afro european history

“Portrait of an African Man” (c. 1520-30).

Painted by European Artist Jan Mostaert

The identity of this man has been lost to history but there are indications that he was either associated with Margaret of Austria’s court or her nephew, Charles V. The man wears rich clothes, gloves, and holds a sword, all indicative of his important status. The insignia on his hat and bag allude to possible Spanish or Portuguese origins. Although African kings were depicted in paintings of “The Adoration of the Magi”, they were often stereotypical representations. “Portrait of an African Man” is significant because it is one of the only independently painted portraits of a African man that has so far been found from the Renaissance period.

The African Diaspora in Europe

Historical Overview

The history of the African Diaspora in Europe is still largely misunderstood and has not received much recent academic attention. It originated tens of thousands of years ago when human society, in the modern sense, first came into being. During this time, several waves of men and women from the African continent had begun to migrate to Europe. There is sufficient evidence of the existence of African descendants during the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans due to trade and exploration.

Here is a link to one of my previous post on African images on Greek coins.

As infrastructure grew and means of transportation improved, the dispersal of African people continued to increase throughout Europe. Not only were Africans entering Europe, but Europeans were developing ways of traveling deeper into Africa. As Europeans began to trade with local tribe leaders and merchants within Africa, the forced displacement of the African community increased with the sale of members from these African communities. Colonization spread throughout Africa with several European countries claiming land with valuable resources. 

Today, more Africans and African descendants are integrated into European society, but problems continue to exist within different areas of society. Many of these problems differ depending on which culture or country the Africans and African descendants are located. This will be looked at more in depth in regard to Germany, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal. 


John Blanke (16th century) Trumpeter in the Court of King Henry VIII, 1511

The presence in Tudor England of John Blanke is an early example of the role blacks played in the aristocratic courts of Europe. As well as personal servants and horse grooms, many blacks served as musicians. Most commonly, they seem to have played the trumpet or large kettle drums. This tradition continued throughout the early modern period.