Who was the first African slave trader?
Juan de Córdoba of Seville became the first merchant to send an African slave to the New World in 1502. At the time, merchants were allowed by the Spanish authorities to sell only one to three enslaved Africans.
By 1562, nearly 60 years after, the English joined the slave trade. The English scaled the trade with devastating consequences to the Africans. Many human rights atrocities were imposed on the Africans.
In October of 1562, John Hawkins of Plymouth became the first English sailor known to have obtained African slaves. These slaves amounted to 300 -500 Sierra Leone which he sold illegally with the Spanish colonies in the West Indies.
Soon after, a number of English men joined him in the illegal sales of the trade when they saw how profitable the slave trade became. Increasing tension between England and Spain began to spring up following the illegal slave trade.
How English slave trader lured Africans to his “Jesus” ship and sold them to slavery.
John Hawkins who claimed to be a devoted Christian and missionary ventured to Sierra Leone; where he found them harvesting their crops. He sold the idea of a new world to Sierra Leoneans. He also promised them free land and riches in the new world.
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He then proceeded to tell the villagers about a God named Jesus. Afterwards, he proceeded to ask which among them sought to have Jesus as their saviour. The hundreds who raised their hands were then led to the beach and his ship “Jesus of Lubeck,” also known as “The Good Ship Jesus.”
Those who received Jesus were urged to get on the ship of Salvation, that is the “The Good Ship Jesus; but the Africans soon realized as soon as they got in, that they were barred from disembarking as the ship sailed to west indies where they were sold to Hawkins’s fellow slave traders.
Surprisingly, Hawkins had a reputation for being a religious man who required his crew to “serve God daily” and to love one another. Services were even held on board twice a day despite the capture, detainment and sale of Africans against their will for profit’s sake.
He sold most of the slaves in what is now known as the Dominican Republic. He returned home with a profit and ships laden with ivory, hides, and sugar, beginning the slave trade for the English.
It is crucial to note that the 700-ton ship was purchased by King Henry VIII. It was later discovered twenty years later, that it was Queen Elizabeth who lent the ship to Hawkins.
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As cousins to the Queen, Francis Drake also accompanied Hawkins on his 1562 voyage and others. Drake was claimed to be devoutly religious as well.
Between 1562 and 1567, Hawkins and his cousin Francis Drake made three voyages to Guinea and Sierra Leone and enslaved even more than 1,200 and 1,400 Africans respectively.
Hawkins’ personal profit from selling slaves was so huge that Queen Elizabeth I, granted him a special coat of arms. He was also appointed as Treasurer for the Navy in 1577 and knighted by the church in 1588 by the Lord High Admiral, Charles Howard.
By 1567, Hawkins and his cousin Drake had a fight with the Spanish which led to the loss of many of his men.
The English slave trader lost 325 men on that voyage, depleting logistics and his human resource although he recorded a financial profit.
In 1595, Hawkins accompanied his second cousin, Sir Francis Drake, on a treasure-hunting voyage to the West Indies. They twice attacked San Juan in Puerto Rico, but could not defeat its defences.
During the voyage, they both fell sick. Hawkins died in 1595 and was buried at sea off Puerto Rico. Drake succumbed to disease and died the same year as his cousin. He was buried at sea somewhere off the coast of Portobello in Panama.