Terms and Names
During the 14th century, a Bantu-speaking people known as the Kongo settled along the western coast of Africa and established a mighty kingdom known as Kongo Kongo.
The center of the Kongo kingdom was its capital city, Mbanza.
Portuguese influence in Kongo increased when Nzinga Mbemba became ruler of the kingdom in 1506. The new king took the European name Afonso I and sought to copy many Portuguese ways. He made Roman Catholicism the official religion of Kongo. He also gave the capital of Mbanza a Portuguese name,
a kingdom established by a Bantu group in western Africa
the capital city of the Kongo kingdom
I the ruler of Kongo from 1506 to 1543
Essential Question 1
As you read earlier, many Bantu-speaking groups migrated from west central Africa throughout the southern part of the continent. This process started sometime around 1000 B.C. During the 14th century, a Bantu-speaking people known as the Kongo settled along the western coast of Africa and established a mighty kingdom known as Kongo Kongo.
The Growth of Kongo The Kongo settled just north of the mighty Congo River, which flowed for nearly 3,000 miles before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The Kongo took advantage of the area’s fertile soil, iron and copper ore, good fishing, and the transportation possibilities of the Congo River. By the 15th century, the Kongo had moved south of the Congo River and imposed their rule over the region’s inhabitants. The territory they now held became known as the Kongo kingdom.
The Kongo Kingdom The center of the Kongo kingdom was its capital city, Mbanza . From there, the Kongo rulers established a highly organized kingdom. The village was the basic political unit of the kingdom. A group of villages made up a district. Districts were grouped together into six provinces. The king appointed leaders known as governors to rule each province. The king was also in charge of the Kongo economy. The kingdom’s people mined iron and copper for their own use and for trade. They also produced pottery and clothing. The king required the provinces to pay taxes every six months. The provinces often made their payments with cowrie shells, a colorful seashell used for money in Kongo.
How did the Kongo kingdom begin? A Bantu-speaking people known as the Kongo settled along the coast of Africa and eventually built the kingdom.
How was the Kongo kingdom organized? A was the basic political unit; a group of villages made up a district and districts were grouped together into six provinces.
Essential Question 2
As the Kongo kingdom thrived, great changes were taking place throughout the world. In Europe, the 1400s marked the beginning of an Age of Exploration. As you will learn in later chapters, this was a time when European expeditions sailed the oceans to explore new lands.
Portugal, a small country located west of Spain on the Atlantic Ocean, led the way. In the early 1480s, Portuguese explorers sailed down the western coast of Africa and encountered the Kongo kingdom. This interaction would bring many changes and eventually great difficulties for Kongo.
Cultural Interaction Initial relations between the Portuguese and Kongo people were good. The two groups quickly engaged in active trade. Kongo offered copper, iron, and ivory to Portugal. In return, the Portuguese provided guns, horses, and various manufactured goods. The leaders of Kongo also were receptive to the Christian religion practiced by the Portuguese. As the two groups traded goods, the Portuguese began sending missionaries to the Kongo kingdom. Missionaries are people who travel to other lands seeking to gain converts to their faith.
The Rule of Afonso Portuguese influence in Kongo increased when Nzinga Mbemba became ruler of the kingdom in 1506. The new king took the European name Afonso I and sought to copy many Portuguese ways. He made Roman Catholicism the official religion of Kongo. He also gave the capital of Mbanza a Portuguese name, São Salvador. In addition, Afonso altered Kongo’s political system to reflect European traditions. He appointed dukes and counts and required them to wear Western-style clothing. Afonso learned to read and write Portuguese and sent many of his subjects to get an education in Portugal. As much as Afonso and his people admired the Portuguese, their good relationship did not last. What eventually drove the two groups apart more than anything else was the growing desire among the Portuguese to use Africans as slaves.
How did interaction affect Kongo and Portugal? Each group received various trade goods they desired, while the people adopted a number of Portuguese ways.
How did Afonso increase Portugal’s influence in Kongo? Afonso made Catholicism the ofﬁcial religion of Kongo. He also gave the capital a Portuguese name and reshaped the kingdom’s political system to reﬂect traditions
Essential Question 3
Kongo had begun supplying the Portuguese with enslaved Africans early in their trade relationship. The Portuguese wanted slaves to work on the overseas lands that they had conquered. In return for providing enslaved Africans, Kongo rulers received European goods they desired. However, Portugal’s demand for slave labor continued to grow. This led to increasingly strained relations with the Kongo kingdom.
Growth of Slavery As Portugal interacted with Kongo, Portuguese sailors continued their voyages of exploration. In the 1470s, the Portuguese had claimed the island of São Tomé off the west coast of Africa. There, they established huge sugar fields in order to satisfy Europe’s growing desire for sugar. These fields required the labor of many workers. As a result, the Portuguese pressured Kongo for more and more African slaves.
The growth of the slave trade began to drain the population of West Africa. As a result, Afonso eventually voiced his opposition to the practice. He urged the Portuguese king to stop. However, his pleas did little good. By the time Afonso died in 1543, the Portuguese were enslaving thousands of Africans each year. The relationship between Kongo and Portugal had begun as a trading partnership that benefited both sides. However, the increasing slave trade eventually caused this relationship to collapse. In 1561, the Kongo kingdom cut itself off from Portugal.
The Kingdom Struggles The Kongo kingdom experienced a period of instability after Afonso’s death. Beginning in the late 1560s, Kongo forces went to war with a neighboring kingdom. Then they had to battle an invasion by a nearby group called the Jaga. Unable to win, the Kongo asked the Portuguese for help. With the aid of Portuguese troops, the Kongo were able to fight off the Jaga. The kingdom slowly regained its stability during the early 1600s.
What were the causes and effects of the slave trade between Kongo and Portugal? The trade arose due to Portugal’s desire for Africans to use as in its colonial holdings; the trade eventually fractured relations between Kongo and Portugal.
What event weakened Kongo after the death of Afonso? a difﬁcult with a neighboring group