Nigra Sum Sed Formosa : Black Slaves and Exotica in the Court of a Fourteenth-Century Aragonese Queen 1 Núria Silleras-Fernández University of California-Santa Cruz Abstract African slaves of Europeans are most commonly associated with images of exploitation as brute labor or domestic servants, as marginalized and discriminated against on the basis of their skin color, and perceived of as of inherently lower status. An examination of the role of black slaves in the royal households of the Crown of Aragon in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, however, reveals that African captives were sometimes given a privileged position at court. African slaves were esteemed as ornamental ﬁxtures and, as such, com- prised yet another element of the exotica with which members of the aristocratic elite sur- rounded themselves in order to convey a sense of wealth and power. Although this may represent yet another dimension of the objectiﬁcation of these slaves, nevertheless, it reﬂects the fact that, prior to the age of colonization and mass-enslavement, Africans could be valued rather than disdained for their appearance. Keywords Queens-Spain–History; Queenship; Slavery– History; Spain–History; Exotic Animals– History; Crown of Aragon (Spain)–History. 1 Th is article is a revised version of
Medieval Encounters – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2007
Keywords: Slavery—History; Queens-Spain—History; Crown of Aragon (Spain)—History; Queenship; Exotic Animals—History; Spain—History
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