Theologian Slave Trader

A Personal commentary on Fredericus Svane Africanus’ autobiography

This book is a personal commentary on Federicus Svane Africanus’s autobiography, The General Declaration. Frederik Petersen, as he was christened, was born in 1710, on that part of the Guinea Coast that became famous as the ‘Gold Coast’, in modern Ghana. The little village of his birth was called, Osu, just outside the town of Accra. Frederik’s father was a Danish soldier at the Danish slave-trading fortress of Christianborg. His mother was a local girl from another small village named Teshi. His Danish father, Hendrik Petersen, died early. So at the age of ten, Frederik became a child-soldier and then a schoolboy at the fortress. The Danish pastor at the fortress, Elias Svane, adopted him. The pastor re-christened him, Frederik Petersen Svane. Frederick then went on a long journey to Denmark with his father. King Frederik IV of Denmark, no less, became his godfather and took an interest in his wellbeing. Towards the end of his university education to become a priest, Frederik’s life became so difficult and disappointing, that he escaped back to the Guinea Coast, where he gave up his Christian missionary work and became a slave trader. At one time he was imprisoned for being a traitor. Also he witnessed a full-scale revolt at the fortress, and his life became so miserable that he was repatriated back to Denmark. He then wrote the ten-year autobiography of his time in Africa, The General Declaration, which was a petition for mercy and employment. King Frederik V issued a decree that helped Frederik to gain employment as a parish clerk and teacher. But he encountered many calamities as a village parish clerk and a teacher. One tragic event followed another right into his old age. Finally, Frederik died a blind beggar in 1789 and was buried in a paupers’ grave without a gravestone in the cemetery at Slagelse, Zealand, Denmark.

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