The gripping story of a 17th-century Black Italian prince and his mark on history

Jul 16, 2017 482

BY: Bobbi Booker

Long before the tenets of slavery reached American soil, it was an accepted institution across Europe. Slavery, whether the person were Black or white, was considered a finite period in one’s life and not a permanent definition or status of one’s place in society. Once released from enslavement, a person could (and often would) become an accepted and working member of society. Research has shown that racial distinction, as we know it today in America, was not a barrier, and often non-white Europeans were not prevented from integrating into society.

Like many portions of early modern Europe, Renaissance Italy had slavery. Renaissance Europe’s most powerful and influential were entertained by African drummers, and cardinals were known to chase down their escaped slaves. The story of the rise and fall of Alessandro de’ Medici — the Florentine duke whom Black historian Arturo Schomburg called “the Negro Medici” in a 1931 edition of the NAACP’s Crisis magazine — is the stuff of legend and myth.

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