Almost 10 million Africans transported to Latin America to be slaves?

This article says, among other things, that around 10 million were transported to the New World from Africa to be slaves.

One, this number seems really high, but my question is 2. What did the Church know, say, or do about this?


This article notes that the Church was intervening against slavery even before the arrival of Europeans in the New World.

From the article:

Fr. Joel S. Panzer

"From 1435 to 1890, we have numerous bulls and encyclicals from several popes written to many bishops and the whole Christian faithful condemning both slavery and the slave trade. The very existence of these many papal teachings during this particular period of history is a strong indication that from the viewpoint of the Magisterium, there must have developed a moral problem of a different sort than any previously encountered. In this article I will address three—from many more—of the responses of the papal Magisterium to the widespread enslavement that accompanied the Age of Discovery and beyond.

Eugene IV: , 1435

On January 13, 1435, Eugene IV issued from Florence the bull . Sent to Bishop Ferdinand, located at Rubicon on the island of Lanzarote, this bull condemned the enslavement of the black natives of the newly colonized Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. The Pope stated that after being converted to the faith or promised baptism, many of the inhabitants were taken from their homes and enslaved:

“They have deprived the natives of their property or turned it to their own use, and have subjected some of the inhabitants of said islands to perpetual slavery (), sold them to other persons and committed other various illicit and evil deeds against them… Therefore We … exhort, through the sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ shed for their sins, one and all, temporal princes, lords, captains, armed men, barons, soldiers, nobles, communities and all others of every kind among the Christian faithful of whatever state, grade or condition, that they themselves desist from the aforementioned deeds, cause those subject to them to desist from them, and restrain them rigorously. And no less do We order and command all and each of the faithful of each sex that, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their pristine liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of said Canary Islands … who have been made subject to slavery (). These people are to be totally and perpetually free and are to be let go without the exaction or reception of any money.”

The date of this Bull, 1435, is very significant. Nearly 60 years before the Europeans were to find the New World, we already had the papal condemnation of slavery as soon as this crime was discovered in one of the first of the Portuguese geographical discoveries.

Eugene IV was clear in his intentions both to condemn the enslavement of the residents of the Canary Islands, and to demand correction of the injustice within 15 days. Those who did not restore the enslaved to their liberty in that time were to incur the sentence of excommunication ipso facto.

With , Eugene was clearly intending to condemn the enslavement of the people of the Canaries and, in no uncertain terms, to inform the faithful that what was being condemned was what we would classify as gravely wrong. Thus, the unjust slavery that had begun in the newly found territories was condemned, condemned as soon as it was discovered, and condemned in the strongest of terms.

Although some Catholic clergy, religious orders and Popes owned slaves, and the naval galleys of the Papal States were to use captured Muslim galley slaves,[3] Roman Catholic teaching began to turn more strongly against “unjust” forms of slavery in general, beginning in 1435, prohibiting the enslavement of the recently baptised,[4] culminating in pronouncements by Pope Paul III in 1537. However when the Age of Discovery greatly increased the number of slaves owned by Christians, the response of the church, under strong political pressures, was confused and ineffective in preventing the establishment of slave societies in the colonies of Catholic countries. Papal bulls such as Dum Diversas, Romanus Pontifex and their derivatives, sanctioned slavery and were used to justify enslavement of natives and the appropriation of their lands during this era.[4] The depopulation of the Americas, and consequently the shortage of slaves,citation needed] that came about through diseases allegedly brought over by the Europeans, and the harsh treatment of the native populations, inspired increasing debate during the 16th century over the morality of slavery. The first extensive shipment of black Africans to make good the shortage of native slaves, what would later become known as the Transatlantic slave trade, was initiated at the request of Bishop Las Casas and authorised by Charles V in 1517.[5] La Casas later rejected all forms of slavery and became famous as the great protector of Indian rights. No Papal condemnation of Transatlantic slave trade was made at the time. La Casas in 1547 declared that the Spanish never waged a just war against the Indians since they did not have a just cause for doing so.[6]

A number of Popes did issue papal bulls condemning “unjust” enslavement (“just” enslavement was still accepted), and mistreatment of Native Americans by Spanish and Portuguese colonials; however, these were largely ignored…

Good introduction:

There is no need to whitewash the Church’s history with slavery. It took far too long for a complete rejection of slavery.

One of the justifications for enslavement was the concept of “enemies of Christ”, who could be enslaved according to a series of Papal bulls. This tended to be very widely interpreted to include, as well as Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians in military situations, and Slavs, Africans and Americans who opposed conversion.

Even the Orthodox? Wow I didn’t know this. :shrug::eek:

Thanks all :slight_smile: I am going to take a thorough look at all this later (when I have time).

There is an important figure in the history of the fight against slavery in Brazil, Antonio Vieira, a Portuguese-born Jesuit. The Jesuits in general, in Latin America, and Vieira in particular, were strongly committed to combating the enslavement of the native indigenous tribal Indians. (You may have seen The Mission, a Hollywood film about this, starring Robert DeNiro.) Historians have suggested that, in their concern for the welfare of the Indians, the Jesuits may have turned a blind eye to the import of African slaves, though I don’t think there is any very firm proof of this.

Brazil, as you probably know, was the main destination that African slaves were shipped to, followed by the Caribbean islands (mainly Jamaica), with North America in third place.

This number could be plausible over the entire period. In fact it is one of the reasons, outside of African countries, Brazil has the highest population of peoples of african descent. Also remember that not everyone made the trip and the ships were packed to ensure that even if some died, you reached the new world with still a sizeable amount of slaves. So, maybe counting the amount that left (and not necessarily who survived the complete journey) could give you a number close to that value.

In theory christians were against it (NB. I am grouping them all together both catholics and non-catholics), but you could mitigate the damage to your soul if you christianised or converted your slaves.

I noticed some have distinguished between “just” and “unjust” enslavement.

  1. Can you tell me the difference?
  2. What does someone do to deserve being enslaved, if this is at all possible? For example is there a scenario in 2015 where the church would support enslavement of a group?

There is a teaching of when enslavement is acceptable, but the situations that are described are not generally what we think of as slavery. One, as I recall, is voluntary indentured servitude, where someone contracts themselves to work for a set amount of time in exchange for paying of a debt of some kind. The other is also temporary forced labor of captured enemies during wartime. I would assume the war would have to be considered a just war in order for that to apply.

I was not talking about indentured servants. Servants get paid (even though it is a small amount, another discussion).
When I say slave, I mean people who work and are not paid.

Why doesn’t the church then say servant rather than slaves if that is what it means? I think the average person definitely distinguishes between slave and servants. For example, when we talk about modern day slavery (which is mostly young girls and some young men who are trafficked as sex workers) we do not usually confuse the two terms.

I think the definition of a slave is someone who is compelled to work without pay. Using that definition, indentured servitude would apply, because the person isn’t being paid, they are paying off a debt. That’s why they are “indentured”, because if they don’t work for the person, they go to jail. The Church’s is 2000 years old, and differing forms of slavery have come and gone since her establishment and will continue to come and go. The Church doesn’t, nor have they ever taught that sex trafficking or chattel slavery was acceptable.

Oh yeah I know.
I did not mean to imply that the church taught that sex trafficking or chattel slavery was acceptable.

So then is the slavery justifed based on whether you owe a debt…making indentured servitude justifiable and compelling someone to work without any compensation unjustifiable?

The problem is that there are social changes and differences, and language also changes. So, the way a person used to pay back or even borrow money was to put himself into what we call indentured servitude and what they called slavery. The servant would enter the agreement (somewhat) voluntarily (forced by circumstance or maybe by family), and would be compensated by the wiping out of the debt or by the advance in pay. Those whom we would now call POWs were compensated by being kept alive and not killed.

Chattel slavery was a completely different situation, and has never been approved by the Church, altho there were tikes when the Church as a whole seems to us to have been slow to respond (which may have been in part due to dificulties and slowness of communication).

There was nothing temporary about non-Christians who could be enslaved. For example, in 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued the papal bull Dum Diversas which authorised Alfonso V, King of Portugal, to reduce any “Saracens (Muslims) and pagans and any other unbelievers” to perpetual slavery and to also take all their possessions. According to this bull:

We weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso – to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit – by having secured the said faculty, the said King Alfonso, or, by his authority, the aforesaid infante, justly and lawfully has acquired and possessed, and doth possess, these islands, lands, harbors, and seas, and they do of right belong and pertain to the said King Alfonso and his successors”.

You’ll also notice that this bull gives the King of Portugal authorization to invade Muslim and non-Christian lands, so how could this be considered “just war”? The person invading would seem to be the aggressor.

Imagine groups of ISIS all over the place, with bigger armies. Maybe not as terroristical as ISIS is, but definitely as interested in sex slaves and land acquisition. All over the Middle East, all over Africa, and all around Europe. The Moslems, remember, were still in Spain, altho they were content to rule their lands without a lot of warmongering except for occasional forays into France, at the time this bull was written.

Is it any wonder Christendom considered the Moslems a perpetual enemy? Remember that the polygamy the Moslems practiced left a *lot *of young men without the possibility of marriage or family, free to join the warring groups where they were promised 72 virgins in paradise.

In the centuries-long war, the Moslems continually aggressed, and when they weren’t, they were plotting to.

So I would not say that fighting the Moslems was necessarily against Just War Theory as described by St Thomas Aquinas, who implied that a just war could be waged against a nation which was behaving badly, not just against an enemy which had already attacked. St Thomas also said that if the enemy was preparing for battle, one could attack at a time which was more beneficial to one’s own army: one did not have to wait until the enemy was situated in a place of its choosing.

As to the other nations, what was the situation? Do we know? Could the nations the Pope had in mind be nations allied with the Moslems? Could the be nations behaving so badly that attacking them was justified? These are things we would need to know before critiquing the Bull.

I’m a Associate Professor of Latin American history with an expertise in this subject. The most accepted figures right now are that about 12.5 million slaves were transported from Africa to the New World, with about 10.7 million surviving. These figures are tabulated by combining ships manifests with the records of slave markets. Of those slaves, only about 5% came to what became the United States. An incredible 70% of them ended up in Brazil, with the other 25% spread out among the rest of the Caribbean, Central American, and South American nations. The reason that so many more slaves went to Brazil was simply that they didn’t survive very long. Portugal controlled the slave trade, and Brazil was owned by the Portuguese. As a result, slaves were relatively cheap to purchase for Brazilians, and more expensive everywhere else. Slaves in the US had a terrible life, but were valuable and therefore given at least minimal protection. Slaves in Brazil worked on sugar plantations in incredible heat. They often died of heat stroke or were worked to death, and simply replaced. That is also why at least initially, very few female slaves were transported to Brazil. Instead of trying to breed their own slaves, they simply purchased more. Keep in mind that this figure would include the total number of slaves taken from Africa from the onset of Portuguese exploitation and colonization in the late 1400s all the way up to the last illegal slave ships in the mid 1800s, so you’re talking about almost 400 years.

Somehow these discussion always end up being about the Western slave trade in Africa, a very short live trade in comparison to the Islamic slave trade in Africa which went on for around 1400 years.
Lets also not forget the Barbary Pirates and Muslim ‘terrorism’ (in the form of coastal attacks) during the 16th to the 19th century during which time over a 1 million Europeans were enslaved.

Stm that the Islamic slave trade is *still *going on… :frowning:

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