Slave trade authorized since 1501

Slave trade authorized since 1501
By 1501 enslaved Blacks raised in Spain were already seen as a convenient labor force for the colonization of the Americas. Blacks who were not Christianized were banned

ESPAÑA. MINISTERIO DE CULTURA, Archivo General de Indias,



q[ue] no vayan a las yndias/
[conver]tidos ni jereges [ sic ] ni/
convertidos ni moros/ ni judíos/
q[ue] puedan yr esclavos ne/
gros o esclavos q[ue] ayan/
naçido en poder de [cristi]anos/
\yten porqua[n]to nos co[n] mucho cuydado avemos /
de p[r]o cura r la conversion d[e] los yndios a n[uest]ra santa/
fee catolica e si alla fuesen personas sospecho/
sas en la fee a la d[ic]ha con[ver]sio[n] podria dar algu[n]d/
ynpedimento no consintireys ni dareys lug[a]r q[ue]/
alla vayan moros ni judíos ni herejes ni Re/
con[çi]llados ni p[er]sonas nuevamente con[ver]tidas/
a n[uest]ra fee salvo si fuere[n] esclavos negros o otros/
esclavos q[ue] ayan naçido en poder de [cristi]anos n[uest]ros/
subditos e naturales/ 
S[ob]re q[u]e no vayan/
a las Ind[ia]s conver/
tidos, ni hereges, m[ o ]/
ros, y judíos, y si pue/
dan ir Negros escla/


that no converts or heretics or Moors or Jews go to the indies may Black slaves or slaves that have been
born under the power of Christians be allowed to go 


\ also since we must with great care attempt the conversion of the Indians to our holy Catholic faith and
if persons were to go there who are suspicious as to [their] faith [this] could pose some impediment to the
said conversion, you will not allow or cause to go there either Moors or Jews or heretics or ] reconciled
ones or persons newly converted to our faith except if they were Black slaves or other slaves who had been
born under the power of Christians [who are] our subjects and native


About not allowing converts or heretics, Moors and Jews to go to the indies and allowing Black slaves to go

Colonial sugar mill with vertical wooden rolls’ machinery

Colonial sugar mill with vertical wooden rolls’ machinery. Museo del Ron y de la Caña


This document constitutes the earliest recorded mention of Black people in a royal communication in the history of the colonial Americas. After designating Nicolás de Ovando as the governor of La Española in 1501, Spain’s monarchs gave him a set of written instructions as to how he should govern the colony. Instruction 23 referred to the monarchs’ concern for converting the local Amerindians to Catholicism, and to this end, the kinds of people that should and should not be allowed to enter the territory. Amongst those prohibited were Moors, Jews, heretics and recently converted Christians. But from the latter category, one group was allowed: “Black slaves” or other slaves born “under the power of Christians [who are] subjects and natives or ours.” With this strategy, the Crown combined its professed devotion to the spread of Catholicism and its status as the only religion allowed with their interest in securing an enslaved labor force.