As one of the first colonies of the Portuguese empire, the
islands of São Tomé, Príncipe and the neighboring small
islands have a terrifying history that still deeply touches
many Africans when they remember the slave trade that
stretched right up to the mid-19th century.
the islands are strategically located 300 km from the coast
of Africa. Their natural ports were transformed by the
Portuguese in the 15th century into "supply stations for the
slave ships". Dutch, Spanish, French, British and Portuguese
ships bought slaves from the continent to transport them to
the colonies of the American continent. Some slaves stayed
on the islands where they were involved in the first African
sugar cane production.
It soon came to slave rebellion in the islands. The first
was stated by Yoan Gato, but failed. Later, the slave Amador
carried out a rebellion that managed to bring two-thirds of
the island under control, and allowed him to proclaim
The rebels were soon defeated and sought to burn down the
plantations in secret rebel villages in the rainforest. The
plantation owners who continued to Brazil with their slaves
thus brought the seeds of the rebellion, and the slave
rebellions quickly developed on the American continent, with
some like it in the Palmares slave kingdom resisting the
colonial power for more than a century.
In São Tomé & Príncipe, agriculture disappeared for the
next 3 centuries. The islands again became a mere trading
station for slaves on their way to America. It was not until
the 19th century that this situation changed with the
introduction of coffee and cocoa. Slavery was formally
abolished in 1869, but even thereafter it continued under
adorned forms - "free men" were hired for a 9-year period
for a fixed salary. The social situation triggered new slave
revolts, and in the early 20th century, an international
boycott of «cocoa slavery» in the Portuguese colony began.
Under new forms, "neo-slavery" continued until the
mid-20th century. The São Tomé & Príncipe Emigration Society
organized the modern variant by "contracting" workers from
the other Portuguese colonies: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea
and Mozambique. This immigration "re-Africanized" the
country when mixed with the "filhos da terra" - the masters
of centuries-mixed Africans and Portuguese. Under Antonio
Oliveira Salazar and Marcelo Caetano's colonial fascism, the
repression was fierce, and in February 1953, more than 1,000
people were executed in less than a week in Batepa.
The massacre made it clear to the population that it
needed to organize, and in 1969 the Movement for the
Liberation of São Tomé & Príncipe (MLSTP), whose two primary
goals were independence and land reform, was formed.