Many people believe that interracial families and multiracial people are a relatively new thing. But, while our numbers are growing really quickly these days, mixed-race families are definitely nothing new. There is tons of historical evidence that families like mine have been around for many centuries, long before the United States was even founded. Throughout Europe, African migration (some through slavery and some by choice) resulted in the birth of a multitude of multiracial people .
This week’s Famous Friday is one of those prominent multiracial people from the 1500s! Alessandro de’ Medici was believed to be the child of a famous Florentine banking family heir Lorenzo de’ Medici and an Afro-European woman named Simunetta. Some believe that Simunetta da Collevecchio was a slave to Alessandro’s grandmother Alfonsina Orsini de’ Medici who lived in Naples, Italy. His nickname was “Il Moro”, which means “the Moor”, due to his dark features. In 1532, at only 19 years old, Alessandro became the Duke of Florence. Many believe that made him the first “black” head of state in the Western World. I assume that means he may have been the first multiracial head of state. That is a pretty cool accomplishment, especially for a teenager, but many do not believe that he was a great leader.
In 1536, Alessandro married the daughter of Charles V Margaret of Austria. His only children were not had born to his wife, however. His children Giulio di Alessandro de’ Medici andGiulia de’ Medici were born to his mistress, Taddea Malaspina.
Alessandro is the subject of a new book by Catherine Fletcher, The Black Prince of Florence, and I really look forward to reading it to learn more about him and race during the Renaissance era.
Featured image: “Medici Chapel roof” via Flikr.
Karson Baldwin – President, Project RACE Kids