Bartolomé de las Casas and the African Slave Trade

Posted on April 12, 2016



A revisionist view of Bartolomé de las Casas as the ‘author’ of the introduction of African slaves to the Indies/Americas in the early 16th century. The article details Las Casas’ thinking and actions and concludes that while Las Casas did—among other contemporaries—suggest the importation of African slaves to lift the burden of oppression off the Amerindians, his perspective and view was altered radically in the last third of his life. The article explores the meaning of African slavery in the context of the place and time where Las Casas grew up—Andalucia in southern Spain—where slavery was quite different from the way it developed on the plantations of the Americas. And the article relates how Las Casas’ theoretical and practical defense of Amerindians eventually was extended by Las Casas’ into a defense of liberty for all men, including African slaves.

Published in

History Compass

Volume 7, Issue 6, pages 1526–1541, November 2009