Black European voices: The ambivalent reception of Jacobus Eliza Capitein (1717-1747)

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In the early modern period, black European lives were and remained highly visible and exceptional. This article focuses on the experiences and reception of Jacobus Capitein and two other African men who came to Europe as children in the eighteenth century. Jacobus Capitein was enslaved when he entered the Netherlands. He came from the Gold Coast, now part of Ghana, entered higher circles and received a privileged education. Capitein wrote a thesis in theology at Leiden University. As an immigrant amongst the Dutch, his texts were attempts to translate his experiences and memories for a Dutch audience. As a theologist, he addressed the international community of scholars, writing in Latin. Capitein's eighteenth-century study in theology can be seen as a consequence of his conversion to Christianity and acceptance in Christian circles. Gratitude and apology are important elements in his personal narratives but a contrast between his positive individual African-European friendships on the one hand, and the harsh limitations he met in his working life are evident. These simultaneous and contrasting experiences marked the ambivalent reception he received, and help explain why his stay in Europe, and that of many other Africans, remained temporary. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-153
JournalImmigrants & Minorities
Issue number2/3
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Proceedings title: Belonging in Europe. The African Diaspora and Work.
Publisher: Routledge / Taylor and Francis
Place of publication: London
ISBN: 9780415488709
Editors: C. Bressey, H. Adi


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