Slave trade began with the Portuguese and the Spanish. History books record that in 1502, a man named Juan de Córdoba from Seville was the first merchant to send an African slave to the new world.
In the early stages of the slave trade, the Spanish authorities only permitted its merchants to sell a limit of three slaves.
By 1504, several African slaves were captured from a Portuguese vessel. Then they made their way to the court of King James IV in Scotland.
When the English joined the slave trade in 1562, almost about sixty years after the Spanish, they scaled up the human trade. This was shattering to Africa. Human trafficking has never been pretty.
John Hawkins of Plymouth in October 1562 became the first English sailor to get slaves to sell in the West Indies. He got about 300 slaves from Sierra Leone.
He traded the slaves illegally in the Spanish colonies. He made a lot of profit and so other opportunists join him. This led to strains in the relations between England and Spain.
The true story of Jesus of Lubeck
John Hawkins was from a famous shipping family. His father William Hawkins was the man who made the first expeditions to West Africa in 1527.
When John Hawkins went on his first expedition, he had gone in search of commercial materials such as dyewoods on the Guinea coast.
After sailing to the Gulf of Guinea, he ventured into Sierra Leone and captured between 300 to 500 slaves. He did this by pillaging Portuguese ships.
He used forcefulness and artifice to lure Africans to go along with him. He promised them free land and riches in the new world. He was responsible for selling most of the slaves in the Dominican Republic. He returned home in a ship full of ivory, hides, sugar. After selling the goods and slaves, he made a lot of profit. This helped kick start the slave trade.
An account of the story that claims that Hawkins used to say to everyone that he was a devout Christian and missionary. When he came off his ship and found the Sierra Leoneans harvesting their crops, he told them of a God named Jesus and asked who wanted Jesus to be their saviour. The hundreds who indicated yes were then led to the ship. The name of the ship was ‘Jesus of Lubeck’. It was also known as ‘The Good Ship Jesus’.
He asked the naïve Africans to enter the ship to be saved. As many as entered the ship were not allowed to disembark. The ship sailed away and the deceived Africans were sold to merchants in the West Indies.
This charlatan used the name of Jesus to deceive naïve African into being sold as slaves.
King Henry VIII purchased the 700-tonne ship and years later Queen Elizabeth lent the ship to Hawkins. This sanctioned the slave trade and cemented the fact that the English were involved in the slave trade at the highest level.
Hawkins had a reputation in England for being a religious man. He often demanded that his crew serve God daily and love one another. There were services held on board the ship daily. In the midst of all this, Africans were captured against their will and sold for profit. What a contradiction.
In 1562, his cousin, Sir Francis Drake accompanied him on a voyage. His cousin was also religiously devout.
Sometimes people are not who they say they are. On the other hand, they do not live up to the faith that they say they have in Jesus. They seem to say one thing and do the opposite. it is very confusing.
Voyages for the slave trade
Hawkins and Francis Drake made three different voyages to Guinea and Sierra Leone between 1562 and 1567. They enslaved almost 1400 slaves at this time.
There were many losses to Africa at this time. Sometimes the slaves fought back and died. Some drowned while trying to escape. Some were beaten or thumped to death.
With time, the slave trade proved more profitable than having plantations. Hawkins path of the slave trade was sailing to the West African coast. Sometimes he had the help of other black natives who were corrupt. They helped him kidnap villagers. He then crossed the Atlantic and sold his goods to the Spanish.
The profit he made from selling slaves was enormous. It is so remarkable that Queen Elizabeth I granted him a special coat of arms.
He was made the treasurer for the British Navy in 1577. The Lord High Admiral, Charles Howard, knighted him in 1588 after the Spanish Armada was defeated.
He concluded his slave trade in 1567 not out of repentance. He stopped because his fleet of ships, including one commanded by his cousin, had to find shelter in the Gulf of Mexico. The fight with the Spanish caused him to lose many men.
He escaped in one ship and his cousin escaped in another. They lost 325 men and depleted his logistics and his human resources. Of course, he still recorded a profit.
In 1595 his cousin followed him on a treasure-hunting mission to the West Indies. They attacked San Juan in Puerto Rico. They were unable to break through their defences. During the voyage, they both fell sick. Hawkins died on 12 November 1595 and was buried at sea off Puerto Rico. Drake also died on 27 January and was buried at sea off the coast of Portobelo in Panama.
Hawkins was succeeded by his son, Sir Richard Hawkins.
England banned slavery in 1772 but the trade-in Africans had already become a ‘thing’. The Slave trade went on until the 19th century.
Hawkins has numerous public monuments in his name in Plymouth, as well as Sir John Hawkins Square. It is a slap in the slave to the numerous Africans he profiteered off.
There is no talk of reparation or financial support for African states that were affected by his vile acts. Many Africans were killed and enslaved by Hawkins and Drake. This article is dedicated to the millions that perished who went unacknowledged.