Posted - 18 Aug 2020 : 18:23:45
AUGUST 18, 1518, THE DAY THE AFRICAN BECAME LEGAL TENDER: ENTER CHARLES V OF SPAIN
By Dembo Fatty
Many of us may have wondered how and why the trade in Africans grew exponentially over four centuries unabated and they rightly should wonder.
A large scale organized institution dealing in humans may never have happened in the past on a comparable scale to that which was meted out to the African.
Students of history and history enthusiasts have had protracted discussions regarding culpability in thevAtlantic Slave Trade. Some argued that it was the African chiefs and warlords who went on the rampage capturing defenseless men, women and children and sold them to the Europeans for some ridiculous objects like mirrors, beads tobacco etc. This thesis is not supported by history especially in West Africa.
In the case of our region, slave trade started as raids by Europeans initially and our people fought back the best they knew how.
In the year 1446, the Gambian shore was visited by a group of bandits (the best name i can give them), under instructions of the Portuguese crown and led by Nuno Tristao, attempted to kidnap people and were attacked by people from what is now Nuimi.
They managed to kill 21 out of the 28 on board the Portuguese caravel. They quickly sailed back to Portugal. The African at the time did not develop a taste for slave trade or slavery on a commercial scale as they would later come be victims.
In fact in 1562, John Hawkins, one of Queen Elizabeth's favourite slave raiders "snatched 300 slaves from Sierra Leone and carried them for sale in Hispaniola " (Jews and the American Slave Trade by Saul S. Friedman, page 89). For further research please also read "Staying Power: The History of Blacks in Britain " by Peter Freyer page 417
There are few Europeans who are willing to speak the truth regarding slavery and slave trade as Reverend Macbrair, a Wesleyan missionary posted to Gambia. No wonder, he was harassed by colonial officials and merchants.
In his words:
"and for such deeds of cruelty as these, European and American slave-dealers have to answer at the bar of God, since it is they who incite the naturally-peaceful African to violence and murder in procuring slaves".
The above statements match exactly the 1446 incident in Gambia. Slavery was introduced through violence and chaos to displace communities and make them vulnerable to capture.
HOW DID THE TRADE IN AFRICANS BECAME COMMERCIALIZED
We will need to take a mental flight to the year 1518, and more specifically to the courts of King Charles V of Spain.
The document attached to this write up was called the Asiento, a sort of license issued by the Spanish crown giving rights to buyers to capture Africans and sell them to Spanish colonies in the Americas. It was issued on August 18, 1518, some 502 years ago today.
Thus started the commercialization of trade in Africans under the protection of Spain. Sadly, Chales V of Spain was also The Ruler of the Holy Roman Empire and it makes me cringe, and that by extension, the Church is either directly or indirectly involved.
Proceeds from these licences or Asiento went directly to benefit the King and Queen of Spain.
Britain, was a late large scale commercial participant in the slave trade but gained monopoly by 1713 the right to trade 5000 slaves to the Spanish colonies.
The rest is history as the licences were issued, poor Africans were being raided or incited to violence and murder in procuring slaves. That's why every inch of land on that continent is sacred and bore testimony to the spilling of blood, crying of captives, sounds of whips on their backs,
How come this date or event is not taught in our schools in Africa? How could a day like today go unnoticed? A day that denied the African his dignity and become just like a heifer on the market, to be bought and sold willy-nilly.
It became legal, but wrong to subject the African to life of servitude which destroyed the continent denying it the fruits of its most active, productive and hardworking citizens. They went on to build the economic foundations of the West.
Now that you know, please stop for a moment of silence to the millions that were thrown overboard the slave ships to the ocean floor of the Atlantic; to the millions that crossed the Atlantic but subjected to the most barbaric treatments one could imagine of; to the millions of descendants of enslaved Africans who are yet to find a homeland; to the millions of distraught families they left behind on the African continent who cried and yearned for their return and died without seeing their loved ones.
This day should be a somber day for Africa and we should all mark this day on our calendars to teach one another about the consequences of slavery and the slave trade.
A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone