“Europeans had long held slaves but before the 15th century, that slavery was never racialized. As Iberians began to travel to Western Africa, there were still large numbers of slaves from Eastern Europe and the Caucuses in Spain. Coincidentally, the source of enslaved humans began to dry up after the conquest of Constantinople, just as Spanish traders began to bring enslaved Africans back to Europe in increasing numbers. As Debra Blumenthal shows, Spanish law clearly forbade the enslavement of Catholics, and many of the first captured Africans brought to Spain received trials to determine their religious status. Soon, however, Spanish authorities began to accept black skin as prima facie evidence of non-Christianity. Suddenly, then, the law attached meaning to skin color to help buttress an exploitative and expanding system of slavery. This order of events, in which law created racial meaning in the service of exploitation, would be repeated over the coming centuries in the Western Hemisphere.”

Source: Jonathan Booth. Capitalism, Anti-Blackness, and the Law: A Very Short History. Harvard Black Letter Law Journal. Vol. 35. pg. 5. 2019.