One night as Prince Henry of Portugal lay in bed it was revealed to him that he would render a great service to our Lord by the discovery of the said Ethiopias...in these lands so much gold and rich merchandise would be found as would maintain the King and the people...of Portugal. Duarte Pachece Pereira, Portuguese Explorer, 1506
Judging by his name, you might think that Henry the Navigator was a great explorer with extraordinary navigating skills. Truth is, Prince Henry of Portugal never set sail on voyages of discovery. A nobleman of English, French, and Spanish ancestry, Prince Henry gained his reputation by sponsoring many voyages of discovery along the western coast of Africa.
Prince Henry had several reasons for dispatching his expeditions. He hoped to find rumored Christian allies, add to geographic knowledge, and perhaps find a sea route to the Orient. But he also hoped to find gold. For centuries gold objects from sub-Saharan Africa had made their way to Europe. Some Portuguese even believed that the objects came from a "River of Gold." If only this gold supply could be found, Henry's costly expeditions could begin to pay for themselves and perhaps even strengthen Portugal's economy.
In 1441, two of Henry's captains, Antam Gonclaves and Nuno Tristao, set out, separately, to Cape Bianco on the western coast of Africa. To the south of the Cape they came across a market run by black Muslims dressed in white robes and turbans. There they received a small amount of gold dust. The Portuguese crew also seized twelve black Africans to take back to Portugal, not as slaves, but as exhibits to show Prince Henry. (These would not be Portugal's first African slaves.)
The new captives included a local chief who spoke Arabic. The chief negotiated his own release, the terms of which were that if he and a boy from his family were taken back to their homeland and released, they would provide other black slaves in exchange.
In 1442, Antam Goncalves sailed back to Cape Bianco, then returned with more gold dust and ten black Africans. The following year, Portuguese explorers returned from Africa with nearly thirty slaves.
Within ten years, thousands of slaves had been transported by sea to Portugal and the Portuguese Islands.
Elmina Castle, trading outpost and "slave factory"
Forty years after Prince Henry's expeditions first acquired gold dust and twenty-one years after the Prince's death, Portugal began constructing a trading outpost on Africa's Guinea coast, near a region that had been mined by natives for many years. Permission to build the outpost had been reluctantly given by the chief of a nearby village, on the condition that peace and trust be maintained.
Called "São Jorge da Mina" (Saint George's of the mine), or simply "Elmina" (the mine), it was the first permanent structure south of the Sahara built by Europeans -- and for centuries it was the largest. It also had the distinction of being the first of many permanent "slave factories" (trading posts that dealt in slaves) that would be built along Africa's western coast.
The purpose of Elmina Castle, as well as the future outposts, was to give support to captains by providing their vessels with a secure harbor. The outposts were heavily armed against assault from the sea. Interestingly, the forts were not so heavily armed against attack from inland. An assault from a European foe (including pirates) was more likely than one from Africans. To fend off attacks from the sea, cannons were needed, whereas light gunfire was usually enough to deter an assault from the interior.
Slaves were typically captured inland, then brought to the outpost on an arduous journey that often lasted many days -- half of all captives did not even make it to the coast. Once there, the slaves would wait, often for a long period of time, until a ship arrived. They were traded for cowrie shells, iron bars, guns, basins, mirrors, knives, linens, silk, and beads.
Elmina Castle saw several owners during the course of the slave trade, including the Portuguese, Dutch, and English. By the 18th century, 30,000 slaves on their way to the Americas passed through Elmina each year.6 Deportation through outposts like Elmina continued for nearly three hundred years.
Many years had passed between the arrival of Europeans to Africa and 1795, the time this image was engraved. The Portuguese, who had explored much of the coast of western Africa under the sponsorship of Prince Henry, landed along the shores of the Senegal River 350 years earlier.
The goal of the Virginia Company was clear enough: establish a permanent colony in America that would make a profit for the Company. The company, chartered by King James I in April, 1606, was comprised of two divisions. The Plymouth Company would establish a short-lived colony at the mouth of the Kennebec River near what is now Phippsburg, Maine. The London Company would establish Jamestown in Virginia, England's first permanent settlement in the New World.
There were two ways to become a member of the London Company. If you had money to buy shares in the Company but were inclined to remain safe and snug in England, you could invest as an "Adventurer." If you really were adventurous and didn't mind travelling to the new colony, you could become a member of the Company as a "Planter."
Planters were required to work for the Company for a set number of years. In exchange for this work -- or, more precisely, servitude -- the company provided housing, clothing, and food. At the end of the servitude the planter would be granted a piece of land and be free of obligations to the company. In addition, the planter would be entitled to a share of the profits made by the company. (The company also recruited indentured servants, who would work for a set number of years, typically seven, in exchange for passage to the colony.)
Sounds like a good deal, doesn't it? It really wasn't. The lives of these colonists were difficult and unpleasant, to say the least.
The planters were really servants of the company. They had no real freedom and were kept by force in the company. They had no choice but to accept any changes that the Governor or company decided to make, including an extension of their contracts. (Three-year contracts were sometimes extended to ten years.) Any letters sent to or received from England were destroyed if they contained any disparaging remarks about the company. Relatively minor offences could result in severe punishments. According to some colonists' accounts, there were continual whippings, as well as punishments such as hanging, shooting, breaking on the wheel, and even being burnt alive.
The Virginia Company was dissolved in 1624. Virginia then became a royal colony.
Gervase Markham, an English poet and playwright, also wrote about various topics relating to country life and sporting pursuits. His 1683 treatise, A Way to Get Wealth, is an agricultural handbook -- equivalent to a farmer's almanac.
The book contains information such as an "infallible way to curing all deseases in cattel," listing various diseases that afflict livestock and the herbal "cures" for each disease, the methods of branding, the placement of bee hives, healing wounds of hawks, and the caring of human diseases.
A Way to Get Wealth: Containing Six Principal Vocations, or Callings, In which every good Husband or House-wive may lawfully Imploy themselves.
I. The Natures, Ordering, Curing, Breeding, Choice, Use and Feeding of all sorts of Cattel and Fowl, fit for the Service of Man: As also the Riding and Dieting of Horses, either for War or Pleasure.
II. The Knowledge, Use and Laudable Practice of all the Recreations meet for a Gentleman.
III. The Office of a House-wife, In Physick, Chirurgery, Extraction of Oyles, Banquets, Cookery, Ordering of Feasts, Preserving of Wine, conceited Secrets, Distillations, Perfumes, Ordering of Wool, Hemp, Flax, Dying, Use of Dayries, Maulting, Brewing, Baking: and the Profit of Oats.
IV. The Inrichment of the Weald in Kent.
V. The Husbanding and Inriching of all forts of barren Grounds, Making them equal with the most fruitful: With the Preservation of Swine. And a Computation of Men and Cattels Labours, etc.
VI. The making of Orchards, Planting and Graffing, the Office of Gardening, and the Ornaments, with the best Husbanding of Bees.
The announcements plastered throughout the streets of London were quite enticing. They promised passage to the New World, as well as a house, food, clothing, land, even a share of profits earned by the sponsoring company. The Virginia Company of London was desperate to populate its struggling colony in America.
Twelve years earlier, in 1607, three ships carrying about 100 English colonists -- most of them men -- had sailed into Chesapeake Bay and anchored at the mouth of the James River. There the colonists established their new settlement. Almost eight hundred more settlers arrived over the next three years.
To say that life wasn't easy at the settlement would be a gross understatement. With food supplies quickly diminishing, the settlers turned their hungry eyes toward the chickens, pigs, and cattle. Next they went after the horses. According to Captain John Smith, some finally resorted to cannabilism. One man even killed his wife in order to fill his stomach.
By the spring of 1610, only sixty colonists of the original nine hundred were still alive.
Two years later, the colonists began to experiment with various types of tobacco. The plant grew successfully in the Carribean. Now they found a variety that was well-suited to Virginia. The plant had the potential to transform Virginia into a profitable venture, if only more laborers could be brought to the colony to clear land and cultivate the crops.
The Virginia Company recruited more men and women, and in 1617, the first shipment of tobacco was sent to England.
English saved by Native Americans
One of the original goals of the Virginia Company, in addition to that of making a profit, was to create a community where Englishmen and Native Americans could work side-by-side and in complete harmony. The Indians would be allowed, if they so chose, to adopt English customs as well as Christianity. In other words, they would be "saved" from their savage lives. All would work under England's benevolent, "quiet goverment" -- a government which the English claimed differed markedly from the tyrranical rule of their Spanish rivals in Florida and in the Caribbean.
England's expectations for the new colony were high. The reality of the new colony couldn't have been further from the envisioned ideal.
On the first day that the English landed at Virginia's Cape Henry -- still several weeks before they were to pick the site of there new settlement, Jamestown -- they were attacked by local Indians and driven back to their ships. And the fighting continued. Soon after constructing the fort at Jamestown, two hundred Powhatan Indians unexpectedly attacked the new settlers, who had not yet unpacked their guns.
By 1609, the fighting had subsided, but there were still occasional raids on both sides. The real enemy of the settlers, though, was hunger, due to the lack of food. Instead of growing their own supply of corn (a New World crop unfamiliar to the English), the settlers relied heavily on corn grown by nearby Indians. But even with their neighbors' help, over 400 settlers would die over the winter of 1609-1610.
In the spring of 1610, the settlers still did not plant enough corn to keep themselves alive. The following winter would not be so devastating, thanks again to Indian-grown corn . . . but no thanks to the governor, the colony's leader. The governor negotiated with Powhatan, who ruled all Indian tribes in the Jamestown area, about a colonist who had run away from the colony, presumably to live with the Indians. Not satisfied with Powhatan's answers, the governor ordered that "Revendge" be taken upon the tribes closest to Jamestown. Raids on two villages followed. The inhabitants were killed, their houses burnt, and all the corn growing around the villages cut down.
Even ten years after Jamestown was first settled, the colonists did not grow enough corn to feed themselves. Through begging, bullying, and buying, they still acquired the corn from the Powhatan Indians whom they continued to mistreat.
Painting by John Gadsby Chapman more than 230 years after English settlers first landed in Jamestown, this oil painting of that first landing is an idealized depiction, showing American Indians standing idly by, apparantly accepting the arrival of their new neighbors.
There are no records describing the Indians' thoughts regarding the newly-arrived English settlers; however, it is known that on the very day that the settlers first landed on Virginia's Cape Henry, a band of Indians drove between twenty and thirty back to their ships. And within two weeks of Jamestown's establishment, about 200 Indian warriors attacked the settlement.
Landing of Negroes at Jamestown from a Dutch Man-of-War, 1619
Howard Pyle illustrated many historical and adventure stories for periodicals, including Harper's Weekly. In 1917, he created this depiction of the 1619 arrival of Virginia's first blacks.
Howard Pyle studied at the Art Students League in New York City. His work, noted for its colorful realism and attention to historical detail, gained him a large following. He also illustrated books for children, including The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and Treasure Island, and wrote and illustrated his own folktales, including The Wonder Clock, all of which have become classics.
In this image, the Dutch sailors, who have captured the blacks from a Spanish ship, are negotiating a trade with the Jamestown settlers for food. No record of the ship's name was made at the time.
American illustrator Howard Pyle, illustrator of many historical and adventure stories for periodicals, created this depiction of a slave auction in New Amsterdam (later to be renamed New York).
New Amsterdam, a town on the tip of Manhattan Island within the Dutch colony of New Netherland, saw a sudden influx of African slave labor in 1655. The Dutch had been involved with the African slave trade for some time, having seized Portugal's Elmina Castle along the West African coast about two decades earlier. Soon after gaining control of the slave factory they were shipping 2,500 slaves across the Atlantic each year. Many of these slaves were sent to Brazil, another territory the Dutch had seized from Portugal. But this control of Brazil was short-lived.
The Dutch were still active participants in the slave trade when they lost control of Brazil in 1654. Now they directed their attention to the colony of New Netherland. The colony already had black slaves; these had generally come by way of the Caribbean Islands. In 1655, the first large shipment of slaves directly from Africa arrived at New Amsterdam.
In 1664 the English seized New Netherland, including the town of New Amsterdam. They renamed the colony New York. At the time there were roughly 500 Dutch-speaking blacks in the colony.
Portrait of a Negro was drawn during the Renaissance by the renowned German artist, Albrecht Dürer. The artist probably drew the picture from life, using as a model a man he encountered either while in Nuremberg or in Italy.
This handsome charcoal drawing, used in the broadcast program and by this Web site to represent Anthony Johnson, was sketched about a century before Johnson's birth. No known portraits of Johnson exist.
During the Renaissance and for many years before, occasional African slaves were imported into Europe through trade with Arabs. The German artist Albrecht Dürer used one of these slaves for the subject of this charcoal drawing. The term "Moorish Woman" in the title suggests that the woman was from the northwest region of Africa and of the Muslim faith.
This beautiful charcoal likeness, used in the broadcast program and by this Web site to represent Mary Johnson, was sketched about a century before her birth. Any resemblance between Katharina, the person in this image, and Mary Johnson would be purely coincidental.
Virginia, 1639 Act X. All persons except Negroes are to be provided with arms and ammunitions or be fined at the pleasure of the governor and council.
Maryland, 1664 That whatsoever free-born [English] woman shall intermarry with any slave. . . shall serve the master of such slave during the life of her husband; and that all the issue of such free-born women, so married shall be slaves as their fathers were.
Virginia, 1667 Act III. Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children that are slaves by birth. . . should by virtue of their baptism be made free, it is enacted that baptism does not alter the condition to the person as to his bondage or freedom; masters freed from this doubt may more carefully propagate Christianity by permitting slaves to be admitted to that sacrament.
Virginia, 1682 Act I. It is enacted that all servants. . . which [sic] shall be imported into this country either by sea or by land, whether Negroes, Moors [Muslim North Africans], mulattoes or Indians who and whose parentage and native countries are not Christian at the time of their first purchase by some Christian. . . and all Indians, which shall be sold by our neighborign Indians, or any other trafficing with us for slaves, are hereby adjudged, deemed and taken to be slaves to all intents and purposes any law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.
The Selling of Joseph
The Selling of Joseph
Forasmuch as Liberty is in real value next unto Life: None ought to part withit themselves, or deprive others of it, but upon most mature Consideration.
The Numerousness of Slaves at this day in the Province, and the Uneasiness of them under their Slavery, haht put many upon thinking whether the Foundation of it be firmly and well laid; so as to sustain the Vast Weight that is built upon it. It is most certain that all Men, as they are the Sons of Adam, are ; and have equal Right unto Liberty, and all other outward Comforts of Life. God hat the Earth [with all its Commodities] unto the Sons of Adam, Pal 115.16. And hat made of One Blood, all Nations of Men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hat determined the Times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation: That they should seek the Lord. Forasmuch then as we are the Offspring of GOD &c. Act 17.26, 27, 29. Now although the Title given by the last ADAM, doth infinitely better Mens Estates, respecting GOD and themselves; and grants them a most beneficial and inviolable Lease under the Broad Seal of Heaven, who were before only Tenants at Will: Yet through the Indulgence of GOD to our First Parents after the Fall, the outward Estate of all and every of the children, remains the same, as to one another. So that Originally, and Naturally, there is no such thing as Slavery. Joseph was rightfully no more a Slave to his Brethren, then they were to him: and they had no more Authority to Sell him, than they had to Slay him. And if they had nothing to do to Sell him; the Ishmaelites bargaining with them, and paying down Twenty pieces of Silver, could not make a Title. Neither could Potiphar have any better Interest in him than the Ishmaelites had, Gen. 37, 20, 27, 28. For he that shall in this case plead Alteration of Property, seems to have forfeited a great part of his own claim to Humanity. There is no proportion between Twenty Pieces of Silver, and LIBERTY. The Commodity it self is the Claimer. If Arabian Gold be imported in any quantities, most are afraid to meddle with it, though they might have it a easy rates; lest if it should have been wrongfully taken from the Owners, it should kindle a fire to the Consumption of their whole estate. ÔTis pity there should be more Caution used in buying a Horse, or a little lifeless dust; than there is in purchasing Men and Women: Whenas they are the Offspring of GOD, and their Liberty is, ....Auro pretiosior Omni. And seeing GOD hat said, He that stealeth a Man and Selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to Death. Exod. 12.16. This Law being of Everlasting Equity, wherein Man Stealing is ranked amongst the most atrocious of Capital Crimes: What louder Cry can there be made of the Celebrated Warning,
And all thing considered, it would conduce more to the Welfare of the Province, to have White Servants for a Term of Years, than to have Slaves for Life. Few can endure to hear of a Negro's being made free; and indeed they can seldom use their freedom well; yet their continual aspiring after their forbidden, renders them Unwilling Servants. And there is such a disparity in their Conditions, Color & Hair, that they can never embody with us, and grow up into orderly Families, to the Peopling of the Land: but still remain in our Body Politic as a kind of extravasat Blood. As many Negro men as there are among us, so many empty places there are in our Train Bands, and the places taken up of Men that might make Husbands for our Daughters. And the Sons and Daughters of New England would become more like Jacob, and Rachel, if this Slavery were thrust quite out of doors. Moreover it is too well known what Temptations Masters are under, to connive at the Fornification of their Slaves; lest they should be obliged to find them Wives, or pay their Fines. It seems to be practically pleaded that they might be Lawless; Ôtis thought much fo, that the Law should have Satisfaction for their Thefts, and other Immoralities; by which means, Holiness to the Lord, is more rarely engraven upon this sort of Servitude. It is likewise most lamentable to thin, how in taking Negros out of Africa, and selling of them here, That which GOD has joined together men to boldly rend asunder; Men from their Country, Husbands from their Wives, Parents from their Children. How horrible is the Uncleanness, Mortality, if not Murder, that the Ships are guilty of that bring great Crouds of these miserable Men, and Women. Methinks, when we are bemoaning the barbarous Usage of our Friends and Kinsfolk in Africa: it might not be unseasonable to enquire wheter we are not culpable in forcing the Africans to become Slaves amongst our selves. And it may be a questions whether all the Benefit received by Negro Slaves, will balance the Accompt of Cash laid out upon them; and for the Redemption of our own enlstaved Friends out ofAfrica. Besides all the Persons and Estates that have perished there.
Obj. 1 These Blackamores are of the Posterity of Cham, and therefore are under the Curse of Slavery. Gen. 9.25, 26, 27. Answ. Of all Offices, one would not begg this; viz. Uncall'd for, to be an Executioner fo the Vindictive Wrath of God; the extent and duration of which is to us uncertain. If this ever was a Commission; How do we know but that it is long since out of date? Many have found it to their Cost, that a Prophetical Denunciation of Judgement against a Person or People, would not warrant them to inflict that evil. If it would, Hazael might justify himself in all he did against his Master, and the Israelites, from 2 Kings 8.10, 12.
But it is possible that by cursory reading, this Text may have been mistaken. For Canaan is the Person Cursed three times over, without the mentioning of Cham. Good Expositors suppose the Curse entailed on him, and that this Prophesie was accomplished in the Extirpation of the Canaanites, and in the Servitude of the Gibeonites. Vide Pareum. Whereas the Balckmores are not descended of Canaan, but of Cush. Psal. 68.31. Princes shall come our to Egypt [Mizraim] Ethopia [Cush] shall soon stretch out her hands unto God. Under which Names, all Aftrica may be comprehended; and the Promised Conversion ought to be prayed for. Jer. 13,23. Can the Ethiopian change his skin? This shows that Black Men are the Posterity of Cush: who time out of mind have been distinguished by their Colour. And for want of the true, Ovid assigns a fabulous cause of it. Sanguine tum credunt in corpora cumma vacato Aethiopum populous nigrum traxisse coleorm. Metomorph. lib.2.
Obj. 2. The Nigers are brought out of a pagan country, into places where the Gospel is Preached. Answ. Evil must not be done, that good may come of it. The extraordinary and comprehensive Benefit accruing to the Church of God, and to Joseph personally, did not rectify his brethrens Sale of him.
Obj. 3 The Africans have Wars with one another: our Ships bring lawful Captives taken in those Wars. Answ. For ought is known, their Wars are much such as were between Jacob's Sons and their brother Joseph. If they be between Town and Town; Provincial, or National: Every War is upon one side Unjust. As Unlawful War can't make lawful Captives. And by Receiving, we are in danger to promote, and partake in their Barbarous Cruelties. I am sure, if some Gentlemen should go down to the Brewsters to take the Air and Fish: And a stronger party from Hull should Surprise them, and Sell them for Slaves to a Ship outward bound: they would think themselves unjustly dealt with; both by Sellers and Buyers. And yet Ôtil to be feared, we have no other kind of Title to our Nigers. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matt. 7.12.
Obj. 4 Abraham had servants bought with his Money, and born in his House. Answ. Until the Circumstances of Abraham's purchase be recorded, no Argument can be drawn from it. In the mean time, Charity obliges us to conclude, that He knew it was lawful and good
It is Observable that the Israelites were strictly forbidden the buying, or selling of one another for Slaves. Livit. 25.39, 46. Jer.34.8.....22. And GOD gages His Blessing in lieu of any loss they might conceipt they suffered thereby. Deut. 15.18. And since the partition Wall is broken down, inordinate Self love should likewise be demolished. GOD expects that Christians should be of a more Ingenuous and benign frame of spirit.
Christians should carry it to all the World, as the Israelites were to carry it one towards another. And for men obstinately to persist in holding their Neighbours and Brethren under the Rigor of perpetual Bondage, seems to be no proper way of gaining Assurance that God has given them Spiritual Freedom. Our Blessed Saviour has altered the Measures of the Ancient Love-Song, and set it to a most Excellent New Tune, which all ought to be ambitious of Learning. Matt.5, 43, 44. John 13,34. These Ethiopians, as black as they are; seeing they are the Sons and Daughters of the First Adam, the Brethren and Sister of the Last ADAM, and the Offspring of GOD; They ought to be treated with Respect agreeable.
Servitus perfect voluntaria, inter Christianum & Christiainum, ex parte servi patientis saepe est licita quia est necessaria; sed ex parte domini agentis, & prcodurando & exercendo, vis potestesse licita; quia non convenit regulae illi generali: Quecunque volueritis ut faciant vobis homines, ita & vos facite eis. Matt. 7.12.
Perfecta servitus poenae, non potest jure locim havere, nisi ex delicto gravi quod ultimum supplicum aliquo modo meretur; quia Libertas ex naturali aestimatione proxime accedit ad vitam ipsam, & eidem a multis praeferri solet. Ames. Cas. Consc. Lib. 5 Cap. 23 Thes. 2, 3 BOSTON of the Massachusets Printed by Bartholomew Green, and John Allen, June 24th, 1700.
In August of 1670, several months after Anthony Johnson's death, a jury in a Virginia court decided that, because "he was a Negro and by consequence an alien," ownership of the 250 acres Johnson once owned should be escheated, or reverted, to England.
Anthony and Mary Johnson had sold 200 acres of this land to two white settlers; the other 50 they gave to their son, Richard, who soon thereafter sold the land to another white settler.
By virtue of a writt granted to me from [names listed here, which are illegible] John Stringer Escheator for the countys of Northhampton and Accomack to enquire what lands Anthonio Johnson late of Accomack County either in his life tyme. . . a jury of free. . . in the said Accomack County to enquire. . . doth declare that the said Anthony Johnson lately deceased in his life tyme was seized of fifty acres of land now in the possession of Rich. Johnson in the County of Accomack aforesaid and further that the said Anthony Johnson was a negro and by consequence an alien and for that cause the said land doth escheat to this . . . .
Virginia's slave codes
The status of blacks in Virginia slowly changed over the last half of the 17th century. The black indentured servant, with his hope of freedom, was increasingly being replaced by the black slave.
In 1705, the Virginia General Assembly removed any lingering uncertainty about this terrible transformation; it made a declaration that would seal the fate of African Americans for generations to come...
"All servants imported and brought into the Country...who were not Christians in their native Country...shall be accounted and be slaves. All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominion...shall be held to be real estate. If any slave resist his master...correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction...the master shall be free of all punishment...as if such accident never happened."
The code, which would also serve as a model for other colonies, went even further. The law imposed harsh physical punishments, since enslaved persons who did not own property could not be required to pay fines. It stated that slaves needed written permission to leave their plantation, that slaves found guilty of murder or rape would be hanged, that for robbing or any other major offence, the slave would receive sixty lashes and be placed in stocks, where his or her ears would be cut off, and that for minor offences, such as associating with whites, slaves would be whipped, branded, or maimed.
For the 17th century slave in Virginia, disputes with a master could be brought before a court for judgement. With the slave codes of 1705, this no longer was the case. A slave owner who sought to break the most rebellious of slaves could now do so, knowing any punishment he inflicted, including death, would not result in even the slightest reprimand.
Lucy Terry Prince
1724 - 1821
Although best known as the author of the first poem composed by an African American woman, Lucy Terry Prince was a remarkable woman whose many accomplishments included arguing a case before the Supreme Court.
Lucy was stolen from Africa as an infant and sold to Ebenezer Wells of Deerfield, Massachusetts. She was baptized during the Great Awakening, and nineteen years later, at the age of 20, she was "admitted to the fellowship of the church."
Although Lucy Terry was a poet, only one of her poems, a ballad called "Bars Fight," has survived.
In 1756, Lucy Terry married Abijah Prince, a prosperous free black man who purchased her freedom. Their first child was born the following year, and by 1769 they had five others. In the 1760s, the Prince family moved to Guilford, Vermont.
Lucy was well known for her speaking ability -- according to her 1821 obituary, "the fluency of her speech captivated all around her" -- and she used her skills a number of times in defense of her family's rights and property. In 1785, when a neighboring white family threatened the Princes, Lucy and Abijah appealed to the governor and his Council for protection. The Council ordered Guilford's selectmen to defend them. Lucy argued unsuccessfully before the trustees of Williams College for the admission of one of her sons, skillfully citing scripture and law "in an earnest and eloquent speech of three hours."
Later, when a Colonel Eli Bronson attempted to steal land owned by the Princes, the case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court. Lucy argued against two of the leading lawyers in the state, one of whom later became chief justice of Vermont -- and she won. Samuel Chase, the presiding justice of the Court, said that her argument was better than he'd heard from any Vermont lawyer.
Venture Smith, born free in Africa but captured and enslaved at the age of eight, became a figure of mythical proportions in New England, where he was known for his great size and strength.
Named Broteer by his father, a "Prince of the tribe of Dukandarra" in Guinea, he wrote that "I was descended from a very large, tall and stout race of beings, much larger than the generality of people in other parts of the globe." Legend has it that he was a giant, weighing over 300 pounds.
Venture's great size and unwillingness to suffer insult made him a problem for his owners, and he was sold several times before he was able to purchase his freedom in 1765, at the age of thirty-six. When Venture wrote that he had "lost much by misfortunes and paid an enormous sum for my freedom," he was referring to far more than his purchase price of "seventy-one pounds two shillings."
Venture was eventually able to liberate his two sons, Solomon and Cuff, his daughter Hanna, his pregnant wife Meg, and their unborn child. Solomon, the eldest son, died aboard a whaling ship, and the new baby was named Solomon in his honor. Cuff, the middle son, enlisted in the Continental army when he was in his early twenties. After the war, he returned to his family in East Haddam Neck, Connecticut.
In his latter years, Venture suffered from blindness and ill health. In 1798, a narrative of his life, which he related to a local schoolteacher, was published. He died on September 19, 1805, at the age of seventy-seven.
Venture Smith's Narrative
A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, A Native of Africa: But refident above fixty years in the United State of America. Related by Himself.
I was employed in cutting the aforementioned quantity of wood, I never was at the expence of fix-pence worth of fpirits. Being after this labour forty years of age, I worked at various places, and in particular on Ram-Ifland, where I purchafed Solomon and Cuff, two fons of mine, for two hundred dollars each. I will be here remembered how much money I earned by cutting wood in four years. Befides this I had confiderable money, amounting in all to near three hundred pounds. When I had purchafed my two fons, I had then left more than one hundred pounds. After this I purchafed a negro man, for no reafon than to oblige him, and gave for him fixty pounds. But in a fhort time after he run away from me, and I thereby loft all that I gave for him, except twenty pounds which he paid me previous to his abfconding. The reft of my money I laid out in land, in addition to a farm which I owned before, and a dwelling houfe thereon. Forty four years had then completed their revolution fince my entrance into this exiftence of fervitude and misfortune. Solomon my eldeft fon, being then in his feventeenth year, and all my hope and dependence for help, I hired him out to one Charles Church, of Rhode-Ifland, for one year, on confideration of his giving him twelve pounds and an opportunity of acquiring fome learning. In the courge of the year, Church fitted out a veffel for a whaling voyage, and being in want of hands to man her, he induced my fon to go, with the promife of giving him on his return, a pair of filver buckles, befides his wages. As foon as I heard of his going to fea, I immediately fet out to go and prevent it if poffible. Ð But on my arrival at Church's, to my great grief, I could only fee the veffel my fon was in almoft out of fight going to fea. My fon died of fcurvy in this voyage, and Church has never yet paid me the leaft of his wages. In my fon, befides the lofs of his life, I loft equal to feventy-five pounds. My other fon being but a youth, ftill lived with me. About this time I chartered a floop of about thirty tons burthen, and hired men to affift me in navigating her. I employed her moftly in the wood trade to Rhode-Ifland, and made clear of all expences above one hundred dollars with her in better than one year. I had then become fomething forehanded, and being in my forty-fourth year, I purchafed my wife Meg, and thereby prevented having another child to buy, as fhe was then pregnant. I gave forty pounds for her. During my refidence at Long-Ifland, I raifed one year with another, ten cart loads of water-melons, and loft a great many every year befides by the thieveifhnefs of the failors. What I made by the water-melons I fold there, amounted to nearly five hundred dollars. Various other methods I purfued in order to enable me to redeem my family. In the night time I fifhed with fetnets and pots for eels and lobsters, and fhorthly after went a whaling voyage in the fervice of Col. Smith Ð After being out feven months, the veffel returned, laden with four hundred barrels of oil. About this time, I become poffeffed of another dwelling-houfe, and my temporal affairs were in a pretty profperous condition. This and my induftry was what alone faved me from being expelled that part of the ifland in which I refided, as an act was paffed by the felect-men of the place, that all negroes refiding there fhould be expelled. Next after my wife, I purchafed a negro man for four hundred dollars. But he having an inclination to return to his old mafter, I therefore let him go. Shortly after I purchafed another negro man for twenty-five pounds, whom I parted with fhortly after. Being about forty-fix years old, I bought my oldeft child Hannah, of Ray Mumford, for forty-four pounds, and fhe ftill refided with him. I had already redeemed from flavery, myfelf, my wife and three children, befides three negro men. About the forty-feventh year of my life, I difpofed of all my property at Long-Ifland, and came from thence into Eaft-Haddam. I hired myfelf out at firft to Timothy Chapman, for five weeks, the earnings of which I put up carefully by me. After this I wrought for Abel Bingham about fix weeks. I then put my money together and purchafed of faid Bingham ten acres of land, lying at Haddam neck, where I now refide. Ð On this land I labored with great diligence for two years, and fhortly after purchafed fix acres more of land contiguous to my other. One year from that time I purchafed feventy acres more of the fame man, and paid for it moftly with the produce of my other land. Soon after I bought this laft lot of land, I fet up a comfortable dwelling houfe on my farm, and built it from the produce thereof. Shortly after I had much trouble and expence with my daughter Hannah, whofe name has before been mentioned in this account. She was married foon after I redeemed her, to one Ifaac, a free negro, and fhortly after her marriage fell fick of a mortal difeafe; her hufband a diffolute and abandoned wretch, paid but little attention to her in her illnefs. I therefore thought it beft to bring her to my houfe and nurfe her there. I procured her all the aid mortals could afford, but notwithftanding this fhe fell a prey to her difeafe, after a lingering and painful endurance of it. The phyfician's bills for attending her during her illnefs amounted to forty pounds. Having reached my fifty-fourth year, a [ ] two negro men, one name William Jacklin, and the other Mingo. Mingo lived with me one year, and having received his wages, run in debt to me eight dollars, for which he gave me his note. Prefently after he tried to run away from me without troubling himfelf to pay up his note. I procured a warrant, took him, and requefted him to go to Juftice Throop's of his own accord, but he refufing, I took him on my fhoulders, and carried him there, diftant about two miles. The juftice afking me if I had my prisoner's note with me, and replying that I had not, he told m that I muft return with him and get it. Accordingly, I carried Mingo back on my fhoulders, but before we arrived at my dwelling, he complained of being hurt, and afked me if this was not a hard way of treating our fellow creatures. I anfwered him that it woudl be hard thus to treat our honeft fellow creatures. He then told me that if I would let him off my fhoulders, he had a pair of silver fhoe-buckles, on fhirt and a pocket handkerchief, which he would turn out to me. I agreed, and let him return home with me on foot; but the very following night, he flipped from me, ftole my horfe and has never paid me even his note. The oher negro man, Jacklin, being a comb-maker by trade, he requefted me to fet him up, and promifed to reward me well with his labor. Accordingly I bought him a fet of tools for making combs, and procured him ftock. He worked at my houfe for about one year, and then run away from me with all his combs, and owed me for all his board. Since my refidence at Haddam neck, I have owned of boats, canoes and fail veffels, not lefs than twenty. Thefe I mostly employed in the fifhing and trafficking bufinefs, and in thefe occupations I have been cheated out of confiderable money by people whom I traded with taking advantage of my ignorance of numbers. About twelve years ago, I hired a whale-boat and four black men, and proceeded to Long-Ifland after a load of round clams. Having arrived there, I firft purchafed of James Webb, fon of Orange Webb, fix hundred and fixty clams, and afterwards, with the help of my men, finifhed loading my boat. The fame evening, however, this Webb ftole my boat, and went in her to Connecticut river, and fold her cargo for his own benefit. I thereupon purfued him, and at length, after an additional expence of nine crowns, recovered the boat; but for the proceeds of her cargo I never could obtain any compenfation. Four years after, I met with another lofs, far fuperior to this in value, and I think by no lefs wicked means. Being going to New London with a grand-child, I took paffage in an Indian's boat, and went there with him. On our return, the Indian took on board two hogfheads of molaffes, one of which belonged to Capt. Elifha Hart of Saybrooh, to be delivered on his wharf. When we arrived there, and while I was gone, at the requeft of the Indian, to inform Captain Hart of his arrival, and receive the freight for him, one hogfhead of the molaffes had been loft overboard by the people in attempting to land it on the wharf. Although I was abfent at the time, and had no concern whatever in the bufinefs as was known to a number of refpectable witneffes, I was neverthelefs profecuted by this confcientious gentleman, (the Indian not being able to pay for it) and obliged to pay upwards of ten pounds lawful money, with all the cofts of court. I applied to feveral gentlemen for counfel in this affair, and they advifed me, as my adverfary was rich, and threatened to carry the matter from court to court till it would coft me more than the firft damages would be, to pay the fun and fubmit to the injury; which I accordingly did, and he has often fince infultingly taunted me with my unmerited misfortune. Such a proceeding as this, committed on a defenceless ftranger, almoft worn out in the hard fervice of the world, without any foundation in reafon or juftice, whatever it may be called in a chriftian land, would in my native country have been branded as a crime equal to highway robbery. But Captain Hart was a white gentleman, and I a poor African, therefore it was all right, and good enough for the black dog. I am now fixty nine years old. Though once ftrait and tall, meafuring without fhoes fix feet one inch and [an] half, and every way well proportioned, I am now bowed down with age and hardfhip. My ftrength which was once equal if not fuperior to any man whom I have ever feen, is not enfeebled fo that life is a burden, and it is with fatigue that I can walk a couple of miles, ftooping over my ftaff. Other griefs are ftill behind; on account of which fome aged people, at leaft, will pity me. My eye-fight has gradually failed, till I am almoft blind, and whenever I go abroad one of my grand-children muft direct my way; befides for many years I have been much pained and troubled with an ulcer on one of my legs. But amidft all my griefs and pains, I have many confolations; Meg, the wife of my youth, is ftill alive. My freedom is a privilege which nothing elfe can equal. Notwithftanding all the loffes I have fuffered by fire, by the injuftice of knaves, by the cruelty and oppreffion of falfe hearted friends, and the perfidy of my own countrymen whom I have affifted and redeemed from bondage, I am now poffeffed of more than one hundred acres of land, and three habitable dwelling houfes. It gives me joy to think that I have and that I deferve fo good a character, efpecially for truth and integrity. While I am now looking to the grave as my home, my joy for this world would be full -- IF my children, Cuff for whom I paid two hundred dollars when a boy, and Solomon who was born foon after I purchafed him mother -- If Cuff and Solomon -- O! that they had walked in the way of their father. But a father's lips are clofed in filence and in grief! -- Vanity of vanities, all is vanity! FINIS
Following the establishment of Charles Town (South Carolina) by the English in 1670, enslaved Africans began making their way down the Atlantic coast to the Spanish settlement at St. Augustine, where they were offered liberty and religious sanctuary.
In 1681, African and African American runaways established Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the first free black town within the present-day borders of the United States. Located two miles north of St. Augustine, "Fort Mose" was a frontier community of homesteaders who incorporated incoming fugitives, slaves from St. Augustine, and Indians from nearby villages into a complex family network.
Fort Mose's militia provided Spain's northernmost defense in North America, and the captain of the militia, Francisco Men´ndez, was recognized by Florida's Spanish governor as "chief" of the community.
When Florida was ceded to Britain under the 1763 Treaty of Paris, the free blacks of Mose, along with the rest of the Spanish population of Florida and their Indian allies, all left for Cuba, where they were resettled by the Spanish government. A least 251 British slaves joined the Spanish under the sanctuary policy, and many others fled to the flourishing villages of the Seminoles in North Florida.
It was the intention of the British to replicate the successes of South Carolina, making Florida a plantation province sustained through slave labor. Large numbers of enslaved Africans and African Americans were brought in to work the indigo, rice, sugar, and cotton crops. For most of the 1760s, Carolina- and Georgia-born blacks were in the majority, but in the next decade their number was surpassed by Africans, who were a third less expensive.
During the Revolutionary War, British East Florida became the last loyalist haven in North America. Florida briefly reverted back to Spanish control at the end of the war, before becoming a U.S. territory in 1821.
"Defense of Slavery in Virginia"
Soon after the start of the French and Indian War, a Reverend Peter Fontaine, replying to a query from his brother Moses as to the Christian ethics of "enslaving our fellow creatures," wrote that "to live in Virginia without slaves is morally impossible."
While noting that "the Negroes are enslaved by the Negroes themselves," Fontaine acknowledged that "It is, to be sure, at our choice whether we buy them or not." Yet he placed blame for the slave trade on "the Board of Trade at home" in Britain for preventing the Assembly from passing "a duty upon them which would amount to a prohibition."
Fontaine further explained that "unless robust enough to cut wood, to go to mill, to work at the hoe, etc., you must starve or board in some family where they both fleece and half starve you," thus forcing would-be "merchants, traders, or artificers" to "purchase some slaves and land" and become planters. He reasoned that for the cost of hiring "a lazy fellow," one could "add to this £ 7 or £ 8 more and you have a slave for life."
REVEREND PETER FONTAINE'S DEFENSE OF SLAVERY IN VIRGINIA (1757)
As to your second query, if enslaving our fellow creatures be a practice agreeable to Christianity, it is answered in a great measure in many treatises at home, to which I refer you. I shall only mention something of our present state here.
Like Adam, we are all apt to shift off the blame from ourselves and lay it upon others, how justly in our case you may judge. The Negroes are enslaved by the Negroes themselves before they are purchased by the masters of the ships who bring them here. It is, to be sure, at our choice whether we buy them or not, so this then is our crime, folly, or whatever you will please to call it.
But our Assembly, foreseeing the ill consequences of importing such numbers among us, has often attempted to lay a duty upon them which would amount to a prohibition, such as £10 or £20 a head; but no governor dare pass such a law, having instructions to the contrary from the Board of Trade at home. By this means they are forced upon us, whether we will or will not. This plainly shows the African Company has the advantage of the colonies, and may do as it pleases with the Ministry.
Indeed, since we have been exhausted of our little stock of cash by the war, the importation has stopped; our poverty then is our best security. There is no more picking for their ravenous jaws upon bare bones; but should we begin to thrive, they will be at same again. All our taxes are now laid upon slaves and on shippers of tobacco, which they wink at while we are in danger of being torn from them, but we dare not do it in time of peace, it being looked upon as the highest presumption to lay any burden upon trade. This is our part of the grievance, but to live in Virginia without slaves is morally impossible.
Before our troubles, you could not hire a servant or slave for love or money, so that, unless robust enough to cut wood, to go to mill, to work at the hoe, etc., you must starve or board in some family where they both fleece and half starve you. There is no set price upon corn, wheat, and provisions; so they take advantage of the necessities of strangers, who are thus obliged to purchase some slaves and land. This, of course, draws us all into the original sin and curse of the country of purchasing slaves, and this is the reason we have no merchants, traders, or artificers of any sort but what become planters in a short time.
A common laborer, white or black, if you can be so much favored as to hire one, is 1s . sterling or 15d. currency per day; a bungling carpenter, 2s. or 2s. 6d.. per day; besides diet and lodging. That is, for a lazy fellow to get wood and water, £19 16s. 3d. current per annum; add to this £7 or £8 more and you have a slave for life.
Education in the United States - A Documentary History, Volume I, edited by Sol Cohen, Random House, Inc., 1974
In July of 1771, Isaac Wilkins and Samuel Ogden of Newark, New Jersey, advertised for the return of "a Negro Man slave, who calls himself by the several names of James, Gaul, Mingo, Mink and Jem." They offered a reward for the return of Jem and the "large brown horse" that Jem and his Irish-born companion took with them. Jem also took several items of clothing and a violin. The reward offered for Jem and the horse was 12 dollars and expenses, or "Eight dollars for the Negro and Four Dollars for the Horse."
TWELVE DOLLARS Reward.
RAN away from the fubfcribers, the 2d day of July inftant, a Negro man flave, who calls himfelf by the feveral names of James, Gaul, Mingo, Mink, and Jem ; his real name is JEM; he is about 5 feet 6 inches high, thick fet, and not very black; he has a fear in his face, and is about 35 years old; he took with him two oznabrigs fhirts and trowfers, a broadcloth coat, a coating waiftcoat, a felt hat; and a violin. He is fuppofed to have gone off with a certain PATRICK JOHNSON, who was born in Ireland, about 5 feet 10 inches high, and 30 years old; he is thin in flefh, having been lately fick; had on, and took with him, one new check and two new oznabrigs fhirts and trowfers, a felt hat, narrow-brim'd, and bound with black ferreting, an old fuftian waiftcoat without fleeves, fine fhort brown hair, and is much addicted to ftrong liquors. They ftole, and took with them, a large brown Horfe, about 12 years old, near 15 hands high, very ftrong made, paces and trots, and is branded, either on the fhoulder or thigh, with fome letters not remembered. Whoever takes up the faid Negro and Horfe, and delivers them to the fubfcribers at Newark, in New-Jerfey, fhall be intitled to the above reward, and well paid for extra charges, or Eight Dollars for the Negro, and Four Dollars for the Horfe. Newark, July 4, 1771
ISAAC WILKINS SAMUEL OGDEN.
Lucy Terry Prince Poem
"Bars Fight" was the first poem composed by an African American woman -- Lucy Terry Prince. When she was 22, two neighboring families were killed in an Indian attack in a section of Deerfield, Massachusetts called "the Bars," a colonial term for meadows. She later wrote a ballad called "Bars Fight" that was recited or sung for a century before it was first published in 1855. Such "captivity narratives" were popular during the colonial period, and an alternate version of "Bars Fight" was still recalled near the end of the 19th century.
August 'twas the twenty-fifth, Seventeen hundred forty-six; The Indians did in ambush lay, Some very valiant men to slay, The names of whom I'll not leave out. Samuel Allen like a hero fout, And though he was so brave and bold, His face no more shalt we behold Eteazer Hawks was killed outright, Before he had time to fight, - Before he did the Indians see, Was shot and killed immediately. Oliver Amsden he was slain, Which caused his friends much grief and pain. Simeon Amsden they found dead, Not many rods distant from his head. Adonijah Gillett we do hear Did lose his life which was so dear. John Sadler fled across the water, And thus escaped the dreadful slaughter. Eunice Allen see the Indians coming, And hopes to save herself by running, And had not her petticoats stopped her, The awful creatures had not catched her, Nor tommy hawked her on the head, And left her on the ground for dead. Young Samuel Allen, Oh lack-a-day! Was taken and carried to Canada.
Slaves in New York
The following article was published in the New York Times on January 9, 2000 in the EDITORIAL OBSERVER section
While New Yorkers celebrated a new century, a team of biological anthropologists at Howard University in Washington were intensely focused on a most grisly aspect of New York City's past. Led by Dr. Michael Blakey, the team has spent several years examining the skeletal remains of more than 400 African slaves whose graves were accidentally uncovered during the construction of a federal office tower in lower Manhattan nine years ago.
That the graves existed at all surprised New Yorkers who grew up believing that theirs was a "free" state where there had never been slavery. But a series of reports from the Blakey team -- the first due out early this year -- will present statistics to show that colonial New York was just as dependent on slavery as many Southern cities, and in some cases even more so. In addition, the brutality etched on these skeletons easily matches the worst of what we know of slavery in the South.
The first slave ship that sailed into Jamestown Harbor in Virginia in 1619 contained a handful of captive Africans. But by the end of the Atlantic slave trade more than two centuries later, somewhere between 8 million and 12 million Africans had arrived in the New World in chains. The historian Ira Berlin, author of "Many Thousands Gone," estimates that one slave perished for every one who survived capture in the African interior and made it alive to the New World -- meaning that as many as 12 million more captive Africans perished along the way.
During the 16th century, the massive outflow of slaves decimated countries like the Kingdom of the Kongo, whose monarch, King Affonso I, wrote letter after letter imploring King João III of Portugal to cease the slave trade because it was generating "depravity . . . so widespread that our land is entirely depopulated." He said that "a monstrous greed pushes our subjects, even Christians, to seize members of their own families, and of ours, to do business by selling them as captives."
Many of the stolen Africans ended up in the United States, some of them in the Dutch colonial city of New Amsterdam, which later became New York City. The Dutch recruited settlers with an advertisement that promised to provide them with slaves who "would accomplish more work for their masters, at less expense than [white] farm servants, who must be bribed to go thither by a great deal of money and promises." Integral to the colony from the start, slaves helped build Trinity Church, the streets of the city and the wall -- from which Wall Street takes its name -- that protected the colony from military strikes.
In life, slaves lived in attics, hallways and beneath porches, cheek to jowl with their masters and mistresses. In death, these same slaves were banished to the Negro Burial Ground, which lay a mile outside the city limits and contained between 10,000 and 20,000 bodies by the time it was closed in 1794, according to the historian Dr. Sherrill Wilson. The graveyard was paved over, built upon and forgotten -- until 1991, when the General Services Administration excavated the foundation for a new tower. After protests from black New Yorkers, the agency agreed to finance research on the skeletons, but failed to budget the necessary money and generally dragged its feet, putting one of the most important archaeological projects of the century years behind schedule.
The Howard team has yet to identify among the skeletons the many Africans who are known to have been burned at the stake during the rebellion-plot hysteria that swept the colony in 1741. But what the researchers have found is brutal enough on its own. Of the 400 skeletons taken to Howard, about 40 percent are of children under the age of 15, and the most common cause of death was malnutrition. Most of the children had rickets, scurvy, anemia or related diseases. About twice as many infant girls seem to have died as boys, suggesting at least some infanticide. As Dr. Blakey said, "Women who gave birth in these conditions knew that they were bringing their children into hell."
The adult skeletons show that many of these people died of unrelenting hard labor. Strain on the muscles and ligaments was so extreme that muscle attachments were commonly ripped away from the skeleton -- taking chunks of bone with them -- leaving the body in perpetual pain. The highest mortality rate is found among those ages 15 to 20. Dr. Blakey has concluded that some died of illnesses acquired in the holds of slave ships or from a first exposure to the cold -- or from the trauma of being torn from their families and shipped in chains halfway around the globe. But in many cases, he said, "what we see is that these women were worked to death by owners who could simply go out and buy a new slave."
The Blakey team will conduct two sets of studies in an attempt to determine more closely where the slaves where born. One study will analyze tooth enamel for trace minerals that would mark the captives as having grown up in Africa, the Caribbean or in North America. If DNA research proceeds as planned, it will further pin down the country of origin by comparing the dead with known populations in Africa.
The skeletons will be returned to their graves by 2002.
By then the burial ground will have rewritten the book on slavery in New York and given historians something to talk about well into the next century.