Slaves. The Old Plantation, ca. 1790-1800. Watercolor by unidentified artist.
Slaves. The Old Plantation, ca. 1790-1800. Watercolor by unidentified artist.

The revolt of the slaves on the African island of São Tomé 1595

Written by Marco Ramerini. English text revision by Dietrich Köster.

The revolt of Amador, named after the slave who led it, is the most important attempt of rebellion that has ever happened on the island of São Tomé. The revolt of the slaves of the island began on July 9, 1595. The leader of this revolt was from the beginning a black slave named Amador (who was owned by Bernardo Vieira).

The first group of rebels, which amounted to about 200 people attacked the church of Santa Trindade, a parish outside the city, where they killed some whites who were in the church while waiting for the Mass. In the days following this first event the revolt spread and many sugar factories and farms in the areas of Dalengue, Uba Ubundo and Praia Preta were burnt by rioters.

On 11 July 1595 the rebels attacked the city, where in the old market an indecisive battle with the Portuguese took place. The next day they burnt sugar factories and other farms in the areas of Água, Sabão and Dalhmanhe. The number of rebels had continued to increase. The sources report of around 2,000 people in their ranks.

On 14 July there was a great battle near the town that ended with the withdrawal of the rebels, who were defeated and suffered heavy losses. According to sources out of 800 attacking rebels more than 300 were killed. Despite this heavy defeat the rebels did not give up as losers. They divided their forces and attempted to attack the city from several sides. But this attempt also failed prompting an intervention by the Portuguese.

Map of São Tomé by Johannes Vingboons (1665). No Copyright

Map of São Tomé by Johannes Vingboons (1665)

The rebels, however, continued to keep the city under siege. On 23 July the Portuguese attempted a break-out to remove the siege. This action provoked a harsh reaction from the rebels, who tried in the days following the final conquest of the city. The battle that decided the fate of the rebellion began at dawn on 28 July 1595, when 5,000 rebels stormed the city.

The attack lasted about four hours. The attackers, who were in superior numbers compared to the defenders, however, were rejected by the artillery and the trenches that in the meantime the Portuguese had built. According to documents the rebels lost 200 to 500 men in the clash. But the most important thing that they lost was the belief of being able to continue the revolt successfully. The very next day there were the first defections in the ranks of the rebels. In a short time about 4,000 rebels asked for forgiveness, leaving the leader of the revolt Amador only with a few diehards behind. He took refuge in the forest, but was captured in mid-August and then killed. The revolt left the island’s economy devastated. It seems that a total of about 60 sugar factories were destroyed.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Source of this story is the story of the revolt of Amador narrated by Father Manuel de Rosario Pinto in chapter XXV of his “Historia da Ilha de São Tomé” in 1732 and published on pages 304-310 of Appendix II of the book by Robert Garfield “A history of São Tomé Island, 1470-1655. The key to Guinea” San Francisco, 1992.

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