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King Affonso I of Congo

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King Affonso I, the venerated king of Congo, is one of the most influential and groundbreaking characters in the history of Africa. Once he converted to Christianity and became king, Affonso realized the abhorrence of slavery withing his state, for it was completely destroying his country through depopulation. Consequently, he sent a letter to King John of Portugal in 1526, outlining his hopes to eradicate Portugese influence upon his country. Ultimately, King Affonso I of Congo proves to be one of the most innovative modern-day thinkers of his time, for during his captivating life, he was the forerunner in the abolition of slavery, all of which was outlined in his letter to King John of Portugal.

King Affonso I of Congo, known as the “people’s king,” was a man who saw his country not as a group of separate cultures, but rather, as a unified nation (Billings 22). When he was crowned king, he changed his name from Nzinga Mbemba to King Affonso I, hoping to indicate his newfound faith and power. When the New World was discovered, a new labor force was needed to grow the cash crops, especially sugar cane in the Carribean. The Portuguese began to negotiate with King Affonso of Congo, convincing him that the slave trade would make him very profitable. King Affonso agreed and the slave trade began. The trade began as thousands of slaves were shipped to the Carribean in the first year, escalating to millions shortly thereafter. However, Affonso soon realized that the immense exportation of slaves had gotten out of hand, for the Portugese began trading with the chiefs instead of him directly, thus undermining his authority.

Additionally, when he was converted to Christianity in 1525 A.D, he realized the violation of human rights which his people experienced. Furthermore, in 1526 A.D, he wrote a letter to Lisbon complaining about the corruption of the Portuguese slave traders, saying they were “completely depopulating” his kingdom. However, this didn’t stop the Portuguese. They won a short war against Congo, and even after King Affonso I died, the trade continued.

King Affonso’s letter to King John of Portugal in 1526 A.D. expressed several demands, all of which hoped for an increase in human rights and more prosperity for the people of Congo. The letter first stated that the kingdom of Congo was being ruined in several ways. This demolition was being caused by the excessive freedom given by the Portugese men and merchants who were allowed to come and set up shops, selling goods which were prohibited by Congo’s government. Congo’s own chiefs didn’t obey the government, mimicking the Portugese, for they became much more wealthy than the government itself. By them not obeying the government, they were not only destroying the security and peace of the kingdoms, but also, their human rights. The damage that the Portugese did couldn’t be estimated, for the mentioned merchants were trading Congo’s natives, the sons of the land, noblemen, vassals, and even Affonso’s own relatives.

They were all being brought into slavery, which at first was profitable, yet later completely destroyed the kingdom, due to the depopulating effect it had. The thieves and men who had no morals grabbed these slaves, wishing that they could have the riches that the government of Congo possessed. This corruption ran extremely deep, for the people didn’t even see the depopulation of Congo. In order to avoid an outbreak, Congo only needed a few priests and a couple of people to teach in the schools, for the rest were all corrupt slave-traders. The only goods that Congo needed were wine and flour, which were both needed for the Christian ritual of holy sacrament. The kingdom of Congo pleaded for help and assistance from the Portugese to aid them in this manner, describing the desired factors which should be relayed to the merchants. Finally, and most importantly, the document stated that Congo didn’t want to have the trading of slaves anymore, and even didn’t want to be an outlet for them. Thus, all Affonso desired was an end to the Portugese interference in Congo, exhibiting his strong nationalistic fervor.

King Affonso’s letter to King John of Portugal is one of the most important documents in world history. First of all, it is a forerunner in the abolition of slavery, for it states that the Portugese should end their slave trade within Congo. It also is innovative for its time, for it expresses several notions about basic human nature, an idea which wasn’t fully captivated until the American Revolution. Thus, this document was a predecessor to the American Constitution. Additionally, this document expresses the later nationalistic movements expressed by all of the African colonies in the 19th and 20th centuries. During this time, revolution sparked the freedom of all of Africa’s countries. Affonso’s letter, however, also expresses this nationalistic movement, for he desires a county of his own, free of outside oppression. Thus, Affonso’s letter proves to be far advanced for his generation’s society.

Additionally, this document is one of the most important texts in world history, for it expresses the weakening relationship between African and European countries. At first, several African countries venerated slavery, for the governments became wealthy due to this trade. However, in situations similar to this one, they all realized the harmful effects that slavery brings with it, thus retaliating against their European tyrants. Ultimately, King Affonso’s letter to King John of Portugal proves to be an extremely important document in world history, for overall, it expresses several broad trends of all nationalistic African countries, as well as describing an abolition of slavery for the better good of basic human rights.

King Affonso I, the esteemed king of Congo, is an extremely important character in African history, for he was the precursor to the abolition of slavery and the realization of basic human rights. His letter outlining his demands for the eradication of Portugese influence upon Congo further presents several important trends of Africa, such as nationalism. Thus, King Affonso I is the most revolutionary thinkers of his era, for during his fascinating life, he presented several innovative ideas about basic human rights, all of which are summarized in his letter to King John of Portugal.

Works Cited

Billings, Eric. “The Martin Luther King Jr. of Congo.” African-american Observer. 1 June 2002:


Ellis, Elisabeth Gaynor. World History Connections to Today. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey:

Prentice Hall, 1999.

Shillington, Kevin. History of Africa. Rockridge, Pennsylvania: Palgrave Macmillan, 1995.

Simmons, Lucy. “The Slave Trade.” Slavery Homepage. 22 May 2001. New Trier Academics. 16 May 2004 .

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