Antão Gonçalves

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Antão Gonçalves was a 15th-century Portuguese explorer and slave trader who was the first European to buy Africans as slaves from black slave traders.

In 1441, Gonçalves was sent by Henry the Navigator to explore the West African coast in an expedition under the command of Nuno Tristão. As Gonçalves was considerably younger than Tristão, his duty was less exploration than it was hunting the Mediterranean monk seals that inhabit West Africa. After he had filled his small vessel with seal skins, Gonçalves, on his own initiative, decided to buy some Africans to return to Portugal. With nine of his crewmen, Gonçalves bought an Azenegue Berber and a black tribesman who had worked as a slave for the Berbers.

By this time, Tristão had arrived at the same place, and the two crews joined together for another purchasing trip, on which they bought 10 slaves, one of them an Azenegue chief. After this, Tristão continued exploration southwards while Gonçalves returned to Portugal.

He embarked on another expedition in 1442, taking the Azenegue chief he had bought the year before. Gonçalves hoped to barter the chief for a number of the Azenegues' black slaves. He received 10 slaves, some gold dust and, curiously, a large number of ostrich eggs. However, this expedition contributed nothing to the cause of exploration; Gonçalves had not even sailed past the Río de Oro.

He was granted a new Coat of Arms for his name.

Not to be mistaken with another Antão Gonçalves, who coasted the Island of Madagascar at the beginnings of the 16th century.

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References[edit]

  • Castlereagh, Duncan. Encyclopedia of Discovery and Exploration - The Great Age of Exploration. Aldus Books London, 1971.