Timelines: Timeline of African Slavery in the Former Spanish Empire, 1454 – 1975

Shalom, everyone! The following is a timeline of African slavery in the former Spanish Empire from 1454 to 1975. Please note that this post is a work-in-progress. As more information becomes available, this timeline will be updated:

Year Historical Event
1454 Pope Nicholas V issues Romanus Pontifex, a bull granting the Portuguese a perpetual monopoly in trade with Africa. Nevertheless, Spanish traders begin to bring slaves from Africa to Spain.
1470s Despite Papal opposition, Spanish merchants begin to trade in large numbers of slaves in the 1470s.
1476 Carlos de Valera of Castille in Spain brings back 400 slaves from Africa.
1492 (2 January 1492) The Moorish town of Granada surrenders to the Spanish forces of the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabella, marking the end of La Reconquista, the war between Moors and Spaniards in the Iberian Peninsula. Both sides retain many slaves taken during the course of the war.
1492 (12 October 1492) Christopher Columbus becomes the first European since the Viking era to arrive in the Americas, setting foot on an unidentified island he named San Salvador (modern Bahamas).
1493 (3 November 1493) On his second voyage, Columbus again reaches the Americas (modern Dominica). On this voyage, he initiates the first transatlantic slave voyage, a shipment of several hundred Taino people sent from Hispaniola to Spain. There are doubts about the legality of their enslavement in Spain.
1493 (8 December 1493) Columbus founds the first European colony in the New World: La Isabela on the island of Hispaniola (modern Dominican Republic).
1496 (8 June 1496) Columbus returns from his second voyage, carrying around 30 Native American slaves. Once again, there are doubts about the legality of their enslavement.
1497 John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto), an Italian explorer sponsored by King Henry VII of England, makes landfall on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland (modern Canada), serving as the basis of subsequent English claims to North America.
1499 More than 200 slaves taken from the northern coast of South America by Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Hojeda and sold – apparently without legal problems – in Cádiz.
1502 Juan de Córdoba of Seville becomes the first merchant we can identify to send an African slave to the New World. Córdoba, like other merchants, is permitted by the Spanish authorities to send only one slave. Others send two or three.
1502 Spain starts importing black African slaves to Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic) when the Catholic Monarchs (los Reyes Católicos) give slaving contract to Nicolás de Ovando.
1505 First record of sugar cane being grown in the New World, in Santo Domingo (modern Dominican Republic).
1509 Columbus‘s son, Diego Cólon, becomes governor of the new Spanish empire in the Carribean. He soon complains that Native American slaves do not work hard enough.
1510 The start of the systematic transportation of African slaves to the New World: King Ferdinand of Spain authorizes a shipment of 50 African slaves to be sent to Santo Domingo.
1513 Juan Ponce de Leon becomes the first European to reach the coast of what is now the United States of America (modern Florida).
1516 The governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez, authorises slave-raiding expeditions to Central America. One group of slaves aboard a Spanish caravel rebel and kill the Spanish crew before sailing home – the first successful slave rebellion recorded in the New World.
1517 Bartolomé de Las Casas gets permission from Spanish emperor Charles V to use African slaves to replace the exterminated natives in the island’s mines and sugar plantations.
1518 In a significant escalation of the slave trade, Charles V grants his Flemish courtier Lorenzo de Gorrevod permission to import 4000 African slaves into New Spain. From this point onwards thousands of slaves are sent to the New World each year.
1519 The circumnavigation expedition of Ferdinand Magellan sets out from San Lucar de Barameda. In December 1520, Magellan discovered the ocean which he named the Pacific. Magellan died in the Philippines, 27 April 1521. Only one of the five ships to set out returned to Spain, on 8 September 1522.
1521 ith the capture of King Cuahutemotzin by Hernan Cortés and the fall of the city of Mexico, the Aztec empire is overthrown and Mexico comes under Spanish Rule.
1522 A major slave rebellion breaks out on the island of Hispaniola. This is the first significant uprising of African slaves. After this, slave resistance becomes widespread and uprisings common.
1524 300 African slaves taken to Cuba to work in the gold mines.
1527 Earliest records of sugar production in Jamaica, then a Spanish colony. Sugar production is rapidly expanding throughout the Caribbean region at this time – with the mills almost exclusively worked by African slaves.
1528 A slave called Esteban (or Estevanico) becomes the first African slave to step foot on what is now the United States of America. He was one of only four survivors of Pánfilo de Narváez’s failed expedition to Florida. He and the other three took eight years to walk to the Spanish colony in Mexico. After their return in 1536, the group’s leader, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, published an account of their journey through modern Texas and Mexico (1542).
1530 Juan de la Barrera, a Seville merchant, begins transporting slaves directly from Africa to the New World (before this, slaves had normally passed through Europe first). His lead is quickly followed by other slave traders.
1532 Francisco Pizarro massacres the Incas at Caxamalca (modern Caxamarca) and captures King Atahuallpa, an event that marks the Spanish conquest of Peru.
1535 Spain officially creates the colony of New Spain which covered a huge area that included territories in North America, Central America, Asia and Oceania. It originated after the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the main event of the Spanish conquest, which did not properly end until much later, as its territory continued to grow to the north. It included what is now Mexico plus the current U.S. states of California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oregon, Washington, Florida and parts of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana; as well as the southwestern part of British Columbia of present-day Canada; plus the Captaincy General of Guatemala (which included the current countries of Guatemala, the Mexican state of Chiapas, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua); the Captaincy General of Cuba (current Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago and Guadeloupe); and the Captaincy General of the Philippines (including the Philippines, the Caroline Islands, the Mariana Islands and the short lived Spanish Formosa in modern day northern Taiwan).
1539 Hernando de Soto, following reports from Cabeza de Vaca, lands on the coast of Florida. Of about 1,200 men in his expedition, around 50 were African slaves. After exploring modern Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, the expedition ended in disaster.
1555 Queen Mary of England bans English involvement in Guinea, most likely due to pressure from Spain.
1585 Sir Francis Drake successfully attacks Spanish slave-trading interests in the Cape Verde islands. This attack and others following lead to the Anglo-Spanish War, 1585 – 1604.
1586 Sir Francis Drake attacks Spanish colonies in Santo Domingo and Cartegena.
1588 The Spanish Armada destroyed by storms at sea gives a boost to English maritime power and colonial ambitions.
1595 In a pattern that was to be adhered to for several decades, Philip II of Spain grants Pedro Gomes Reinal, a Portuguese merchant, a near monopoly in the slave trade. Reinal agrees to provide Spanish America with 4,250 African slaves annually, with a further 1,000 slaves being provided by other merchants.
1600 King Philip III of Spain outlaws the use of Native American slaves in Spanish colonies.
1600 Pedro Gomes Reinal died. The Spanish slave-trading monopoly is passed to João Rodrigues Coutinho, Governor of Angola.
1619 The first African slaves are brought to North America, on a Portuguese slave-trading ship, the San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist), in the British colony of JamestownVirginia. The ship, originating from Luanda and en route to Mexico, was captured by British pirates and redirected to Jamestown.
1632 Montserrat, originally claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain in 1493, falls under English control.
1651 First written mention of slaves being imported into Montserrat.
1655 British forces under the command of Admiral Sir William Penn capture Jamaica from Spain.
1713 Britain is granted “asiento” or the sole right to import African slaves into the Spanish colonies.
1778 Spain established a colony in the Gulf of Guinea and the Bight of Bonny in Central Africa called Spanish Guinea (modern-day Equatorial Guinea). Large cacao plantations were developed in the territory. The greatest constraint to economic development was a chronic shortage of labor. The indigenous Bubi population of Bioko, pushed into the interior of the island and decimated by alcoholic addiction, venereal disease, smallpox and sleeping sickness, refused to work on plantations. Working their own little cocoa farms gave them a considerable degree of autonomy.
1778 – 1930 With the indigenous Bubi population decimated by disease and forced labour, the island’s economy came to depend on imported agricultural contract workers. A Labour Treaty was signed with the Republic of Liberia in 1914, the transport of up to 15,000 workers was orchestrated by the German Woermann-Linie.The Liberian labour supply was cut off in 1930 after an International Labour Organization (ILO) commission discovered that contract workers had ‘‘been recruited under conditions of criminal compulsion scarcely distinguishable from slave raiding and slave trading.’’
1781 About 3,000 Black Loyalists of the British Government, who fought against the American Revolution, arrive in Nova Scotia.
1811 Slavery abolished in Chile on paper by the Free Womb Law in 1811, declaring that all children born to a slave mother would be free, however, this law was not enforced.
1822 Slavery abolished in the Dominican Republic (Spanish Haiti) by Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer, while annexed to the French Haiti.
1823 Full emancipation in Chile.
1824 (17 April 1824) Slavery abolished by decree of the Constituent Assembly in the Federal Republic of Central America consisting of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
1829 Slavery abolished in Mexico, leading to the breakaway and independence of Texas in 1833 by slaveowners who wished to keep their slave holdings.
1831 Slavery abolished on paper in Bolivia by the Free Womb Law in 1831, declaring that all children born to a slave mother would be free, however, this law was not enforced. Children were forced to serve an apprenticeship period until the age of 20.
1842 Slavery abolished in Paraguay by the Free Womb Law enacted in 1842, declaring that all children born to a slave mother would be free, however, males were obligated to serve until the age of 24, females until the age of 23.
1842 Slavery abolished in Uruguay on paper in 1842, however, former slaves were forced to continue to serve their masters under the system of patronato until 1853.
1851 (21 May 1851) Slavery abolished in Colombia and Panama, while a province of Colombia.
1851 (25 July 1851) Slavery abolished in Ecuador by the signing of the Urbina Decree. Ratified by the Convention of Guayaquil on September 18, 1852.
1852 (1 January 1852) Effective date of abolition of slavery in Colombia and Panama.
1853 Slavery in Argentina abolished by the Argentine National Constitution, everywhere except the State of Buenos Aires.
1854 Slavery abolished in Peru, March 12, 1854.
1861 Total abolition of slavery in Bolivia.
1861 (12 December 1861) Slavery abolished in the State of Buenos Aires.
1866 (6 September 1866) Slavery officially abolished in Paraguay.
1868 – 1874 African population in Argentina subjected to genocide under the presidency of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, 1868 – 1874, and replaced by European immigrants.
1873 Slavery abolished in Puerto Rico by the Spanish National Assembly.
1884 Spain participated in the Berlin Conference‘s “Scramble for Africa.”
1884 – 1975 Spain occupied territory in northwest Africa (modern-day Western Sahara), establishing and ruling over the colony of Spanish Sahara.
1886 (7 October 1886) Slavery abolished in Cuba by royal decree.
1946 Spain established the colony of Spanish West Africa consisting of Ifni, Cape Juby and Spanish Sahara.
1968 Spain conceded independence of Equatorial Guinea.
1975 Spain relinquished control of Spanish Sahara.


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