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The Portuguese and Spanish Slave Trade - Part 1 The Portuguese and Spanish Slave Trade - Part 1
by Ana & Alexandra Pereira
2008-12-29 08:28:57
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Introduction

Slavery is a social-economic system under which a person (the “slave”) is deprived of freedom and compelled to work
Painting depicting slaves - Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E. to 220 C.E.)for another (the “slave owner” or “master”), without receiving formal compensation (such as a wage) for his labour or having the right to leave and decide upon his own person.

Evidence of this practice predates written records; it has existed to varying extents, forms and periods in almost all cultures in all the five continents. The word “slave” derives from “sclavus”, the Latin designation for the Central and Eastern European Slavs who were submitted by the Germanics and sold as slaves in the West, including the Arabian Spain.

The Arabic name for the Slavics is Saqaliba, the plural of a corruption of the Greek word Sklavinoi, mentioned by the Byzantines. The word “sclavus” was born to distinguish slaves from serfs (servus), who were constrained to be bound to a land, and not to a master. The number of serfs began to rise during the last period of the Roman Empire and kept high during the whole of the middle ages.
 
The earlier examples of slavery we know of resulted from the submission of prisoners of war; these first slaves where therefore individuals who did not belong to the community or tribal group and their enslaving was actually “a humanitarian improvement in the laws of war” (Sumner 1974: 597), in which it constituted an alternative to the massacre of the loosing side by the winning.

Portraits of Aesop (1640) and Menippus (1639-40), both were Greek philosophers and former slaves, by Diego VelázquezGenerally speaking, being a slave seems to have been a condition less harsh to endure in the primitive societies than in the so called civilized ones (both antique and modern). In ancient Greece, slaves were usually obtained through war and commerce.

In some Greek city states, the number of slaves to the general population could be as high as 30%, but paid and slave labour seem to have been equally important. Slaves were often employed in transformation activities and many of them were specialized workers.
 
Romans inherited the institution of slavery from the Greeks and the Phoenicians. Their territorial expansion and the emergence of the Roman Empire led to an enormous increase in the supply of slaves; there were entire populations being enslaved all over Europe and in the Mediterranean. In Rome, at the end of the Republican period, the number of slaves was by far higher than that of citizens. At that time, slavery was already one of the major pillars of the Roman economy, but the end of the military expansion would mark the beginning of the transition from slavery to servitude, as far as the labour force was concerned.
 
The fall of the Roman Empire, in 476 A.D., led to a period of great instability in Europe, with invasions and the dispute for power between different groups; in this context of war and chaos, the taking of slaves became widely practised all throughout the continent. The Visigoths, who inhabited the Iberian Peninsula between the 5th and the beginning of the 8th century A.D., practised it as well, and during the period of the Al-Andalus the captured Christians and the Saqaliba (Slavic peoples) were often made slaves.

“The Slavic pirates on the Mediterranean Sea were not uncommon during the 10th century. Ibn Hauqal mentions Slavic pirates plundering the coast of Muslim Spain (…) We should mention the Slavs who arrived in the Muslim Spain. These can be subdivided into two groups: one consisted of the slaves of Slavic origin who were recognized as a highly valued commodity there, and the other were Slavic warriors who voluntarily became mercenaries in the service of the Arabic rulers of Spain; the latter must have been surely attracted by the fabulous wealth of Al-Andalus.

According to Ibn Hauqal the Slavic slaves were brought to Muslim Spain via Galicia, Frankia, the Lombard Kingdom, and Calabria in southern Italy. To Galicia they must have been most likely brought by sea by Danish and/or even Polabian Slavic merchants. (…) The Slavic slaves sold to Muslim Spain included female concubines for the harems of the rich Arabs who were especially valued for their light complexion and blond hair, and males, often brought in as young boys, who either became civil servants, palace servants, eunuchs at the above-mentioned harems, or, in the case of the physically strongest, troops of the elite Slavic Guards of Spain's Arabic rulers, who enjoyed special privileges and high status [something that the Berber components of the caliphatic armies  resented].

There were also many Slavs at the court of the Omayyad Emir of Cordoba al-Hakam I (796-822). The Slavs in Muslim Spain quickly attained an important position in the social structure of Muslim Spain, and many went on to play an important role in its politics in the subsequent future. (…) In the last years of the Cordoban Caliphate, there were so many writers, poets, and bibliophiles of Slavic origin that there arose a need to write a separate monograph devoted just to them.

Eventually, the distinct racial identity of Muslim Spain's Slavs started to diminish. This process was already under way during the Taifa Period. But even afterwards the Slavs continued to play an important role in the local affairs, and are kept on being mentioned until and including the 12th century. It is not until the 13th century that all mentions of their presence disappear from the records; by that time they became completely assimilated into the local population, whose faith they went on to subsequently share.” (Michal Warczakowski, 2004)

After Portugal’s independence (1143), pirates from Normandy and Northern Africa attacked the coastal cities and fishermen villages of the Iberian Peninsula very frequently – the populations were usually sold in slave markets in the North of Africa. Cervantes, the writer, for instance, was captured and made slave of a Sultan in Africa for several years. This traffic would only end in 1810-13, with the signature of the Luso-Algerian peace treaties.
Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On, Turner (1840)
Before 1415, the rescue of Portuguese captives allowed the first contacts with the African slave trade markets in the northern African city of Ceuta (nowadays the enclave of Spain in Morocco). When Ceuta was conquered in 1415, the city was an important centre where different routes for the commerce of Sub-Saharan slaves, who were brought by Bedouin traders, converged. Ceuta would lose that role after the conquest, while its strategic and military importance increased. Through their travels along the coast of Africa heading south, the Portuguese navigators got in touch once again with the slave trade markets.

The first group of slaves was taken to Portugal in 1441 by Antão Gonçalves, who bought them in the coast of Arguin (today’s Mauritania). Half a century after that, the first Portuguese arrived to Guinea, where they got in touch with the black slave trade existent over there, but by then their final goal was already India and its spices. The development of the slave trade by the Portuguese only happened during the 17th century, in strong competition with the Dutch, English and French, while its peak happened during the 18th century with the trade of African slaves to Brazil.

Don Quixote releases the Galley Slaves, Illustration to the Cervantes’ classic by William Hogarth, 18th century Camões (1524-1580), the greatest Portuguese language poet who was also a tireless traveller, fell in love with an Oriental black slave woman who died, and dedicated to her one of the most beautiful love poems ever written in his language, entitled “Dirges to Barbara the Slave”. Cervantes (1547-1616), taking as inspiration his own life, adopted slavery as a subject matter for several of his literary works, notably the Captive’s tale in Don Quixote, the plays “Traffic of Algiers” and “The Prisons of Algiers”, as well as episodes in a number of other writings. In Quixote, for example, the freed slaves who throw stones at the knight show how his simple morality is inadequate to deal with a complex world. According to other interpretations, this introduces, on the other hand, an idea about how the individual can be right and the society wrong.

Portrait of Juan de Pareja, Velázquez’ Freed Slave and Painter, by Velázquez (1650)Also in Spain, the official painter for the court of Phillip IV (17th century), Diego Velázquez, was inspired by Cervantes and the theme of slavery (he was educated in Seville, in an environment of cultural debate, as the household of his father-in-law and teacher was a gathering place for artists and writers, soon after Don Quixote was written and published). Velázquez painted two Greek philosophers who were former slaves (and whose philosophies inspired him), as well as his own slave, Juan de Pareja.

"It is important to mention here that both Menippus and Aesop were former slaves because one of Velazquez' most unforgettable portraits is that of Juan de Pareja, his mulatto slave whom he had taught to paint. In it, he endowed Juan, whom he freed, with a majestic presence, adorning him with a fancy lace collar, a luxurious form of adornment forbidden by the sumptuary laws of the time, especially to someone of his social category." (Michael Atlee, 2003).

Not only did he paint Juan as a dignified gentleman with an important social status, as he also insisted that Juan himself, dressed like that and behaving as an equal in every sense, should exhibit the finished painting personally before several noblemen and potential clients – like a triumph. This defying attitude by Velázquez clearly demonstrates his disagreement with the established order and the social scenery of those times. Curiously, this portrait of Juan was a rehearsal for the portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650). The contemporary artist Yue Minjun fused the two in a very interesting way, while the Pope’s portrait was a known obsession of Francis Bacon (screaming version).

Statue of Zumbi, Quilombo dos Palmares, Alagoas, BrazilMeanwhile in the New World, communities and towns formed by slaves who had escaped from their masters were taking shape – these were called “Cimarrones” (Cimarron means "runaway slave") in the Spanish-speaking South America and Quilombos (meaning related with military resistance settlements and ritual initiations in the original kimbundu language of Angola; their inhabitants are called Quilombolas) in Brazil.

Of significant importance in Brazil was the Quilombo dos Palmares, which grew from 1605 onwards and resisted for a whole century to frequent raids and armed attacks by the Portuguese. It was the home for runaway slaves, blacks born in freedom, Indians and caboclos, poor Portuguese whites and mulattos. During its height, more than 20.000 people (some say almost 30.000) lived in the settlement. After 1640, Palmares grew and it became the “kingdom of Angola Janga” (kingdom of “Little Angola”), with 9 major settlements and many more mocambos (structures/huts) surrounding them.

Curiously, and given the smaller number of women and the mixed cultural influences and habits, the Quilombo developed a polyandry system, which contrasted deeply with the patriarchal societies of the coastal colonial cities. Zumbi dos Palmares, king of Angola Janga, was its late leader, unusually determined, brave and skilled as a resistance strategist – he was captured and horrendously beheaded in 1695, after the main settlement of Palmares fell to the assaulters. Some of these original settlements exist until today, in the shape of towns (called Palenques in the Spanish South America), and their inhabitants speak different Creole languages.

Slavery was abolished in 1761 by the Marquis of Pombal, in the Kingdom of Portugal and India, and slave trade was definitely abolished in the whole empire in 1836 (Brazil was independent since 1822). However, slave trade continued by people with distinct nationalities, Brazilians and even… slave traders who were former slaves. Such was often the case, for example, in the Brazilian territory of Minas Gerais, where certain particularities (the gold rush) represented quick highways or opportunities for freedom – but the new wealthy people needed workers to find more gold… and they had to hire slaves, the main working force available. In Brazil only the law Eusébio de Queirós (1850), after the Aberdeen Act was approved by Great Britain in 1845, came to prohibit the inter-Atlantic slave trade.

Slave Punishment, by Debret (1768-1848)Jean-Baptiste Debret (1768–1848), a French painter who was part of the French Artistic Mission (1816), founded, in Rio de Janeiro, an academy of Arts and Crafts, later the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, where he taught painting. He published in France Picturesque and Historic Voyage to Brazil (1934-39), inspired by Diderot’s l'Encyclopédie – more than due to artistic merits, his drawings and paintings became famous as an unusual document of the quotidian and because of their naked observation of the Brazilian society, including representations of slaves and their punishments, daily scenes of exploitation, slave hunters and indigenous tribes.

Spain first abolished slavery in Puerto Rico in 1873 and Cuba in 1886, but for a long time there were strict Spanish laws protecting treasure fleets from South America which kept the slave trader ships away. Nevertheless, they were trading in the Pacific and Far East – a treasure catch by Francis Drake exposed this and begun a crisis which led to the invasion of Portugal by Spain, which was not following the official trade agreements.

pereira07Princess Isabel from Brazil (1846-1921), who became known as The Redeemer, was a liberal abolitionist who played a decisive role in ending slavery in her empire. She is considered the first Head of State of the Americas, and was one of the nine women to govern a nation during the whole 19th century. Although many abolitionists were connected to the incipient republican movement, she financed young politicians and artists, bought the manumission of former slaves with her own money and supported the community of the Quilombo of Leblon, where white camellias were planted, the symbol of the abolitionism.  

In 1869, seven years after writing his first abolitionist poems and reading them out loud, the young Brazilian poet Castro Alves (who would live only until the age of 24) was writing the Slave Ship, one of the most emblematic poems of the Brazilian heritage. From Bahia, he had gone to Rio, where he met the writers Otaviano, Alencar and Machado de Assis, the most important writer of Brazilian literature (an inspiration for Susan Sontag, Carlos Fuentes and Harold Bloom, for whom he represents “the supreme black literary artist to date”).

The illegal traffic continued in Brazil after Queirós’ law, as the abolitionist movement grew stronger. The illegal traffic was followed by an internal traffic of slaves and finally by European journeymen who worked on a regime of semi-slavery which, after protests of countries like Germany, gave its turn to the system of aid-funded immigration.  

…………………………………………

Links:

English Translation of the Poem Tragedy at Sea: The Slave Ship (1869), by Antonio de Castro Alves (in 6 parts):
http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/34690-Antonio-de-Castro-Alves-O-Navio-Negreiro-Part-1---With-English-Translation--wbr-
Artist Mariza sings Black Ship (about love and separation in slavery times) in the Union Chapel, London (2003):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ElLSBx9Jo8

DIRGES TO BARBARA, THE SLAVE – by Luis de Camões  (1524-1580)

That captive woman
Who holds me captive,
Because in her I live
She doesn’t want me to live/to live in her [both meanings] anymore.
I never saw rose
In soft bunches, [the word for bunches is “molho”, which can also mean sauce/spices/a subtle reference to female genitals and liquids – he eroticizes Barbara like a queen, with respect, reverence, nostalgy and sadness, because she is dead]
Which to my eyes
Looked more lovely.

Nor in the field flowers,
Nor in the sky stars
Seem to me as beautiful
As my loves. [plural, old and more elegant form of “love” – can be used to mention the act(s) of love making]
Singular face,
Tranquil eyes at rest,
Black and tired,
But not of killing/provoking pain or suffering. [both meanings: she was good and never killed or provoked pain to anyone, but at the same time he is suffering very much with her death and writes this almost with sorrow for the fact that those eyes didn’t kill him too, sorrow for not being able to join her in death]
An alive grace
Which inside them lives,
To be the master
Of whom it is captive. [she is dead, or captive of death, but free at the same time, and her grace is alive, mastering death]
Black the hair hanks,
Where the vain people
Lose their opinion
That the blond are beautiful.
Blackness of Love,
So sweet the figure,
That the snow swears to her
It will change its colour.
Cheerful/glad [“leda”, same word as “Leda”, queen of Sparta in Greek mythology, whom Zeus seduced by assuming the form of a swan] softness/goodness/surrender [all three meanings]
Which accompanies wisdom, [wisdom can be Zeus, or the wisdom of the poet writing with the feather; there are also several references to the legend of Saint Barbara in the poem]
It can look strange/foreign, [both meanings]
But not barbarous.
Serene presence
Which tames the storm;
In her, at last, rests
All my sorrow/feather. [concluded his poem/dirges writing, with feather and ink, about her – feather, of the swan, is the same word as sorrow – the word “pena”]
This is the captive woman
Who holds me captive,
And, because in her I live,
She must live. [could also be translated as “she is strength that will live” – double meaning]

……………………………………

Graphics:

pereira08_400 

 

pereira09_400 


    
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AP2008-12-29 17:18:12
The title of the first graphic should be: "Total Slaves Embarked/Flag".
The description of the photo with the statue is: "Statue of Zumbi, Quilombo dos Palmares, Alagoas, Brazil".



Chris2008-12-29 17:36:48
I have read many doctoral dissertations that did not compare to this study. Your knowledge of history, language, and understanding of the complexities of your topic are rare and valuable. Thank you for sharing this.


AP2008-12-29 18:08:10
Thanks, Chris. Though, there are some typos here that I asked Asa to correct, and the descriptions of the pictures became not very readable after the html format was used. I would like to write this in several parts; here I tried to create a bridge with the cultural developments and actors, to show their important role in the development of mentalities, awareness and ultimately... human rights. My sister was a help on this.
I got your chapter and will answer soon (different timetables).


AP2008-12-29 18:55:20
Another version (more mythical and less supported by facts) declares that Zumbi preferred to jump off a cliff when surrounded than to be captured and enslaved. This version is very symbolic of his free and indomitable spirit. So Zumbi is also known as "here's the spirit", and a wind whisper can be seen as a sign of his presence. The spirit of Zumbi is still believed (sometimes as a strong irony to instill fear and respect in the opponents) to protect people in Brazil and it is seen as a national spirit definer, a leader for the coexistence off all races (different races coexisted inside the Quilombo), a special protector of black causes and the black community. He is supposed to intervene and protect under different circumstances, specially the ones involving strenght and precision of spirit, inspiration, strategy, wild freedom, rebellion, joy and music (the most talented musicians and bands mention him in their lyrics, there's even a famous old band named "Zumbi Nation"). He has also been the main protagonist of films, poetry, paintings and fiction - in the South America, Portugal and some countries in the western Coast of Africa.


bohdan2008-12-29 20:43:36
We, as slaves, enslave as well.

It's a shame that most history is lost to the present. Where the history of a Britney Spears or Paris Hilton takes center stage in defining our concept of ourselves.

Yet it is the kind of history that you are presenting that shows us what we truly are.

Thank you.


AP2008-12-29 22:24:15
Love and creation are constructive forces; hate, greed and ignorance have terrible consequences. They coexist in all of us, but we can choose which one prevails.


Chris2008-12-30 04:09:14
Have you heard the music of Alpha Blondie?


AP2008-12-30 05:44:41
Yes.


Emanuel2008-12-30 11:00:57
Encyclopedic documentation and information on slavery as practiced by two of the imperialistic colonizing powers of the times, which paradoxically or perhaps hypocritically, also proclaimed Christian values and send missionaries together with their conquistadors to proclaim those values, is all well and good; one cannot discuss much of anything out of ignorance of the historical facts. However, what I remain interested in exploring is the ground upon which slavery was rationalized from the very beginning of human history and society for millennia, as well as the ground by which it was eventually abolished in the Western World after so many centuries of hideous practice.


Emanuel2008-12-30 11:01:35
How does a metaphor such as that of the Exodus to which a Martin Luther King made appeal, fit into the concept? To be more precise on the issue: on what is a concept such as that of inalienable rights (not given not to be taken away by any power on earth) grounded? To be sure, the concept is found in the Constitution of the US. Where does it come from? Who thought of it?


AP2008-12-30 16:25:47
I suppose you can write about that.


Emanuel Paparella2008-12-31 20:39:13
Ms. P., given that you and your sister are declared experts on the subject of slavery, I'd be interested in knowing a plausible answer or speculation on this question: had there not been the metaphor of freedom from slavery that the Jewish Exodus puts forth, or that of inalienable rights issuing from a common Father which Christianity puts forth, where do you think we would now be vis a vis the institution of slavery which existed since the very beginning of civilization more than 10,000 years ago?


AP2008-12-31 21:16:23
Mr. P, I merely suggested that you should be the one writing about Exodus and slavery/abolitionism because even if I would want to, I don't have the necessary knowledge to write about that. You have all my support, and I'll read it with pleasure.


Emanuel Paparella2008-12-31 21:39:48
http://www.authentichistory.com/antebellum/spirituals/index.html

I am no expert on the history of slavery but since you ask, the above link which mentiones the African American spirituals and biblical story of Exodus as a metaphor for freedom from general oppression (the way Martin Luther King understood and proclaimed it) may prove useful to you.

One more comment: considering that the European colonizing power's inhumane Atlantic passage of slaves from Africa to America resulted in some 9 million of them dying on the way, mostly thrown to the sharks, it seems to me that to talk about slavery ought to expressely mention what goes together in that sad chapter of Western history: genocide. And that is without mentioning what was done to the Native Americans both north and south. I imagine that you and your sister would concurr.


Emanuel Paparella2008-12-31 21:49:50
http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/1944

The above link to a piece written on Western imperialism and colonialism for Ovi a year or so ago may also prove useful you have not seen it already, bashing and smearing comments and all. (there are two parts to it).


AP2008-12-31 21:52:01
In my opinion, and to use your own expression, Christianity did not invent the wheel. There were many astonishingly wise forms of culture before Jesus Christ was born. We have discussed this before, we have seen before that we disagree. I think we owe a lot, in our Western culture/European tradition to eastern teachings and philosophies which are millennial, and still beyond our understanding. That's, in part, our disgrace.


AP2008-12-31 22:15:16
You don't mention directly the Exodus metaphor nor the topic of slavery in that article Mr. P., that's about Imperialism and, above all, an analysis of Europe's Identity. You also forgot several very important eastern empires before the Byzantine one, and I don't agree with what you wrote about a forgotten Muslim culture in Europe, but that's another discussion.


Jack2009-01-01 03:36:31

Thanks for such a comprehensive article on the slave trade history. William Wilberforce was, to me, perhaps the greatest single influence on abolish slavery there was, perhaps second only to Abraham Lincoln. He was a British politician, philanthropist and the decided leader of the slave trade abolishment.

In 1785, he underwent a conversion to Christianity. He came into contact with Thomas Clarkson and a group of anti-slave-trade activists, including Granville Sharp, Hannah More and Lord Middleton. They persuaded Wilberforce to take on the cause of abolition, and he soon became one of the leading English abolitionists. He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade until the eventual passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807.

Wilberforce was convinced of the importance of religion, morality, and education and championed causes and campaigns such as the, British missionary work in India, the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone, the foundation of the Church Mission Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. His underlying conservatism led him to support politically and socially repressive legislation, and resulted in criticism that he was ignoring injustices at home while campaigning for the enslaved abroad.

In later years, Wilberforce supported the campaign for the complete abolition of slavery, and continued his involvement after 1826, when he resigned from Parliament because of his failing health. That campaign led to the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire; Wilberforce died just three days after hearing that the passage of the Act through Parliament was assured.


AP2009-01-01 06:26:24
Thank you for your comment, Jack. I know about Wilberforce, but what I also do know is that he was not alone in the UK, Europe or the U.S. and people with all colours, nationalities, party affiliations, in different epochs, with different genders and diverse religions (sometimes even with no religion, no party or mixed race) have made clear they were against slavery. For me, it can be very oversimplified and unfair to attach slavery abolition exclusively to mere Christian intentions, even if notable Christians were against slavery (some notable ones were not, and this ambivalence can be found in most western institutions of those times). This is a transversal topic, related with the personality of the individual or groups and their shared values, it cannot be sliced and closed inside a single basket with a single label. Things are complex. If, on the other hand, we want to trace its roots, History offers to us the possibility of going further back, before Christianity, and still find good examples of prototypical human rights. In fact, some Europeans of the 17th and 18th centuries went in search of those through translations, to discover new references. We can also think that Turner, for example, by whom you see a painting in the article above, was able to paint "slavers throwing overboard the dead and dying" because he shared with Kant the notion that human beings should have the courage to publicly use their reason (this is different from what Adorno thought enlightenment was, a more pessimistic view). There are many understandings of the word (be careful and avoid it to be simply glued to the Iluminati - in fact, few of those groups were actually real... many were fictional). Generally, it is useful to trace a parallel with the concept as used in east Asia religions and philosophies, because in fact a good group of intellectuals of those times went in search of those. So things are not as simple as they may, at times, look, nor so much in "black and white", "Christians and non-Christians", "good against evil". Not at all.


AP2009-01-01 06:54:31
As to Mr. P.'s comments about genocide and Native Americans, there are a few realities which should be considered:
- this is only the first part of the article (check the second part for the slavery of Native Americans)
- OF COURSE genocide happened as part of the trade and millions died, as you can see in the graphics (although it would be useless to trade dead people so they could work in the New World)
- a distinction should be made between the ethnical cleasing of the Native populations, by the conquistadores (specially in the regions of the Spanish-speaking countries) and the subsequent Atlantic slave trade actions
- the number of deaths among the crews themselves was very high, specially during the 16th century. for example, deaths aboard claimed about 80% of the lives of the sailors aboard during the first 3 trips to India (late 15th century/16th century). One can only imagine how much worst were the conditions under which the African slaves tried to survive during their Atlantic trips, subjected to all kinds of degrading humiliation and abuse.


AP2009-01-01 07:00:51
Besides, what was it that I described as having happened in the Quilombo dos Palmares, for example, but a genocide? I thought it was pretty obvious.


Jack2009-01-01 07:02:22

I was not necessarily attaching Christianity to it, it was only that it was a result of his conversion that he began seeing the world in a totally different light. I am not suggesting the Christianity turned the tide, but it certainly had a great effect on the tide.

He took seriously the adminition of the Bible, like in Romans 13 that Christians ought to, he DID:

(vs 1) be in subection to the authorities...

(vs 2) don't resist authorities...

(vs 3) obey those who are over us, employers, police, etc.

(vs 6) pay all the legal taxes that you owe...

(vs 7) show respect and honor to people, police, judges, etc.

(vs 8) have love for neighbors... [slavery was not]

(vs 9) murder, adultery, stealing, lying, coveting, are unacceptable...[slavery was no better]

(vs 10) don't hurt anyone...[slavery hurt a great many]

(vs 13) be honest in your daily dealings and business...[[slavery was no honest business]

(vs 13) not driving drunk, joining or starting a riot...

(vs 14) or simply live for yourself and instant gratification. [slavery was all about the self]


Jack2009-01-01 07:09:54

Again, I realize Mr. Wilberforce was not alone in his effort and it was not because of Chritianity that the tide turned, but the main point to my comment, was I could not think of one, single individual in history that did so much, for so many (on a national [England] scale, and beyond [even to her colonies] to free the slaves and stop the trading...Can you? I can only think of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation that could have rivaled this one man, Herculian effort.

Who would you point to as the single, most influential person to help end or begin the end of slave trading?

{it is a given, that today, still, some of this illegal human trading takes place, and particularly vulnerable are children, young in especially).


Emanuel Paparella2009-01-01 14:25:55
Jack, I think Ms. P. has it more on target: a social phenomenon such as slavery is very complex and one cannot look at it in a Manechean mode. For example, nobody thought of the Emperor Caesar Augustus an hypocrite for having slaves attend to his every physical needs, but the “enlightened” Jefferson and Washington who insert into the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution “inalienable human rights” stand condemned as hypocrites by their own principles for they while taking their oaths of office swearing on a Bible that they would uphold the US constitution, considered slavery a necessary evil; so do the conquistadors who confused sword for cross. So my question is this: where did this concept of human rights (which neither the Greeks and Romans possessed despite their wonderful system of laws and advanced concepts of citizenship and its rights, freedom and democracy), come from? Did Jefferson and Washington and Lincoln and Wilberforce pluck it out of a cloud in the sky one fine day? I am no expert on the history of slavery going back many centuries before the arrival of Christianity, but I have a suspicion that it came from the Judeo-Christian ethos. (continued below)


Emanuel Paparella2009-01-01 14:29:48
Sure, it was slow in coming and it took 2000 years to finally abolish slavery in the West but the seeds of a simple but powerful idea had already been planted when Paul suggests in one of his letters that there is no Jew vs. Gentile, male vs. female, rich vs. poor in Christ since we are all equal children of a providential God and therefore brothers and sisters in the true sense of that word. The brotherhood of man proclaimed by the French Revolution is a wonderful idea on paper, but it also rings rather hallow because it does not postulate a Father that renders us brothers and equal and free. It seems to me that in the beginning of the Judeo-Christian ethos (hence the importance of the metaphor of the Exodus, without denying that it was also an historical event) there is the ultimate demise of slavery. But let dialogue on the issue without hidden agendas and looking at the undeniable and sad facts of the issue.


Emanuel Paparella2009-01-01 14:35:40
Errata above: the word inalienable goes before human rights; for the Greeks and Romans undestood the concept of human rights granted to free citizens but had no understanding of "inalienable."


Emanuel Paparella2009-01-01 19:16:38
Jack, I will not ask the atheists or agnostics in this forum for they would simply not know what Paul is talking about or, even worse, caricaturize the following passage from the letter to the Galatians which is in today’s Christian liturgy, but I’d be interested in your take on it. Would you say that it is a powerful seminal idea which implies the eventual eradication of slavery even if Paul in another letter speaks about being obedient to one’s masters? Especially revealing are the references to slavery which can be physical and repugnant to be sure, but more particularly spiritual slavery, what Paul calls slavery to “the elemental principles of this world”:

Galatians 4: 3-7: “Now before we came of age we were as good as slaves to the elemental principles of this word, but when the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as sons. The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries Abba, Father, and it is this that makes you a son, you are not a slave any more; and if God has made you son, then he has made you heir.”


Jack2009-01-01 20:06:16
I think Paul was more concerned with obeying those in authority of him, the church and society. Since slavery was a common thing at the time, and there was little anyone could do about it, Paul exhorted the slaves to obey their masters for the purpose of givning them an example of believers. To try and rebel and run away or kill their masters or be disobedient would run contrary to what Paul taught, specifically in Romans 13.

Now whether Paul thought it was "a powerful seminal idea which implies the eventual eradication of slavery", I can not say. Only perhaps he knows, but my guess was that he thought it wrong too, but was restricted by the Roman authorities so that little could be done. No doubt he knew it was wrong, but there was little he could do about it at that time.


AP2009-01-01 20:09:10
I wouldn't point one person, Jack, but many.


Emanuel Paparella2009-01-01 21:17:01
Yes, Jack, what you say is true but you have bypassed the whole issue of the childeren of the enlightenment Jefferson and Washington's hypocrisy vis a vis their idea of "inalienable rights." Where did this idea come from? Did the Christian idea of the Fatherhood of a providential God have anything to do with it? I for one do not believe that it came into the mind of the founding fathers of this country out of nowhere. It was a seminal idea that took many centuries to germinate but it finally downed on the likes of Lincoln and Wilberforce that slavery simply did not square with "inalienable human rights." My point is rather simple: without Christianity slavery, found perfectly normal by intelligent people such as Aristotle and Plato, would have probably have lasted a bit longer. Indeed, sometimes, even those who propose seminal ideas are unaware of thei implications.


barney2009-01-22 22:02:37
lloyd russell


barney2009-01-22 22:04:30
lloyd russell


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