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Erin D. Somerville

The first Englishman to transport African slaves across the Atlantic. The son of a sea merchant and Mayor of Plymouth, Hawkins inherited the family sea business after his father's death. After early voyages to the Canary Islands, he moved to London in 1560 to seek support for voyages to the West Indian colonies, then under tight Spanish control.

Hawkins's first slave trading voyage departed for the west coast of Africa in October 1562. Upon arrival in Upper Guinea, Hawkins raided Portuguese ships for African slaves and other merchandise. Three hundred slaves were brought to Hispaniola, where he illegally sold them to English planters. The financial gains of the expedition were so extensive that Queen Elizabeth I supported an equally profitable second voyage in 1564, which moved over 400 slaves from Sierra Leone. A third slaving voyage in 1567 also supported by the Queen was not as successful ...