse between the first Portuguese voyages
along the northwest coast of Africa and the taking of captives at Rio do
Ouro (modern Rio de Oro) byAntao Goncalves and Nuno Tristao during
there voyage of 4141.
The Portuguese recognizing that voyages of the sort could be self-financing
and revenue generating accelerated the rate of exploration along the west
Portuguese activities took an aggressive commercial and political turn.
By the 1450s and 1460s trade in goods and people had become commonplace.
Portuguese contacts with Africa, from Mauretania to Kongo, were primarily
The Portuguese entered a half century of peace and friendship with leaders
in sub-Saharan Africa. They established cooperative working relationships
with African middlemen and suppliers of slaves and other goods.
In the beginning being far removed from the Mediterranean supply and demand
cycle to obtain slaves from the Black Sea, Crimea, or the Caucasus, the Portuguese
were on the lookout for alternative sources for labor.
Soon attacks on Moorish vessels in the Straits of Gibraltar, transits between
Morocco and Granada and raids on Guanches, indigenous to the Canaries,
provided the Portuguese with labor.
Acts of piracy in the guise of armed offensives against non-Christians first exposed
the Portuguese to sub-Saharan blacks in transit from the Maghreb to Granada.
The African presence in Portugal
Much information has been lost due to an earthquake in 1755 which destroyed the
Casa dos Escravos de Lisboa (founded 1486) which was the section of Casa de Guine
responsible for the administration of the slave trade from West and Central Africa
the collection of duties, and the farming out of royal contracts.
Evidence which is available indicates that the number of slaves exported from upper
Guinea in the latter part of the century varied from year to year.
According to Portuguese historian Vitorino Magalhaes Godinho between 1,000 and
2,000 slaves were exported from Mauritania and the Sahel in the period 1441-48.
Establishing relations with Sudanese traders and later with traders between Senegal
and Cape Verde, these numbers increased dramatically.
The period 1450-60, there were 800 and 1,000 exports annually through Arguim.
Exports through Argium for the period 14500-1505 were not less than 25,000
or as high 40,000.
Some 5,000 slaves were estimated to have been exported from between Senagal
and Sierra Leone in the decade 14450-60 and the number doubled in the
From 1480s 3,500 slaves were exported from the region annually, with numbers
declining in the 1490s.
Estimate number of slave exports from Africa prior to 1492 about 1,500 for
coastal Sahara; 25,000 through Arguim; 55,000 for Senegal-Sierra Leone
and 2,00 for Elmira.
Exports of 80,000 persons as slaves from areas between the Saharan littoral
and Kongo in the half century preceding Columbus's landing in the Americas.
(CORNER TALK REPORT)