The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe off the west coast of Africa were colonized by Portugal in the fifteenth century. There may have been a few African inhabitants earlier but most of the population arrived during the centuries when the islands served as a slave-trading depot for South America. In the 19th century the islands became the first parts of Africa to grow cocoa. In 1876 Portugal officially abolished slavery but in practice it continued with many Angolans, Mozambicans and Cabo Verdians brought in to work on the cocoa plantations. Because the slave-descended population was cut off from African culture, São Tomé had a higher proportion than other Portuguese colonies of assimilados (Africans acquiring full Portuguese culture and some rights). São Tomé saw serious riots against Portuguese rule in 1953. From 1960 a Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé e Principe operated from neighbouring African territories. In 1970 Portugal formed a 16-member legislative council and a provincial consultative council. Following the Portuguese revolution of 1974 a transitional government was formed. Independence came on 12 July 1975. Independent São Tomé e Príncipe officially proclaimed Marxist-Leninist policies but maintained a non-aligned foreign policy and has received aid from Portugal.
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