Jim Goad writes:
Black Pete’s origins are disputed. It’s generally agreed that sometime in the 1500s or 1600s, Europe’s version of the St. Nicholas legend bequeathed a dark personal assistant upon St. Nick. In some cases it appeared to be a demon and in others a Moor, and in many cases no one bothered to ponder whether there’s really a difference.
Holland’s Black Pete was first incarnated sometime after the 1845 publication of Sint Nicolaas en zijn Knecht (“Saint Nicholas and his Servant”), and it’s the “servant” part that has given the chronically inflamed Race Police at the United Nations a mean case of diaper rash.