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Slavery in the New World – 1452 A.D.

By LeRoy Chatfield


Starting in 1452 and continuing until 1521, five Roman Catholic popes, one after another, issued papal bulls (aka Vatican edicts) – each new bull reaffirming the previous one –  that authorized Portugal and Spain to engage in slavery and slave trading.  Just like that!  With the stroke of an ecclesiastical  pen!  

Nicholas V, Callixtus III, Sixtus IV, Leo X, and Alexander VI – each in turn, authorized the Catholic countries of Portugal and Spain to  enslave non-Christians – enemies of Christ –  and  sell them in the New World.

When all  said and done, 13 million people were captured and shipped to the New World to work as slaves in newly established  cash crops – sugar, cotton, tobacco, rice, etc.  But only 10.7 million survived the arduous journey, and of those, 388,000 were sold to the British colonies of North America. These papal bulls authorizing slavery turned out to be a holocaust journey for at least 2 million Africans.

Let us not parse or  water down the meaning of words or  engage in abstract theological niceties and distinctions: these papal edicts exist to this day as “the teaching of the church” and have never been abrogated and publicly  acknowledged  to be a grave sin against non-Christian peoples committed by the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Nicholas V   issued the first   papal bull about slavery in 1452 when he authorized King Alfonso V of Portugal  “to invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens (Muslims), pagans, and other enemies of Christ, to put them into perpetual slavery, and take away all their possessions and property.”

It also granted permission to King Alfonso and his heirs  “to make purchases and sales of any things and goods, and victuals whatsoever, as it may seem fit, with any Saracens and infidels in said regions;  . . . provided they be not iron instruments, wood used for construction, cordage, ships, and any kinds of armor.”

It sanctioned “the purchase of black slaves from the infidel . . .  many Guineamen and other negroes, taken by force, and some by barter of un-prohibited articles, or by other lawful contract of purchase, have been . . .  converted to the Catholic faith, and it is hoped, by the help of divine mercy, that if such progress be continued with them, either those peoples will be converted to the faith or at least the souls of many of them will be gained for Christ.”

I interject here with this bit of angry Roman Catholic fantasy: What a shame the Jesus of Nazareth could not been consulted before these papal bulls became the “Teaching of the Church” – His church. But then,  what would Jesus know anyway? He did not rule papal states, command armies, live in palaces,  wear precious Renaissance jewelry  and clothing made from the finest cloth. For that matter,  Jesus of Nazareth did not even own slaves.

International slave trading in the New World continued unabated until 1807 when it was outlawed . . . but slavery itself was still legal.

God bless them! In 1775, the Quakers in Pennsylvania formed the Pennsylvania  Abolition Society – still in existence today – to begin the slow motion movement  in the United States to outlaw slavery.

1777 – Vermont was the first state to ban slavery.

1787 – First African American Fraternal Organization (African Mason Lodge) founded in Boston MA.

1787-1789  The Northwest Ordinance forbade slavery in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

1792 – 1862  Military Service prohibited for African Americans.

1796 – 1868  –  United States Naturalization was forbidden to non-whites.

 1804 –  The first “Underground Railroad” began  to assist run-a-way slaves to cross the Susequehanna River in their  escape to Canada.

1807 – Slave trading between countries was outlawed but not slavery.

1820 – 1854  – Missouri Compromise: Maine admitted as a Free State, Missouri admitted as a Slave State.

1829  – Mexico abolishes slavery.

1831 – 1865  –  “The Liberator”, abolitionist newspaper published by William Lloyd Garrison.

1845  – Texas admitted as a Slave State.

1850 – California admitted as Free State. Utah and New Mexico admitted as Slave States TBD.

August 1851 – Nat Turner’s Rebellion: 57 whites killed, 100 alleged suspects murdered in Virginia.

1857-1868  Dred Scott Decision. U.S. Supreme Court denies citizenship to all slaves, ex-slaves, descendants of slaves and denies to Congress the right to prohibit slavery.

1859 – Clotilde, the last ship to bring slaves to the U.S. arrives in Mobile Bay AL.

1863 – President Abraham Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves.

The Emancipation Proclamation, or Proclamation 95, was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. It changed the federal legal status of more than 3.5 million enslaved African Americans in the designated areas of the South from slave to free. (Wikipedia)

December 18, 1865 – Passage of the 13th Amendment, slavery is abolished.

2013  –  Mississippi is the last state to ratify the 13th Amendment.


Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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