Browsing "From Africa to America"

Yankee Slave Traders Dividing Arab Families

In their zeal to load human cargo bound for the New World, New England slavers on Africa’s coast often caught competing Arab slave traders in raids on barracoons. Antebellum North Carolina Governor John Owen (see www.cfhi.net) purchased an Arab in Charleston named “Moro” who had been well educated prior to capture, and like S’Quash below, considered himself above Negro slaves. The author was the son of General Rufus Barringer, and nephew of General Daniel Harvey Hill.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Yankee Slave Traders Dividing Arab Families

“The abolition of the slave trade was voted by the United States Congress in 1790, but the importation of slaves was prolonged by the votes of Massachusetts and South Carolina. North Carolina, which was never at heart a slave State, had always carried a tariff on Negroes. However, the law was finally passed in 1804, to become effective January 1, 1808, that no more slaves were to be imported.

[North Carolinian Robert McDowell travelled to Charleston to purchase slaves off a New England slaver, selecting a large black man who] . . . was a commanding figure. His clear-cut, aquiline features were extremely dark, like a Moor, and his straight black hair and beard, matted and foul from neglect, were not kinky. He was obviously not a Negro. “I will take him,” said Mr. McDowell. “What is his nationality?”

“To tell the truth, I don’t know,” answered the captain . . . ”But I’ve always thought some slave dealer was settling an old score.”

The potential truth of this statement has been borne out by history. With the approaching close of the slave trade, far more ships appeared on the Guinea Coast than could possibly be provided with cargo; so the slave traders made raids upon the slave barracks or barracoons. In doing so, they got a number of Arabs, themselves slave traders, and their wives, concubines, and children. At the last minute, it was “The devil take the hindmost.”

To avoid recrimination and to render the captives less dangerous, the Yankee slave traders divided these Arab families up amongst their various ships, and S’Quash fell to this trader. It was a terrible fate, but no more or less than his system had meted out to others. It was in the final settlement a case of “Winner take all.”

Nine miles out on the King’s Highway, the mile post, which should have carried the Roman numeral IX, had been damaged and replaced with a simple 9, an Arabic numeral. The captive stopped the wagon and held out his hands, showing five fingers of one hand and four of the other, a total of nine, thus proving he could read Arabic and understand at least simple arithmetic, no mean achievement for a slave.

To make a long story short, S’Quash, as he was called in a phonetic effort at his real name, was an Arab of a family long engaged in the slave trade; he had the advantages of travel and education of his day and class in that he had been to Cairo and could read Greek as well as Arabic. Whatever his past, he definitely threw in his lot with the ruling class [and] assigned to . . . the “big house” in order to acquire some English and the pattern of living in this strange land.

He held himself completely aloof from the Negro slaves and would neither live nor mate with them, staying in a hut by himself. [He learned a nearby plantation held] a Dinka Negress and asked permission to marry her. The famous tribe of Dinkas . . . came from what is now called Anglo-Egyptian Soudan [and] . . . In their subtle Arabic caste system she was eligible as a wife and was purchased by [the master] at a substantial figure, $3000, which was a top price.

[Many years later after the War], I was questioned by one of [my] cousins about a queer picture in the attic, “not quite white and quite colored” and did I know anything about it? It was the portrait of S’Quash, and since no one else wanted it, I sent for [S’Quash descendant] Harvey and gave it to him, saying, “Harvey, you should have this for I am sure you are the only Negro in the United States who has the portrait of his great-grandfather who was an Arab slave trader.”

(The Natural Bent, The Memoirs of Dr. Paul B. Barringer, UNC Press, 1949, pp. 10-15)

Antebellum Abolition in North Carolina

The British colonial labor system of African slavery was on the wane after the Revolution, and North Carolinians were active in emancipation and colonization efforts.  The latter operation desired a return of Africans to their homeland, from which they were removed by British and New England slavers.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Antebellum Abolition in North Carolina:

“So far as the records show, it was not until 1715 that the General Assembly acknowledged the existence of slavery in the [British] Province [of North Carolina] and gave it a definite legal status. In 1774 . . . the Assembly passed a law which made the willful and malicious killing of slaves punishable upon conviction in the Superior Court by twelve months imprisonment for the first offence, and death without benefit of clergy for the second.

This law was amended in 1791, so as to render one convicted of the willful and malicious killing of a slave guilty of murder for the first offence and subject to the same penalty as for the murder of a free man . . . in 1817, “the offence of killing a slave” was “denominated and considered homicide” [as in] common law.”

Trial by jury was not extended to slaves until 1793 . . . Crimes trivial in their nature, not deserving punishment greater than a whipping, were entrusted to a single magistrate; crimes partaking of a greater degree of turpitude were committed to the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions . . . ”

F.L. Olmsted, perhaps the closest observer of the slave regime in the [1850’s], remarked that slavery in North Carolina had more of a patriarchal character than in any other State. The humanization of the slave code as regards his life and members of slaves may be attributed to numerous causes. In the first place, the increasing monetary value of the slave caused him to be an object of greater solicitude to his master.

In the second place . . . The Quakers [in North Carolina] were almost constantly importuning the legislature to provide more liberal emancipation laws. The American Colonization Society, with several branches in North Carolina, not only worked for the uplift of the free Negro, but after 1825 was equally interested in securing the emancipation of slaves for the purpose of colonizing them in Liberia. The work of the American Colonization Society was ably supplemented by the North Carolina Manumission Society until about 1834, when, as a result of abolition activity in the State this society ceased to exist.

From 1783 to 1830, it was not uncommon for distinguished North Carolinians to condemn slavery as a moral and economic blight and to express the desire of seeing it put in the way of ultimate extinction. James Iredell, speaking in behalf of ratifying the Federal Constitution in 1788, went as far as to say that the entire abolition of slavery would be “an event which must be pleasing to every generous mind and every friend of human nature.”

The editor of the Raleigh Register, in answering the query “Ought slavery to exist?” said: “We presume but few would answer in the affirmative, and still fewer would be found to advocate the practice as being right in itself or to justify it except on the broad plea of necessity. That it would conduce equally to the interest and happiness of the slaveholding States to get rid of this part of our population none will deny.”

Humanizing the Slave Code, R.H. Taylor, North Carolina Historical Review, July, 1925, pp. 323-330)

Nov 23, 2014 - From Africa to America    No Comments

The North's Bloody Shirt of Imperialism

A chief advisor to Theodore Roosevelt regarding federal patronage for black Republicans, Booker T. Washington gained great influence with Negro newspapers by guiding placement of white business advertising to them. He and those he ensconced in federal jobs “wrote Republican propaganda and placed Republican (paid of course) advertisements in the Negro press during election campaigns.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The North’s Bloody Shirt of Imperialism

“Washington believed that Negroes belonged on the land rather than in cities, in the South rather than in the North. Now he called upon Negroes to “cast down your bucket where you are.” Southern whites, he said, would find his people “the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has ever seen.” Thus he seemed to endorse the doctrine of “separate but equal.” The next year the Supreme Court endorsed it too.

For three decades the ardor of the North for rights of Negroes had been waning. The Republicans no longer needed Southern Negro votes to win the Presidency.

And imperialist sentiment helped to swing Northerners into the anti-Negro camp. “If the stronger and cleverer race is free to impose its will upon “new-caught, sullen peoples’ on the other side of the globe, why not in South Carolina and Mississippi,” asked the Atlantic Monthly. Of the Northern reaction to Southern disenfranchisement of Negroes, the New York Times commented on 10 May 1900: “The necessity of it under the supreme law of preservation is candidly recognized.”

“No Republican leader, not even Governor Roosevelt,” exulted Senator Ben Tillman, “will now dare to wave the bloody shirt and preach a crusade against the [South] . . . The North has a bloody shirt of its own. Many thousands of them have been made into shrouds for murdered Filipinos, done to death because they were fighting for liberty.”

(Age of Excess, The United States from 1877 to 1914, Ray Ginger, MacMillan and Company, 1965, pp. 236-237)

Nov 15, 2014 - From Africa to America    No Comments

Segregation in Africa

Langston Hughes visit to Africa in 1923 revealed a “European supremacy” system existing in the land of the black man.  In 1930 Hughes became president of the League of Struggle for Negro Rights, established “for purposes of developing a wider race movement and bringing various classes of Negroes under [Communist] Party  direction. He received the NAACP’s Spingarn medal in 1960; the list of medal recipients is a virtual Who’s Who of black Communists.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Segregation in Africa:

“Along the West Coast [of Africa] we visited some thirty-two ports, from Dakar in Senegal to Loanda in the South. The Ivory Coast, the Gold Coast, Lagos, the Niger, the Bight of Benin, and the Slave Coast, Calabar, the Kamerun, Boma up the Congo, where we were moored to a gigantic tree, and our last port, San Paola de Loanda in Portuguese Angola.

Singing boatmen on dark rivers, monkeys and bright birds, Capstan cigarettes in tins, hot beers, quarts of Johnny Walker and stone jugs of gin, barefooted black pilots guiding into reed-hutted ports . . . white men with guns under their belts, inns and taverns with signs up, EUROPEANS ONLY, missionary churches with the Negroes in the back seats and the whites who teach Jesus in the front rows . . . and the ships from the white man’s land anchored with lights aglow offshore in the starry darkness. Africa!”

(The Big Sea, Autobiography of Langston Hughes, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1986 (original 1940), pg. 106)

Nov 14, 2014 - From Africa to America    No Comments

King Mussa's Procession

The African tribes and their kings were known for their dependence on slavery and slave trading. When European’s arrived with goods, the enslaved brethren of the African tribes were offered in exchange.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

King Mussa’s Procession

“The first West African state of which there is any record was called Ghana. The people were farmers and traders and metal-smiths. Their capital city, Kumbi-Kumbi, was an important trading center during the Middle Ages. From the Arab countries came caravans of wheat and fruit and sugar and textiles and brass and salt. They went back loaded down with rubber and ivory and gold and another product the Africans were able to turn out better and in greater quantity than any other people. As a matter of fact, they had monopoly. We refer to Negro slaves.

The next Negro kingdom of any consequence was called Melle and comprised roughly what is now French West Africa. It was ruled during the first thirty years of the 14th century by a free-wheeling fellow by the name of Gonga-Mussa.

A good Moslem, King Mussa made a pilgrimage to Mecca in the year 1324. He travelled in style. There were 60,000 people in his party, including 12,000 slaves. Five hundred men [were] marching at the head of the procession bearing staffs of pure gold. To finance the trip, King Mussa took along eighty camels loaded down with gold valued at more than $5,000,000!

(My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night! W.E. Debnam, The Graphic Press, 1955, page 19)

New England's Foul Traffic

Below, author Robert L. Dabney arraigns New England for perpetuating the slave trade and populating the American South with its “foul traffic.” He notes that “When the late Confederate Government adopted a constitution, although it was composed exclusively of slaveholding States, it voluntarily did what the United States has never done: it placed an absolute prohibition of the foreign slave trade in its organic law.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circ1865

 

New England’s Foul Traffic

“The government of Virginia was unquestionably actuated, in prohibiting the slave trade, by a sincere sense of its intrinsic injustice and cruelty. Mr. Jefferson, a representative man, in his “Notes on Virginia,” had given indignant expression to this sentiment. And the reprobation of that national wrong, with regret for the presence of the African on the soil, was the universal feeling of that generation which succeeded the Revolution; while they firmly asserted the rightfulness of that slavery which they had inherited.

[The Founders’] . . . were sober, wise and practical men, who felt that to protect the rights, purity, and prosperity of their own country and posterity, was more properly their task, than to plead the wrongs of a distant and alien people, great although those wrongs might be.

They deprecated the slave trade, because it was peopling their soil so largely with an inferior and savage race, incapable of union, instead of with civilized Englishmen. This was precisely their apprehension of the enormous wrong done the colony by the mother country . . . the colonies felt that the forcing of the Africans upon them was as much a political as a social wrong.

The contrast between the policy and principles of Virginia and of the New England colonies will be concluded with two evidences. Mr. Jefferson, the author [of the Declaration of Independence], states that he had inserted in the enumeration of grievances against the King . . . a paragraph strongly reprobating his arbitrary support of the slave trade, against the remonstrances of some of the colonies.

When the Congress discussed the paper, this paragraph was struck out . . . [with Georgia, South Carolina and Massachusetts opposing. Our Northern brethren . . . felt a little tender . . . for though their people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others. Thus New England assisted to expunge from that immortal paper a testimony against the slave trade, which Virginia endeavored to place there.

In the Convention of 1787, which framed the Constitution of the United States, [the question] concerning African slaves caused dissension. Upon the supreme right of the States over the whole subject of slavery within their own dominions, upon the recognition of slaves as property protected by the federal laws, wherever slavery existed, and upon the fugitive slave law, not a voice was raised in opposition.

[New England’s policy was] simply mercenary [and] prompted by her sense of her own interests, and not of the rights of the Negro. The people of that section renewed their activity on the African coast, with a diligence continually increasing up to 1808. Carey, in his work on the slave trade, estimates the importation into the thirteen colonies between 1771 and 1790 [at 34,000]; but that between the institution of the federal government and 1808, he places it at seventy thousand.

His estimate here is unquestionably far too low; because forty thousand were introduced at the port of Charleston . . . alone, the last four years, and within the years 1806 and 1807, there were six hundred arrivals of New England slavers at that place. [By] 1860, six hundred and twenty-five thousand more slaves in the United States than would have been found here, had not New England’s cruelty and avarice assisted to prolong the slave trade nineteen years after Virginia and the federal government would otherwise have arrested it.

In this illicit trade, no Virginian (and indeed, no Southern) ship or shipmaster has ever been in a single case implicated, although our State had meantime begun no inconsiderable career of maritime adventure. But adventurers from New England and New York were continually sharing the lion’s portion of the foul spoils.”

(A Defense of Virginia and the South, Robert L. Dabney, E.J. Hale & Son, 1867, pp. 53-60)

Canadian Slavery Mythology

Very few recall that African slavery existed in Canada until 1833, and that between 1787 and 1800 fugitive slaves fled south to New England and the Northwest (Michigan) Territory. Throughout the 1800s Canadians segregated schools and communities, as well as military units.

Canadian Slavery Mythology

“Canadian comments about American racial problems are further colored by the fact that few Canadians are well informed on Canada’s own Negro record. Cowper, in celebrating Justice Mansfield’s decision, thought that “Slaves cannot breathe in England: if their lungs receive our air, that moment they are free.” This was adequate poetry but inaccurate current events, for “Mansfield” decision freed no substantial body of slaves, even in England, and in Imperial Britain they remained enslaved until 1834.

Yet today most Canadians assume that slavery in British North America was struck down unilaterally by colonial assemblies which, in fact, lacked power to move against such Imperial laws. A standard account of Ontario’s history, published in 1898, concluded that because of the passage of Simcoe’s Bill (which prohibited the import of slaves) in 1793, “Canadians can therefore claim the proud distinction for their flag….that it has never floated over legalized slavery.”

An extensive guidebook to Canada credits the entire Negro population of Nova Scotia to men “who came north as slaves from the British West Indian colonies . . . ,” ignoring totally the Maroon and Refugee elements. An attempt to plumb the character of Canadians found that the Negroes of the Maritime Provinces – 15,000 in all – were descendants of runaway slaves, when in truth not even half are such.

And one of Canada’s leading students of race relations, in writing specifically of discrimination against the Negro, asserts that slavery did not exist in British North America in the Nineteenth Century, although slavery was in fact legal until 1833. In short, there is no accurate historical memory in Canada of British North America’s own experiences with the Negro, and even a clouded awareness of an earlier Negro presence is slight.

In truth, only Canada West [Ontario] served to any considerable extent as a haven for fugitive slaves, but the whole of the Canadian nation later accepted a mythology arising from but one of its units.”

(The Canadian Negro: A Historical Assessment, Robin Winks, Journal of Negro History, Volume LIII, No. 4., October, 1968, pp. 290-292)

Jim Crow, Canadian Style

The popular underground railroad legend creates an impression that escaped slaves found freedom and social equality in Canada, and standard historical accounts lead Canadians to believe that passage of Simcoe’s Bill in 1793; slavery actually remained legal in British North America until 1833. Author Robin Winks of Yale University wrote: “Canadians did give refuge to thousands of fugitives, and the mythology of the underground railway, the North Star, and the lion’s paw naturally fed the later Canadian assumption that Negroes fared better in Canada than elsewhere.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Jim Crow, Canadian Style

“Canadian law drew no distinction between black and white in matters of citizenship, of which education was one. In practice, however, there were not infrequently some distinctions likely to be drawn, the whites preferring that Negroes should have schools of their own. When Benjamin Drew visited [Amherstburg, Ontario] in 1854 he found the Negro separate school having neither blackboard nor chairs. The whole interior was comfortless and repulsive. The teacher was a colored woman, apparently doing the best she could under the discouragement of poor surroundings and frequent absences of her pupils.

The coming of so many people of another race and color into southwestern Ontario was not pleasing to all the white inhabitants. Deep prejudice manifested itself at times and an occasional outburst in some newspaper reflected the feelings of an element of the population. The Amherstburg Courier of October 27, 1849, prints a resolution of the district council passed on October 8 of that year, protesting vigorously against the proposed Elgin settlement which was planned by Reverend William King as a home for fugitives from slavery.

This resolution, which appears to have been instigated by a local politician, Larwill, resident in Chatham, declared that “there is but one feeling, and that is of disgust and hatred, that they (the Negroes) should be allowed to settle in any township where there is a white settlement.”

The resolution proceeded to ask for a disallowance of sale of lands to Negroes, suggested a poll tax on Negroes entering the country, asked for an enactment against amalgamation and a requirement that Negroes shall furnish good security that they will not become a burden. It was also suggested that it would be well to ascertain whether it would be impolitic to allow them the suffrage.

Dr. Samuel G. Howe, who visited [Amherstburg] in 1863 to investigate conditions….[was told by a Mr. Park of the town] that the Negroes were part of them indolent and part industrious. They tended to neglect their own poor and begged more than the whites. A Captain Averill who was interviewed said that the Negroes were satisfactory as sailors, “the very best men we have,” but they were never made mates and none owned ships of their own.”

(Amherstburg, Terminus of the Underground Railroad, Fred Landon, The Journal of Negro History, Vol. X., No. 1, January 1925, pp. 5-8)

Canadian Negro Slaves

“In my article on “The Slave in Canada,” printed in The Journal of Negro History for July, 1920, (Vol. V, No. 3), several instances of Negro slavery in Canada were given. The latest is mentioned in Le Bulletin des Recherches Historiques for October, 1927, (Vol. XXXIII, No. 10), at p. 584. I translate it from the French the article referred to. Honorable William Renwick Riddell, Justice of Appeal, Ontario.

A Singular Gift:

“In July, 1748, Jean-Pierre Roma, Commandant for the (French) King at the island of St. Jean (now Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence), on his passage to Quebec, made a singular gift to his friend, Fleury de la Gorgendiere, (the younger). He gave him a mulatto girl, five months old and named Marie.

The gift made to Mr. Fleury de la Gorgendiere is explained by the fact that the mother of the child, the slave of Roma, died in giving it birth. Roma not being able to charge himself with raising the orphan, preferred to give it to M. Fleury de la Gorgendiere.

The deed of gift was drawn up by the Notary, Jean-Claude Panet, July 15, 1748; and in it is the stipulation that in case of the death of Fleury and his wife, the mulatto will return Mdll. Roma (her grandmother). If she cannot take her it is stipulated that she will receive her freedom.

Such sales of the creatures of God may seem curious – they were, however, according to the customs of the time and were made almost in every country.”

(Journal of Negro History, Cater G. Woodson, editor, Vol. XIII, No. 2, April, 1928, page 207)

New York's Notorious Slave Ships

In the post-Revolution era, African slavery was waning as cotton production was a laborious task and not worth cultivating on a large scale until Eli Whitney of Massachusetts revolutionized the industry in 1793. Thereafter, New England mills could not live without raw slave-produced cotton, Manhattan lenders ensured plantation owners that money was available for plantation expansion, and New England slavers continued to import the labor supply.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865

 

New York’s Notorious Slave Ships

“In the decade 1850-1860 Great Britain maintained consulates in six Southern ports: Norfolk, — changed to Richmond in 1856 – Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, New Orleans and Galveston.

[Consul G.P.R.] James [in Norfolk and Richmond] . . . considered that Virginians were very kind to their slaves and that slavery was an injury to masters rather than Negroes. One of the proprietors of the Richmond “slave warehouse” was, wrote his son Charles later, an “unmistakable Yankee,” said to be very humane to his charges, “but the business was regarded as infamous.  I heard a respectable man denounced for accepting his hospitality.”

At Niagara Falls, James saw a runaway Negro belonging to one of his Norfolk neighbors; he had found it difficult to make a living and was cold and he begged the consul to ask his owner to take him back.

[Consul] Henry G. Kuper of Baltimore gave assurance that the slave trade was being extensively carried on by many American citizens, especially in New York . . . with the connivance of Spanish authorities in Cuba where most of the cargoes were conveyed . . . Consul Edward W. Mark wrote from Baltimore that at any moment twenty vessels might be found under construction at that port, admirably adapted for the slave trade. Some were built expressly for the trade by “respectable houses,” which would not enter the trade themselves but merely executed the orders they received.

Mark believed, however, that in Baltimore little countenance was given to the trade. It was carried on rather “from New York and the eastern parts of the Union . . . and generally by New England and foreign firms.”

[In 1858 Consul] Molyneaux of Savannah told the story of a Charleston mercantile house . . . which proposed to send the ship Richard Cobden . . . on a [suspicious] voyage to Africa to bring “free emigrants” to a United States port. The collector of the port appealed to United States Secretary of the Treasury Howell Cobb who pronounced the proposal illegal.

About the same time the Lydia Gibbs, a vessel of one-hundred and fourteen tons of Northern build, sailed from Charleston under one Watson, a Scotchman naturalized in the United States. He took it to Havana where it was sold to unknown persons for $12,000.  Watson was to receive $6,000 more if he escaped detection, and in addition a certain percentage of the slaves he should succeed in landing in Cuba.

[In July 1858 Charleston Consul Robert Bunch] wrote that the brig Frances Ellen had cleared from Charleston for Africa, supposedly to engage in the slave trade; that the firm of Ponjand and Lalas, two Spaniards, which sent it out, was believed to be regularly engaged in this traffic [and] intended to land five or six cargoes in Texas . . .

In December, 1859, the South Carolina legislature received from the New York assembly a set of resolutions passed by the latter body, condemning the slave trade and urging the Southern States not to connive at or encourage the odious traffic.  South Carolina returned the resolutions to the senders without comment and Bunch, though agreeing with the New York sentiments, dryly noted that the action was not “happily received,” “as it is notorious that, during the present year, at least ten slavers have been fitted out in New York for one in the entire South.”

(The South in the 1850’s as Seen by British Consuls, Laura A. White, The Journal of Southern History, February 1935, excerpts, pp. 29, 31, 36-41)

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