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.
In 1638, having worked for the required four years as an indentured servant, de Souza became a free man. He earned money by continuing to work for the priests. He also traded English goods with Indians for animal furs and food. In 1641 he commanded a small boat on a two month voyage to trade with the Susquehannock Indians. In 1642, de Souza sailed as master of a ketch belonging to the Provincial Secretary, John Lewger.
David S. Bogen, “Matthias de Souza”, Maryland Online Encyclopaedia, http://www.mdoe.org/desousamatthias.html; Historic St. Mary’s City History, “Matthias de Souza ”http://www.stmaryscity.org/History/bio%20Mathias%20de%20Sousa.html; Maryland State Archives and Maria A. Day ‘Exploring Maryland’s Roots: Library: Case Studies’ “Matthias de Souza” http://mdroots.thinkport.org/library/mathiasdesousa.asp
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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