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Debunking Columbus As A Slave Owner And Slave Trader

"Radio Voice Italia: Christopher Columbus University" is an online podcast narrated by Robert Petrone, Esq., a civil rights author and attorney, and local Philadelphia expert on Christopher Columbus. Below are bullet points to one of his episodes. If you want to hear more on the topic please click on the Episode ## link provided to listen to his podcast.




The following notes are from Episode 39
  • FACT: Columbus NEVER owned slaves, ever!

  • When Columbus met the Tainos, he befriended them, and lauded to the monarchs how gentle and friendly they were so they would not be considered a threat and to dissuade the crown from waging war against them.

  • As long as Columbus was governor of the West Indies the Tainos were never treated as conquered people.

  • And when the hidalgos took slaves against Columbus' wishes, Columbus found a way to ferry the enslaved Tainos to Spain to be liberated by the Crown and the church.

  • Columbus successfully petitioned the crown to issue a royal decree that “all the Indians of Hispaniola were to be left free, not subject to servitude, unmolested, and unharmed and allowed to live like freemen under law just like any other in the kingdom of Castile.”

  • As much as Columbus continues to persuade the crown NOT to enslaves the Indians, he also acknowledges that it's their command he follows. After all, he is a servant of the crown. In a letter to the court of Spain Columbus says, "he will bring them as many slaves as THEY ASK taken from the IDOLATERS." But he assures them he has not been able to find any idolaters in his voyage.

  • Columbus urged the monarchs to grant the Tainos the protection from slavery that baptism afforded.

  • Columbus' is often misquoted as saying, "They would make fine servants..." (and the ellipsis purposefully leaves out crucial context.) The actual translation is, "They MUST BE good servants, and intelligent, for I can see that they quickly repeat everything said to them." Columbus is complimenting the native's abilities. His use of the word "servants" does not mean Columbus wants to enslave them or thinks they would make good slaves. Columbus was a servant of the crown (not a slave). Even the native chiefs had servants of their own. More about these truths can be uncovered on our meme page.

  • When Roldan and his hidalgo conspirators rose up in armed rebellion against Columbus over his slavery prohibition, they forced him to sign an agreement allowing the hidalgos to take slaves. Columbus outwitted them by taking the enslaved Tainos with him back to Spain where they were liberated by the crown and church. Columbus advocated teaching the Tainos skills so they could live productive free lives in Spain.

  • Columbus often took willing passengers on his journeys. On his first voyage he took Jews to help them escape persecution from the Spanish Inquisition. On his second voyage Columbus freed captured Tainos from the Caribs and returned them to their own islands. And on the third voyage he freed the Tainos from their hidalgo masters.

  • Robert Petrone refers to these acts as the first "underground railroads" of the new world.

  • In Columbus' altercations with the Carib cannibals, prisoners of war, were sent back to Spain to be held accountable for their crimes.

  • Columbus detractors like to point to this as him transporting slaves to Europe. But in fact he was sending Carib enslavers as prisoners to stand trial.

  • Columbus managed to quell 5 hidalgo revolts over this slavery issue.

  • De Las Casas blamed Ojeda for the transport of tribal peoples as slaves.

  • De Las Casas wrote, "He [Ojeda] was the FIRST to commit injustice on this island by using authority he did not possess. Likewise he plagued the continent and other islands that had never offended him and captured a great number of indians whom he sold in custody as slaves."

  • Hidalgos wrote letters to the crown complaining about Columbus and his brother describing them as "foreigners" having no experience controlling "people of quality"

  • Columbus wrote his own letters to the crown asking they send someone who the hidalgos would listen to. So the monarchs sent Francisco De Bobadilla to investigate what was going on. And this is when the atrocities truly began.

  • Upon arriving to Hispaniola, Bobadilla allied himself with the hidalgos, arrested Columbus and his brother, and sent them back to Spain in chains.

  • Bobadilla, showered his men with gold and allowed them to rape and enslave Tainos.

  • Del Las Casas, "Protector of the Indians" witnessed all of this. He wrote that Bobadilla told his men, "Take as many advantages as you can since you don't know how long this will last." Also, "Bobadilla gave whole tribes to the hidalgos as slaves. thus making the hidalgos very happy...The Spaniards loved and adored Bobadilla in exchange for such favors help and advice because they knew how much freer they were now than under Columbus."

  • When Columbus proved his innocence he was set free, all titles and honors restored, but experiencing all the troubles the hidalgos gave him, he did not want to be governor any longer. So the crown sent Nicolas de Ovando to relieve Bobadilla. But Ovando would turn out to be just as bad as Bobadilla if not worst.

  • De las Casas blamed Ovando for instituting the "allocation system" where slaves were allocated to the hidalgos.

  • Columbus constantly reported to the crown Ovando's mistreatment of the Indians which lead to the royal decree mentioned above, “all the Indians of Hispaniola were to be left free... etc.."

  • The African slave trade did not start until 10 years after Columbus' death.

  • Slavery was very much a part of the Americas long before Columbus arrived. It's still practiced today in parts of the middle east, communist china, and North Korea.

  • But it was western culture, Christians, that eventually brought an end to slavery and as you can see from the above facts Christopher Columbus was our first abolitionist.

  • More information and details can be learned by listening to the podcast.

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