Black History Month

During #BlackHistoryMonth everyday a tweet about Amsterdam’s Black History.

1 – Franciscus Thomas from Sierra Leone


On 1 february 1698 Franciscus Thomas from ‘Sierra Liona in Africa’ and Truijtje Hendricx from Amsterdam posted their banns in Amsterdam. Two weeks later they married in the Old Church. Franciscus Thomas was working as a ‘droogscheerder’ in the textile industry. He lived in the Egelantierstraat in de Jordaan area. #1

2 – Francisco from Angola – ensign in Brazil


Francisco from #Angola was a vaandrig (ensign) in the Dutch army in #Brazil, after the Portuguese takeover in 1654, he settled in #Amsterdam, where he lived in the Jodenbreestraat on the corner of the Markensteeg, ‘under the angel’. He died in January 1659. #2

3 – Alida Clara Carles from Berbice


On 25 December 1784 Alida Clara Karles/ Charles was buried at St Anthonies Cemetery in #Amsterdam. She was born in the Dutch colony of #Berbice, her mother was the free black woman Quassiba. Together with her husband she ran a bar in Pieter Jacobszdwarsstraat. #3

4 – Swarte Klaas


‘Swarte Klaas’ (Black Klaas) was a famous street figure in #Amsterdam in the 18th century. Klaas was a Black man who had lost his legs, maybe as a sailor. He was portrayed by different artists. Klaas died around 1800 in Amsterdam. #4


5 – Pieter Claesz Bruin and Lijsbeth Pieters

In 1649 44-year old sailor Pieter Claesz Bruin from Brazil married Lijsbeth Pieters from Angola. They were an important couple in the small black community around de Jodenbreestraat in Amsterdam. They were the godparents of different Black children born in the area. Like Pieter, the son of Alexander van Angola and Lijsbeth Dames and Catharina, the daughter of Louis and Esperanza Alphonse. The children were baptized in the House Moyses.

Read more about Pieter Claesz Bruijn and Lijsbeth Pieters in ‘Black in Rembrandt’s Time‘ and in Dutch in TSEG.


6 – Francisca

In the 1630’s Francesca clearly played a important role in the the formation of a Black community in #Amsterdam. According witnesses, Francisca would ‘receive in her house all the black men who come to this city.’

7 – Theatre

"Dito voor drie morijanen in Salomon f3"

Monday 11 April 1650 three Black men were paid a guilder each to perform in the play ‘Salomon’ in the Municipal Theatre. Unfortunately their names were not registered, but entries like this show that Black people performed in theatre in C17th Amsterdam. The anonymous performers were almost certainly members of the same community as Pieter Claesz Bruin and Lijsbeth Pieters.


They were ‘extras’ in the play, but were paid considerably more than the 10 soldiers in ‘De gestrafte kroonzught’ (La crueldad por el honor) later that month. The 10 soldiers had to share 3 guilders, earning only 6 nickels each.


8 – Louis Zamore van Wicky


This is Louis Zamore van Wicky (1778-1805) hours before his early death in #Amsterdam in 1805. Louis Zamore was a draughtsman born in the plantation colony of #Berbice (now part of #Guyana).


Louis was the son of a Black woman and plantation owner Emanuel de Correvont. The name of his mother is unknown. He had a sister in the Netherlands named Lisette, who is almost certainly watching over het brother’s deathbed in this drawing.


In 1802, Louis Zamore enrolled at Municipal Drawing Academy. He was a student of painter Jurriaan Andriessen and lived with the Andriessen family. In July 1805, Louis suddenly contracted a severe fever and died two days later. He was buried at the Zuiderkerkhof cemetery.


As far as I know, no artworks by Louis Zamore van Wicky are known. Zamore van Wicky was one of the main characters in the @Stadsarchief exhibition ‘Amsterdammers and slavery’ in the summer of 2020.

9 – The Charles Family

Maria Santje Charles (1838-1914) and Hendrik van Guinea Charles (1827-1899). Maria and Hendrik were children of Johannes Charles (1793-1872), survivor of the transatlantic slave trade.

Their father was born in (present day) Ghana, as a child he was captured, enslaved and taken to Suriname, where he was sold to a merchant. In 1817, J. Charles was emancipated to move to the Netherlands as the servant of Majorin Elisabeth Bijval, herself born in slavery in 1776.

Majorin Elisabeth Bijval was a sister of Jacob Beeldsnijder Matroos. Jacob Beeldsnijder Matroos is buried at the @OudeKerkAMS on September 27, 1817.

Johannes Charles had to leave his two-year old son Gideon and hist wife Charlotte in Suriname, where they lived in slavery until januari 1863. Half a year before the legal abolition of slavery in the Dutch colony.

In the Netherlands, Johannes Charles married Elisabeth van Eijbergen from Rotterdam. They settled in Amsterdam and had ten children. Thanks to several letters that survived, we know that Gideon, who was left behind in Suriname, was in touch with his family in The Netherlands.

A few years ago the Charles Family brought Gideon’s letters, some of them written when he was still enslaved, the photo’s and othere family documents to the @stadsarchief. The letters are digitized and are available for research.

10 – Dominicus


On 10 February 1668 Dominicus, “a Black out about 10 or 12 years of age”, was baptized in de Oude Kerk in #Amsterdam. Dominicus lived with Claes Philipsoon on Oude Waal.


We don’t know much about Dominicus. Was he brought to the city as an enslaved child? Was he a child servant in the house of Claes Philipsoon? Like this boy in Haarlem, painted by Frans Hals?


On the same day in the same church a son of Jan Six was baptized, in presence of mayor Nicolaas Tulp his grandfather. Both Jan Six and Nicolaas Tulp were painted by Rembrandt, mother Margareta Tulp by Govert Flinck. Did they see Dominicus in the church that day? What did Dominicus think?

Winter in the 17th Century

Life was tough in seventeenth century Amsterdam. The winters were very cold. This extraordinary painting by Jan de Bray (1662) makes you think about what it was like for migrants from warmer areas like Angola, Sao Tome or Pernambuco to live in the cities of the Dutch Republic?

“Zwarte jongen warmt zijn handen aan kooltjes”, Jan de Braij, 1662

Jan de Bray (1626/1627-1697) lived and worked in Haarlem. The painting is in the collection ‘Groot Constantia Homestead’ in Cape Town.

Maria Gay

Zuiderkerk, Amsterdam, 1663

Probably the most poignant example of how harsh the conditions were in Amsterdam, is that of the 18 year old black woman Maria Gay who was baptized in the Dutch Reformed Zuiderkerk in the 1650’s. After her feet were frozen, her legs had to be amputated in the hospital in Amsterdam. Maria Gay ‘with wooden legs’ lived in Amsterdam until the late 1670’s

Swarte Klaas

Swarte Klaas, circa 1770 (Collection Stadsarchief)

Maria Gay’s story also reminds us of the images of the famous Amsterdam street figure ‘Swarte Klaas’. A black man without legs, who lived in Amsterdam in the second half of the eighteenth century. Maybe a former sailor, like Joseph Johnson in London in the early nineteenth century.

Swarte Klaas in front of the CIty Theater of Amsterdam, 1775 (Collection Stadsarchief)

Clara van Bengalen (ca. 1759-1771)

Onlangs werd dit prachtige portret van Joanna de Silva uit Bengalen aangekocht door het Metropolitan Museum. Joanna de Silva, zo blijkt uit een opschrift op het schilderij, verzorgde de kinderen van de Britse Luitenant Kolonel Charles Deare. Niet vaak kom je zo’n mooi portret van een (waarschijnlijk slaafgemaakte) bediende tegen. Het portret werd in 1792 geschilderd door William Wood (1769-1810).

De afgelopen jaren kwam ik in de Amsterdamse archieven meer dan twintig mannen, vrouwen en kinderen uit ‘Bengalen’ tegen, die voor korte of langere tijd in de stad verbleven in de zeventiende en achttiende eeuw. Vooral zeemannen en (slaafgemaakte) bedienden. Eén van hen was Clara, een jong meisje dat in 1771 werd begraven op het Leidse Kerkhof. Clara woonde in het Aalmoezeniersweeshuis, het armenweeshuis van Amsterdam. Waar het leven zeer hard was.


Het slaafgemaakte meisje Bietja, 1784. Jan Brandes (Rijksmuseum)

Midden in de winter van 1768 zwierf het kleine meisje moederziel alleen over straat in Amsterdam, totdat iemand haar tussen kerst en nieuwjaar naar het weeshuis bracht. Waar ze een klein deel van haar verhaal vertelde. Dit werd als volgt opgetekend in het ‘innameboek’ van het weeshuis:

Clara van Bengalen, oud 8 1/2 jaar

Sijnde als een Slaafvinne met Capt Johannes Sigismundis Hoeve omtrent een en half jaar geleden van Bengale alhier mede gebragt en is nu wederom met zijn vrouw met het schip De Vrouw Cornelia Hillegonda na Indien vertrokken en dit slavinnetje alhier gelaaten. t welk loopt swerven en niemand is die het zelve kint wil na sig neemen.”

Inschrijving Clara van Bengalen, 8 1/2 jaar oud in het Aalmoezeniersweeshuis.
Aalmoezeniersweeshuis, Stadsarchief Amsterdam

Clara zou de rest van haar korte leven in in het weeshuis wonen. Twee jaar en drie maanden later, op 18 april 1771, werd zij begraven op het Leidse Kerkhof, nog geen 11 jaar oud.

Tekening Leidse Kerkhof door Gerrit Lamberts, 1815 (Collectie Stadsarchief Amsterdam)

In de zomer van 1767was Clara, als 7-jarig meisje in slavernij, meegenomen naar Amsterdam door VOC-kapitein Johannes Sigismundis Hoeve. Toen Hoeve na een halfjaar weer naar Azië vertrok, liet hij Clara aan haar lot over in de stad.

Clara was niet het enige slaafgemaakte Aziatische kind dat in een stedelijke armeninstelling terecht kwam. In de tentoonstelling ‘Amsterdammers en slavernij’ in het Stadsarchief was afgelopen zomer het verhaal te zien van een baby die naar het weeshuis werd gebracht: Hanibal van Moston, kind van twee Aziatische ouders, die door een dominee naar de Republiek werden meegenomen.

Mixed marriages in Amsterdam

Mixed marriages have been part of European cultures for centuries. Here you’ll find some examples first published in a Twitter thread (december 2019).

In 1593 Bastiaen Pieters from the kingdom of Manicongo in Africa maried the widow Trijn Pieters from Amsterdam.


On the 5th of january 1658 Agnietje Cornelis from Lippstadt (Germany) and Anthoine Zanderts from Angola went to city hall Hall (now the Royal Palace) to registered their marriage in Amsterdam.


In 1761 Augustinus Schut from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) married Aaltje Veld from Amsterdam. In 1752 he was baptized together with the Surinamese Johannes van West and Maria Magdalena in De Nieuwe Kerk at Damsquare.


In 1806 Willemina Balk married Justus Gerardus Swaving in Amsterdam. Willemina was the daughter of a planter in Berbice (Guyana) and a free black woman. In the drawing she prepares a West-Indian meal for painter Christiaan Andriessen.

In 1824 Johannes Charles married Elisabeth van Eijbergen in Rotterdam. Later they moved to Amsterdam. Charles was born in Ghana, sold in to slavery in Suriname, and came as a free servant to the Netherlands.

Mark Ponte

Children of Johannes Charles and Elisabeth van Eijbergen

Lea van Bali (ca. 1668-1738)

A life in documents

Lea was born or sold in slavery in Asia, but lived almost 50 years in Amsterdam. She arrived with Jan Parvé and Ida Castelijn from Batavia (Jakarta) in Amsterdam. Most probably in 1690 when Parvé was admiral of the VOC return fleet. In 1691 Lea lived with Ida Castelijn at the Keizersgracht, probably as a servant.

On 21 december 1691 ‘Lea van Balij gewesene slavinne’ (‘former slave’) is baptized in the Westerkerk.

Doopinschrijving Lea van Balij
Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam

It is not clear how long Lea stayed in the house of the Parvé/Castelijn family, but 17 year later she was living in the Leidse Dwarsstraat. In 1708 she marries Nicolaas Baltus from Ambon (Maluku Islands). Lea is then about 40 years old. A month before their daughter Hester is baptized in the the ‘Nieuwe Kerk’ at Damsquare. Interesting enough the witness Esther Jans van Bantam is also from Indonesia.

31 July 1708, baptism of Esther

On 17 august 1712 daughter Elisabeth is baptized in the same church, again witnessed by (H)Ester Jans.

Nicolaas Baltus died a little more then six years later, in 1719. On the 12th of January Nicolaas was buried at the Karthuizer cemetery. According to the registry the family was living in the Goudsbloemdwarstraat in the Jordaan at that moment.

Karthuizer cemetery, 1728

Almost a year after the dead of her first husband Lea van Bali marries Jan Davidse van den Heuvel from Amsterdam.

Lea’s second marriage

1728 is a sad year for Lea. In February, her second husband Jan dies and in July her daughter Hester. The family then lives in Goudsbloemstraat, between Brouwersgracht and the Eerste Bloemdwarsstraat. Jan leaves three children, probably from his first marriage.


Brouwersgracht and the Eerste Bloemdwarsstraat

Ten years later, 21 march 1738, almost 50 year after her forced migration to Amsterdam, Lea passes away. She is buried at the Noorderkerkhof.

Registration of the burial of Lea van Balij, 31 march 1738.
Noorderkerk and cemetery

This post was first published as thread on Twitter (ook in het Nederlands)