Matthias de Souza, an indentured servant, was the only black person to serve in the colonial Maryland legislature. As such he is the first African American to sit in any legislative body in what would become the United States.
Matthias de Souza, one of nine indentured servants working for Father Andrew White, a Catholic priest, arrived at St Mary’s City, St Clements Island, Maryland, in 1634 on the ship The Ark along with White and other European settlers. De Souza was probably of mixed African and European (possibly Portuguese) descent judging by land records that record him being called a ‘Molato’ (Mulatto) by a priest in the colony.
For the first few years he lived in Maryland, de Souza worked for Jesuit priests although the exact details of his activities are not know. Generally such servants built and maintained churches and houses for the Jesuits.
Historic St. Mary’s City History, “Matthias de Souza” https://www.hsmcdigshistory.org/research/history/mathias-de-sousa/; Maryland State Archives and Maria A. Day ‘Exploring Maryland’s Roots: Library: Case Studies’ “Matthias de Souza” http://mdroots.thinkport.org/library/mathiasdesousa.asp.
Chartered in 1672, the Royal African Company was a royally chartered company which had a legally based monopoly on English trade to West Africa until 1698. The monopoly specifically extended through five thousand miles of the western coast from Cape Sallee (in contemporary Morocco) to the Cape of Good Hope (in what is now South Africa).
The Royal African Company traded mainly for gold and slaves (the majority of whom were sent to English colonies in the Americas). Headquarters were located at the Cape Coast Castle (located in modern-day Ghana). The Royal African Company also maintained many forts and factories in other locations such as Sierra Leone, the Slave Coast, the River Gambia, and additional areas on the Gold Coast.
Alexander M. Zukas, “Chartered Companies,” in Encyclopedia of Western
Colonialism since 1450 ed. Thomas Benjamin (Detroit: Macmillan
Reference USA, 2007); K.G. Davis, Royal African Company (London:
Longmans, Green and Co., 1957); Robert Law, ed., The English in West
Africa 1691-1699: The Local Correspondence of the Royal African Company
of England 1681-1699 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).
Gondar is the former capital of the emperors of Ethiopia and remains a regional center to this day. Around 1635, Emperor Fasiladas (reign 1632-67) began construction on a castle in the Gondar Valley near the shores of Lake Tana. The fortification was ideally situated along trade routes and had ready access to wood, water and foodstuffs from the agricultural regions along the northern shore of the lake. Because of these factors, Gondar would be able to grow into the first true Imperial Ethiopian capital. This designation was solidified by Fasiladas’ successor Yohannes (reign 1667-82) who was crowned and died in the city. Despite a growing political importance, early Gondar was not a particularly beautiful city. Charles-Jacques Poncet, a French pharmacologist residing in the capital around 1700, was impressed by the majesty of the Imperial court but not by the mud houses that made up the city.
Cape Town is the second largest city in South Africa and one of the nation's cultural and economic centers. Before the arrival of Europeans, the area was inhabited by San and Khoikhoi peoples. In 1652, Jan van Riebeeck established a small colony on the Cape of Good Hope as a refreshment station for the Dutch East India Company. The station soon became a town as Dutch settlers, attracted by the area’s climate that made the cultivation of European crops possible, continued to arrive. As a result, native pastoralists were evicted from their land, often by force. In 1795 Britain occupied the Cape Colony making Cape Town its military headquarters for the region.
By 1806, the resident population of Cape Town had climbed 16,500, of whom 10,000 were slaves. The city’s slave population was primarily imported from other regions of Africa. After the abolition of the slave trade in 1808, the number of slaves in the city steadily declined, and by 1840 Europeans were the majority. The port proved to be the city’s primary economic base, and when diamonds and gold were discovered inland in the second half of the nineteenth century, Cape Town became one of the primary entry points for the new wave of immigrants.
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