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Jane G. Landers

Spanish militia captain, corsair, and founder of the first free black town in what became the United States, was born in “Guinea” (a name used by Europeans and Americans for the slave-trading coast of West Africa) to unknown parents. Menéndez's birth date and birth name are also unknown, but when he was baptized a Catholic he took the name of his Spanish godfather, the royal accountant in St. Augustine, and Menéndez's former owner.

Enslaved as a young man, Menéndez was transported to South Carolina by British traders to work alongside large numbers of Africans already herding cattle, cutting timber, and producing naval stores, indigo, and, later, rice. Soon Carolina was said to be “more like a Negro country” (Wood, 132), and planters began to fear retaliation from the slaves who now outnumbered them. Slave revolts rocked Carolina periodically in the first decades of the eighteenth century.

Then ...

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sergeant in the free black militia who helped defend Spanish Florida from Indians, pirates, and the United States Marines, was born in Guinea on the west coast of Africa in about 1756, according to his own estimates. His name is sometimes spelled Witten. He spent perhaps the first twenty years of his life in Guinea, the next ten in South Carolina, another thirty-five in Spanish Florida, and he ended his days in Matanzas, Cuba.

Whitten's African name and the circumstances of his enslavement are unknown, but in the 1770s the man that English records later called Big Prince was carried across the Atlantic by slave traders to be unloaded at Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, the largest slave port of its time. The Charleston planter Peter Whitten purchased Whitten and named him Big Prince perhaps in reference to his great size for the African was described as 6 and ...