Blacks in European history have been a debacle of debate in the past. Blacks possessed a long vibrant history in Europe, which has been the source of dissonance between prominent Europeans. There are many phenomenal contributions blacks have made and some of which currently remains to be seen.
Africans invested immensely to world civilization even though black people have been continuously pressed down and several ancient achievements of black people have been wiped or attributed to other races. World travel often exhibits black achievements. Europe received Africans regularly and in significant numbers from the mid-fifteenth century onward and before. The Mediterranean of that era was a cross-cultural and inter-ethnic area before ancient Greece. Records corresponding to blacks in European history is generally unknown. Contributions from black people in European and world history are endless. Many benefactions were achieved in Africa or other parts of the world. Therefore, it is of critical privilege to share knowledge of blacks in European history who are scarcely taught about. Subsequently, Atlantis, Lemuria, Siberia, Australia, America and other unknown or undiscovered places on earth, there has historically been a black person at the helms of dynamic or tumultuous civilizations. A major factor of black history being lost or forgotten was that of stripping identity. White slave masters/owners changed slave’s names, languages, traditions, and religion/spirituality. Names could determine where a person was from.
10 BLACKS IN EUROPEAN HISTORY
1. ST. MAURICE (250 AD- 287 AD)
St. Maurice or St. Mauritius was one of the blacks in European history whom deserves recognition. He was born in Egypt in AD 250 in Thebes, a city that can be found in Upper Egypt, some credible sources also suggest Nubia, however, in those days, all these names were used to depict anyone from Africa. He was a Roman soldier and was promoted because of his military prowess. He rose to become the commander or General of the Theban legion. It is believed the name Theban derived from the name Thebes which is where Maurice was born. Perhaps the soldiers recruited at that time to the Roman army were all African descent. These 6600 African soldiers were part of the soldiers sent by emperor Maximian Hercules, to fight an uprising of the Gauls (France) known as “Bagade”. According to historians these branches of soldiers who were recruited from Egypt or Africa were devoted Christians, even under arms, they never forgot to give reverence to their God, and render to Caesar the things of Caesar.
In 287 AD, Maurice was issued an order that the entire army should join offering sacrifices to appease the Roman gods before going into battle for the success of their mission but they refused the emperors order. They were required to participate in pagan rites or to harass and kill local Christians. The refusal of the emperor made Maurice a venerated saint. A town named after him Saint Maurice (Aquanum) in Switzerland. The Theban army was commanded by Emperor Maximian Hercules (250 AD-310 AD) to march to Agaunum to clear the Great St. Bernard Pass across the Alps. When Maximian heard the news of refusal for his orders, he became innately furious. He ordered all the Theban soldiers to be decimated by dividing them into groups of ten and select one soldier from each group to be killed. When they continued to refuse the Emperor’s order, the remaining soldiers were again divided by ten with every tenth man selected for execution. The resilience of the soldiers along with the encouragement of their commander (Maurice) caused the entire legion’s demise.
The bravery and the martyrdom of these Theban or African soldiers 150 years later influenced the Church to declare Maurice a saint for his defiance of the Emperor’s orders. Saint Maurice is now widely worshiped in Europe and other parts of the world. On September 22 for the Catholics and December 27 for the orthodox churches, the Germans currently use the black image of him, but some researchers doubt the credibility of Saint Maurice being black as penned by Eucherius of Lyon.
2. CHARLOTTE OF MACKLEMBURG-STRELITZ (1744 -1818)
It is assumed that Meghan Markle is the first black in the British Royal Family. The same way Meghan became a royal is the exact way Queen Charlotte became the Queen of Britain, she is our next black in European history.
Sophia Charlotte was born on the 19th of May 1744. She was the youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Princess Elizabeth Albertina of Saxe-Hildburghausen, a Quzana. Charlotte was born in Mecklenburg-Strelitz a small northern German territory of the Roman Empire. She descended from an African branch of the Portuguese Royal House. Her mother was a black Moorish married into the Portuguese royal family. She was the grandmother of Queen Victoria and the great-great-great-great-grandmother of the current Queen Elizabeth II of England. Charlotte was the wife of King George III and was betrothed to him when she was 17 while king George was 22. She birthed fifteen children, thirteen of whom survived to adulthood. The eldest son was Edward, Duke of Kent, who later fathered Queen Victoria. Charlotte was also the mother of two future monarchs to the British throne thus George IV and William IV, her children with King George are as follows; George the Prince of Wales (1762), Prince Frederick Duke of York and Albany (1763), Prince William Duke of Clarence (1765), Charlotte Princess Royal (1766), Prince Edward Duke of Kent (1766), Princess Augusta Sophia (1768), Princess Elizabeth (1770), Prince Ernest Duke of Cumberland (1771), Prince Augustus Frederick Duke of Sussex (1773), Prince Adolphus Duke of Cambridge (1774), Princess Mary Duchess of Gloucester (1776), Princess Sophia (1777) Prince Octavius (1779), Prince Alfred (1880) and Princess Amelia (1783).
Queen Charlotte was the first Queen to reside in the Buckingham palace. She spoke French, German, and was later taught to speak English. She was also a lover of the arts, especially German composers like Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach. Charlotte was also hailed for discovering another young artist, an eight-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. She was so fascinated in botany that explorer Captain James Cook always presented her with assorted plants from his journeys, and notably, she introduced the Christmas tree to Britain. She founded orphanages and even became the patron of London’s General Lying-in Hospital now called Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in 1809. It was one of the first maternity hospitals in Great Britain. She named a city in North Carolina, Charlotte after herself. During the latter part of her reign, she became the legal guardian to her husband after King George was declared ill.
Unfortunately, the life of this adorable queen began to wobble as a result of the post she took as her husband’s adviser. She one day fought with her son publicly as to who should be on the British throne. Charlotte died sitting in an armchair at the family’s country retreat, while her eldest son was there beside her, holding her hand. She was buried at the exact place Prince Harry and Meghan Markle married at the St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
3. SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (354 AD-430 AD)
Many people also doubt the credibility of St. Augustine’s being an African but whether agree or disagree, he was naturally from Africa and a place called Tagaste (Souk-Ahras) Numidia, in North Africa. Augustine was born in 354, Tagaste, in Algeria and a bishop of Hippo. He is one of our famous blacks in European history. His father was Patricius and his mother was a devout Catholic named Monica Augustine was an important figure in the catholic fraternity. He helped redefine the catholic beliefs, one of his controversial quotes include seeing marriage as a sin. Augustine is recognized as a saint in the Catholic Churches, his memorial celebration is on 28 August, the day of his death.
He was sent to a Roman school at the age of 11, in Madaurus a city about 31 km south of Thagaste. He became vexed in Latin, other African beliefs, and practices. He also studied in Carthage at the age of 17. He had a son named Adeodatus (372–388) with a Carthage woman and later married his 10 years old heiress. Following his studies in Tagaste and later in Carthage, Augustine became a teacher of rhetoric, first in his native town, then later in Rome, and finally in Milan. He was baptized at the age of 33 by Bishop Ambrose of Milan.
He fell sick in the year 430 AD, sources believe his constituents wrote Psalms on a wall in his room so that he could read, pray, and meditate on it. He died on August 28th, during the time the city of Hippo was being sacked and ransacked by the Germanic Vandals. He was canonized and recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII. He was laid to rest in Hippo but was later taken to Sardinia for safe keeping and finally to Pavia in Northern Italy, where he now rests in the Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro.
4. SAINT MARTIN DE-PORRES (1579-1639)
Saint Martin De Porres, his full name Juan Martín de Porres Velázquez was born on 1579 in Lima, Peru. His father was a Spanish grandee named Don Juan de Porres and mother was free black woman called Ana Velázquez from Panama. He was raised in absolute poverty, after his father abandoned the family shortly after the birth of his sister. His mother undertook laundry work for a living. Martin was sent to a primary school for 2 years, but circumstances and the hardships forced him to leave. He was later placed under the care to study with a barber-surgeon, where he learned bloodletting and the administration of medicines. Because of his upbringing, he mostly spent time in prayers and in meditation.
During his time in Peru, segregation and the pending slave trade was so severe that Under Peruvian law, descendants of Africans and Native Americans were not allowed to become members of religious orders. Due to his desire to serve humanity and the poor, he volunteered to become part of the Dominicans at age 15, so he could have the opportunity to care for the sick in the monastery. He later became the one who dispatched money and other materials to the poor. He also did kitchen work, laundry, and cleaning services. Martin was subjected to a lot of racial abuse in the holy Rosary when he was promoted by Juan de Lorenzana to become a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic. One of the novices scolded him and called Martin a “mulatto dog”, while one of the priests mocked him for being illegitimate and a descendent from slaves. This never stopped him from becoming, “the father of the poor”. He was provided a chance to work in the infirmary as a lay monastic in 1601 at age 34. He worked tirelessly in the infirmary caring for others and placing their needs before his own.
He was known for his healing prowess. He fed 160 poor people daily and distributed money every week to African slaves whom he preached to. It is recorded, he once saw an aged beggar covered with ulcers and almost naked, Martin took him to his own bed. One of his brethren at the convent wasn’t happy but Martin replied:” Compassion my dear Brother, is preferable to cleanliness.” He was later forbidden by the authorities to help the poor at the convent, so his sister gave him a house to continue care for the poor. It is believed he took in a man who was dying on the street to his home and cared for him, when the Dominican authorities heard about it, he was severely punished for disobedience. Afterwards he replied, “Forgive my error and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity”. Upon saying those words, he was later allowed to continue what he loved. He established a school to care for orphans and abandoned children in the city of Lima.
St. Martin died on 3 November 1639 at age 59. He was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI on the 29th of October 1837 and was also canonized by Pope John XIII on May 6, 1962. He was an honorable saint for people of mixed race, innkeepers, barbers, public health workers, and many more. He is remembered as Papa Candelo by the Africans in the Caribbean islands; his feast day is on November 3rd. He is also sometimes portrayed to be holding a broom, since he considered all work to be sacred. He is sometimes shown with a dog, a cat, and a mouse eating in peace and harmony from the same dish.
5. ALLESANDRO DE- MEDICI (1510-1537)
The life of this noble man was very short but the name still lingers in Italian history as he is our next black in European history. Allesandro was born in Florence on the 22 of July 1510, his father was Lorenzo di- Medici and according to Christopher Hilbert, his mother was a domestic worker of African descent in the Di-Medici household called Simonetta da Collevecchio, though other researchers dispute but all the same he was known to be black or a mulatto.
Allesandro was sometimes known as Il Moro due to his dark complexion. He was the Duke of Penne, Duke of Florence from 1532, and a ruler of Florence from 1531 to his death in 1537 at the age of 26. He was chosen by Clement VII to be the Duke of Florence when he was 19 years. He married the daughter of Charles V called Margaret of Austria, duchess of Florence and Parma. Allesandro’s rule was described as incompetent, harsh, and is still a matter of debate by historians. Unfortunately, Allesandro was assassinated by his cousin Lorenzino de’ Medici in 1537. He left behind two children, Giulio de’ Medici and Giulia de’ Medici. His assassination was a very tragic incident indeed, he was lured by his cousin Lorenzo, after deceiving him to have sexual encounter with a married woman who is said to be a sister of Lorenzo, Laudomia. He was stabbed by a hired villain, Scoronconcolo before cutting his throat.
6. ANTON WILHELM AMO (1703-1753)
Wilhelm Anton Amo or Antonius Guilielmus Amo was born on 1703 in Axim, a coastal town in the western part of Ghana. He was of the Nzema tribe and was the first black man to study and teach philosophy at the university of Helmsted. He was a Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Arts. His arrival in Europe is still a matter of debate. It is believed he was captured and sent there as a slave, other sources suggest he was presented to the Duke Anton Ulric who later gave him to his son August Wilhelm. He got to Europe (Amsterdam) by the expense of the Dutch West India Company at the age of four, the initial idea was to train him in Dutch Reformed Church to become a minister. He was able to retain his African which insinuates he did not suffer abuse as a slave.
He studied in Halle and in Wittemberg, he was a master of logic, metaphysics, physiology, astronomy, history, law, theology, politics and medicine. He spoke six different languages including Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, German, and Dutch. One of his most notable philosophical quotes about the mind, soul and the body is below:
Whatever feels lives, whatever lives depends on nourishment; whatever lives and depends on nourishment grows; whatever is of this nature is in the end resolved into its basic principles; whatever comes to be resolved into its basic principles is a complex; every complex has its constituent parts; whatever this is true of is a divisible body. If therefore the human mind feels, it follows that it is a divisible body.
He took up a post in philosophy at the University of Jena after the death of The Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel but he was subjected to an unpleasant ambiance by those who opposes him as a black person. The death of his benefactor made life difficult and unbearable for him. He published, “Tractatus de arte sobrie et accuarate philosophandi”, a book which discussed logic and psychology of knowledge. He was expelled shortly after publication because authorities cited his views. Benafactors and friends were deceased by the time of publication and he suffered rcial buse and inequality. In 1747 he decided to return to Axim, his native land. In Ghana, racial perplexities were nonexistent and the support of his living father and sister proved worthy. He was an African raised in Europe from the age of four which sparked challenges for him, since he was naturally African but culturally European. The difference in comparing and sharing his views were contrary to the culture and norms of his people. He lived as a sage and a soothsayer during his return. His way of thinking and understanding was also contrary to his people, which forced Amo to live like a hermit or a monk at the Dutch Fort San Sebastian in Shama during 1750. Amo lived in the fort until his death, there is no concrete date pertaining to his death, he was buried in the same fort. His works was suppressed in Germany by Schiller, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel and other universities he taught but his views and ideas was rekindled by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and William Abraham in 1960.
7. ABRAM PETROVICH GANNIBAL/HANNIBAL (1696-1781)
Abram was born on 1696, like most of our blacks in European history, the exact place he was born is also a matter of debate. His grandson, Pushkin left articles depicting his birthplace in Central African Republic or modern-day Cameroon. He was a prince in Cameroon, the capital of the ancient Kotoko kingdom of Logone-Birn. Abram was captured and sold into slavery and was sent to Constantinople or Turkey. His sister Lagan was drowned at sea while attempting to save her brother from being taken into slavery. He was first sent to the household of Sultan Ahmed III of the Ottoman Empire but was later discovered by Russian ambassador, Sava Vladislavich-Raguzinsky whom was looking for an intelligent, smart, and strong African child to adopt. He was sent to the court of Czar Peter I also known as Peter the Great when he was eight years.
Abram later became one of the most educated men in Russia, royal favorites, and a general. The Czar took him to Metz, France in 1716 to study engineering, geometry, and mathematics at a military school and later to the royal artillery academy at La Fère in 1720. Two years later, he joined the French army and fought in the war against Spain, he was captured during this war but later released to continue his education, it was also in France that he took the name Gannibal as in Hannibal of Carthage, afterwards, he returned to Russia in January 1723. The king traveled extensively with Hannibal in most of his military campaign, acting in full capacity as the general in chief of the Russian Army. He also befriended some great personalities of that time, such as Baron de Montesquieu and Voltaire, it was said that Voltaire used to call Gannibal “the dark star of the Enlightenment”. He also taught mathematics in one of Tsar’s private guard units.
Unfortunately, his Godfather and protector Peter the Great died in 1725 and just like Amo, Gannibal faced prejudice after the king’s death, he was sacked from his duty as a general in the black artillery as a lieutenant by the royal advisor, Prince Menshikov as he is not fond of him, he was assigned to Siberia and later to China. Surprisingly, things turned around in 1741 when Empress Elisabeth took the throne and Hannibal was allowed to officially return from his exile. He married his second wife Christina Regina von Schöberg, the daughter of a Swedish army captain, he bore eleven children with her and one of his sons named Osip was the grandfather of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. Abram rose to the rank of major-general, and became superintendent of Reval which is now in Tallinn, Estonia between 1743 and 1751. In 1760, he was promoted to the rank of a full general, he supervised many projects in Russia such as the construction of the Ladoga Canal and Russian fortresses. He died April 20, 1781, as one of the leading pioneers of his country, the first outstanding engineer in Russian history, and a famous black in European History. Gannibal’s noted and oldest son Ivan Petrovich Gannibal also became an accomplished naval officer who helped found the city of Kherson in 1779 and rose to the rank of General-in-Chief, the second highest military rank in imperial Russia.
8. JACOBUS ELISHA JOHANNES CAPITEIN (1717-1747)
Jacobus was born in 1717 in Elmina, Ghana. He was forcibly taken and sold as a slave in 1725 to Dutch sea captain Arnold Steenhart at the age of 8. Europeans were fond of forcibly taking blacks who were perceived to be witty. His new master and Godfather Jacobus van Goch received him as a gift. He was 11 when his new master took him to Holland, the Hague. He was treated as an adopted son, he was taken to school and he excelled in the study of painting, reading, writing, mathematics, ciphering, and classical languages. He therefore decided to come back to Africa, Ghana to continue his work as a missionary so he was sent to University of Leiden to study theology.
He defended and questioned the slave trade and Christianity, at Leyden University on 10 March 1742. He delivered an oration in Latin on the question, Is slavery contrary to Christian freedom or not? He even argued that though Christian love prevented Christians from treating their slaves with cruelty and allowed that after some time freedom should be allowed to the slave, there was no express command in the Gospel to that end, nor was slavery contrary to Christian freedom. He desired to return to Africa to teach his people but the Dutch authorities. Missionaries, and the traders detested a black man preaching their gospel. On the 8 of October 1742, at the age of 20, he returned to Africa, Elmina, his native land to become a missionary for the Dutch Reform Church. In Elmina, he was met and welcomed by the Director General Jacob de Pettersen, he liked his sermons and gave Jacobus a large room for a school. Within 2 weeks of arrival Capitein had placed a number of black and mulatto boys under supervision of Abraham Zuurdeeg, the Dutch reader in the castle. He taught children the alphabet and other Christian principles. He was also credited for translating “The Lord’s Prayer and Ten Commandments “into Fanti language. Enrollment later doubled to 45 after speaking to chiefs and people of Elmina about his mission and plans for them. The Asantehene Opoku Ware I sent 12 boys and 2 girls to be taught how to read and write. During the pinnacle of his career as a minister, he faced a lot of financial crisis and setbacks. He lacked support by the West Indian Trading Company and his church in Holland. This made him sad and he felt embittered. He was in constant debt, his contact with the locals were also not accepted because he had become too much of a Dutch than Fanti or an African. He also openly opposed the extramarital affairs in which several white Dutch traders engaged in Africa. These instances also made him an enemy to the traders. He wanted to marry a local girl, but the Dutch authorities did not approve so they offered him a white lady, Antonia Ginderdros. They had the first European wedding in Elmina in 1745. Jacobus Capitein died on 1st February 1747 in his early 30’s.
9. JOHN EDMONDSTONE (1700s)
Charles Darwin was one of the most recognized and revered scientists in history but what about the person who taught Darwin, the man who enlightened the world about natural science, botany, and evolution, the one who taught Darwin taxidermy was a black man. He was John Edmondstone and he gave Darwin precepts and encouraging accounts of tropical rain forests in South America.
He was born in Demerara, British Guiana in 1700s. He spent most of the time working on his master’s plantation in Demerara. His owner was Charles Edmondstone, a Scottish politician and plantation owner, this means he took the surname of his master. He often showed great intelligence and was eager to learn so his owner allowed him to learn how to read and write. During the early 1800s, Edmonstone’s owner was visited by his friend and future son-in-law Charles Waterton, who married Charle’s daughter, Anne Edmonstone. He was also a renowned naturalist and explorer, he expressed great affection for Edmondstone, he later taught him taxidermy or the proper way to stuff birds. The two got on well and traveled extensively together on expeditions into the rainforest, that was where Edmondstone learned skills which propelled him to go on to teach Darwin. He gained his freedom shortly after travelling with his master to Glasgow. With his new skills and life in the UK, he fortunately started to earn a living by stuffing birds at the Natural Museum and teaching taxidermy to students at the University. Darwin (16 years old) heard about Edmonstone in 1825. Darwin was living with his brother Erasmus on Lothian Street while studying at the University of Edinburgh. Edmonstone, his future teacher also lived a few doors away. Darwin and his friends later hired Edmonstone to teach them to become naturalist, which was after Darwin couldn’t excel in medicine. These are some quotes from Darwin about Edmonstone. By the way, a negro lived in Edinburgh, who had traveled with Waterton and gained his livelihood by stuffing birds, which he did excellently; he gave me lessons for payment, and I used often to sit with him, for he was a very pleasant and intelligent man”. Darwin paid Edmosntone one guinea a lesson, he also told Darwin stories from his homeland about lush tropical rain forests and exotic flora and fauna (fossils). Within five years, Darwin had acquired great knowledge from a black man and this knowledge help him to secure a place aboard the H.M.S. Beagle as the ship’s naturalist, during its famed voyage in 1831. Those skills he gave Darwin proved vital and indispensable throughout the historic voyage. After all his feats and great impact, he made towards Darwin’s life, nothing is heard from this great black man. If it wasn’t Darwin who mentioned Edmonstone in his autobiography, we will never know of his existence, there is no record of how and where he spent his later years, death, and burial.
10. JUAN LATINO (1518 – 1594)
Juan Latino was born in Baena in 1518. He was a tremendous poet and a scholar who taught in Granada, Spain. Juan de Sessa, his real name suggest he is the son of the Duke of Sessa, as it was told by his enemy, León Roque de Santiago. He was the son of an African slave woman and the Duke of Sessa, Luis Fernández de Córdoba, the famous Spanish war hero. Historians suggests Latino was only educated with his master’s son Gonzalo II Fernández de Córdoba, the Duke of Sessa. He studied letters in the Cathedral school for which he was taught by Pedro de Mota. Latino excelled in Greek, Latin, and music, as he started to originate poems in Latin.
He moved to the University of Granada in 1546 where he received his Bachelor Degree in the presence of the Archbishop Pedro Guerrero and the listener of the Real Chancery, Conde de Tendilla. Latino was 28 years old when he received his Bachelor Degree. With the assistance of the Archbishop, he was employed as a lecturer in grammar and Latin language at the Cathedral school, the same year his teacher (Pedro de Mota) died. Latino held that post for 20 consecutive years. His profound knowledge in Latin, poetry and music granted him access to mingle with the elite in Granada. Latino taught the children of the elite in Granada. He met the daughter of Licenciado Carleval, the Duke’s administrator, Ana Carleval, whom he married in 1547 and 1548. Between 1573 and 1585, Latino published three volumes of Latin poems in which he pointed out the critical and inhuman conditions of blacks. He negated the validity of any religious justification for slavery of Africans. His most famous poem is the “Austrias Carmen,”which was dedicated to Juan de Austria, the hero of the sea battle of Lepanto. The great scholar in Classical Arts and music died on in 1594, there is no accurate record about his children with Ana.
There are numerous Blacks of African decent who had contributed to European and world history that we couldn’t mention or write about, I hope you will forgive us (team) if we did not mention any of your favorite blacks in European history, we are working tirelessly on our research to give you more.