Black History Month: Estevanico, the First African in Texas

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The history of Africans in Texas goes way back to 1528 with the arrival of Estevanico.

He was born in Morocco, captured and taken to Portugal when he was very young, and sold into slavery in Spain.

But Estevanico had a talent that impressed the Europeans: learning languages, eventually becoming fluent in Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese among others.

"Even though he was a slave, he was treated somewhat as a free man because of his knowledge and education," said Sandaria Faye, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas, and author of Mourner's Bench.

He was chosen for the Narvaez expedition from Spain to the new world, landing just north of Tampa Bay. From there, the ships sailed along the Gulf 'til they capsized near Galveston. Then the mission took to land, exploring the Rio Grande Valley and much of what's now Mexico.

The white leaders of the expedition went home, but Estevanico was re-sold to Antonio de Mendoza, the viceroy of New Spain, for another expedition into New Mexico, where he was killed by Zuni Indians.

"Regardless of what his status was in life, being a slave, I don't think he looked at himself as a slave," Faye said. "I think he looked at himself as an explorer."

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