Leo Sperling comments {letter, Aug. 14} on a speech by a Black Muslim leader, Abdul Alim Muhammed, referring to Jews as slave traders. Mr. Sperling accuses Mr. Muhammed of "virulent racism and calculated hatemongering" because, according to Mr. Sperling, there is "not a shred of evidence, not even a suspicion" that Jews were involved in the slave trade.

I will not speculate as to Mr. Muhammed's purpose in referring to Jews as slave traders. However, Mr. Sperling should know that there is substantial evidence about the involvement of Jews in the Portuguese slave trade. Escaping persecution in the Iberian peninsula, Jews, who had been forced to convert and were called the "new Christians," helped establish the Portuguese colonies of Cape Verde and Sao Tome -- slaving entrepots where slave labor was the basis of the economy. Like other merchants in Africa, Jews dealt in the commodities of the day, including slaves, many of whom were exported to Brazil, where Jewish capital played a significant role in this period.

We need to learn more about each other's histories, as well as our own. Whatever one's ethnic group, we are all the progeny of slaves as well as kings, of judges as well as scoundrels. Furthermore, there is no ethnic group today whose history, culture and, indeed, blood has not long been intermixed with that of others -- Jews and Africans included.

Finally, let us not appeal to "facts," while making claims (as does Mr. Sperling) of belonging to "the first people to codify laws" about servitude or anything else "as a mandate from God" -- particularly before finding out what people in Africa, China, India and elsewhere were doing when Moses walked the earth. AUGIE ELLEN Washington