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From Sudan and Senegal to Italy and France, Black Afro-European Abolitionism in the 19th Century: A Story Yet to Be Told
In 1848, the French Second Republic abolished slavery. Credit for this was given mostly to the politician and journalist Victor Schoelcher. Forty years later, Pope Leo XIII started a catholic campaign against slavery, at the head of which he placed the well known French Cardinal Charles Lavigerie, archbishop of Algiers and Carthage (Tunis). In both cases, the protagonists were apparently only Europeans. In this paper I will try to step outside this traditional Eurocentric narrative to emphasize some of “Moretti”’s unknown stories. Hailing mostly from Sudan and Lake Tchad, these “Moretti” were Sub-Saharan children “rescued” from slavery by missionaries but then brought and raised in Europe. Some of them joined the anti-slavery campaign when they grew up, providing a peculiar double Afro-European perspective. I will emphasize the contribution of two of them, who became among the first black African Catholic priests of contemporary times: Jean-Pierre Moussa (1815-1860) and Daniele Sorur Pharim Den (1860-1900). The first one was born in Senegal, studied in France, returned to his country and then spent the rest of his days in Haiti; he spoke against slavery at the very end of 1847 and then denounced the link between slavery and colonialism, which took away freedom from African people. Sorur was born in South Sudan and raised at the Collegio Urbano of Propaganda Fide in Rome. A former slave in Sudan, he spoke and wrote against slavery and claimed for himself and for other African intellectuals the right to be protagonists of their continent's future.
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