Slavery Routes – Part 1 For All the Gold in the World
Al Jazeera (2018)
This three part documentary explores the ugly, tragic and above all profitable history of the African slave trade. The profound grief, anger and shame I experienced on watching it was compounded by having to wait until age 70 to learn this stuff. This is a history all American and European children should learn by heart in primary and secondary school.
Part 1 focuses around the 15th century European slave market, which was mainly run by the Portuguese. Prior to the fall of Constantinople (to the Turks) in 1453, Europeans sourced their slaves (derived from the word “slav”) from the Balkans.
Following the collapse of the Slavic slave trade, during the 15-17th century the Portuguese kidnapped more than one million Africans were kidnapped for sale in Spain, Italy and Southern France. They were put to work in agriculture, iron works, sailing, fishing and pottery production. Most archeological traces of Lisbon slave trade were destroyed in the Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755.
In Europe, African slaves were assimilated into European families and communities and many Mediterranean families carry African DNA.
Starting in 1434, the Portuguese established small settlements in the Muslim colonies along the coast of West African that were their initial source of slaves. In 1455, the Portuguese were joined by slave traders from many other European countries. Their despicable activities were supported by a papal bull issued by Pope Nicholas V (allegedly to assist the Crusades in ending Muslim occupation of the holy lands). The latter provided a legal framework for Europeans to “conquer all pagans for perpetual slavery in the name of God.”
The Portuguese also established a profitable trading relationship with the powerful King of Konga, who converted to Christianity and traded African gold for modern European goods for his nobles.
In addition to transporting the slaves they captured to Europe, the Portuguese put them to work in the Elmina gold mines in modern day Ghana and on the first sugar plantations on Sao Tomean Island in the Gulf of Guinea. A series of successful slave uprisings caused the collapse of the Sao Tomean plantations. At this point, the Portuguese began transporting their African slaves to new sugar plantations in Brazil.
I’m unable to embed the video, but you can watch it free at this link: