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John Gilmore

Politician, born in Jamaica into a family of wealthy plantation owners. Sent to England in 1723, he was educated at Westminster School and Oxford. He later studied medicine at Leiden in Holland, but broke off his course there when the death of his father obliged him to return to Jamaica in 1735. When his elder brother died in 1737, he inherited most of the family properties and continued to add to them by inheritance and purchase over the next 30 years. At the time of his death he was sole owner of thirteen sugar plantations in Jamaica, together with other real estate and about 3,000 slaves.

In 1737William Beckford became a member of the Jamaican House of Assembly, but by 1744 he had left Jamaica for Britain where he settled in London as a West India merchant selling the produce of his own estates ...

Article

John Gilmore

Writer, art collector, and owner of plantations in Jamaica. He was the son of William Beckford, on whose death in 1770 he inherited an enormous fortune. This came under his control when he attained his majority in 1781 and for many years enabled him to travel extensively in Europe, to fund his enthusiasm for building Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire as a Gothic extravaganza to house himself and the books, pictures, and works of art that he collected on a prodigious scale. In the 1790s his income was estimated at well over £100,000 a year, and in 1809 the poet Lord Byron hailed him as ‘England's wealthiest son’. From the 1820s the income from his Jamaican estates declined significantly, and he was forced to sell Fonthill and major parts of his collections. Beckford is remembered as the author of the novel Vathek an Orientalist fantasy published in ...

Article

H.R. Costello

Previously known as Cato, or James Cato (b. 1750), black crewman on Nelson's flagship, the Victory. Brown was originally known as Cato, following the common practice of slave owners of giving slaves Roman or Greek names. Brown is thought to have been a black Loyalist, a slave siding with the British during the American War of Independence. Living in Nova Scotia, he was of mixed parentage, his mother reputed to be a member of the prominent Liverpool merchant Gough family.

Cato left Nova Scotia, running away to sea while still a child, ironically serving on ships involved in the slave trade, and assuming the name James Cato. He later joined the Royal Navy and changed his name again, to James Brown, serving on one of the most famous ships of all time, Nelson's flagship Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 When ...

Primary Source

The slaveholder Cotton Mather (1680–1723), a leading Puritan intellectual in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was among the first to argue that slaves be converted to Christianity. Using his own home as a Sunday school and house of worship, Mather passionately rebutted common arguments that blacks were incapable of reasoning, or that they had no souls. He also advocated fairer treatment of slaves, declaring that it was God’s will that the institution be humane. However, Mather never went so far as to condemn slavery. In fact, he assured fellow slaveholders that converting the workforce would not lead to emancipation, and would instead make the slaves more productive. In addition, his Rules for the Society of Negroes (1693)—regulations intended for his congregation of slaves—lists disobedience and attempted escape among the most egregious sins against God and the community. Later, Mather would author The Negro Christianized 1706 which lays out the prescribed ...

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Cecily Jones

Queen of England and patron of slave‐trading ventures.

1.Genesis of the British slave trade

2.Africans in Elizabethan England

3.Scapegoating ‘Blackamoors’

4.Attempts to expel Blacks

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David Dabydeen

Slave owner, instigator of the ‘coolie trade’, and father of the British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809–98). Sir John Gladstone was a leading member of the West Indian Association of Liverpool, a group of plantation owners and merchants trading with the West Indies in slave‐produced commodities. He owned sugar estates in Jamaica and British Guiana and was a passionate opponent of abolition. In 1830, in a series of last‐ditch attempts to persuade the government not to end West Indian slavery, Gladstone (then a member of Parliament and spokesman for the West India interest) argued that slavery was normal in primitive societies, and that West Indian Blacks had peculiar constitutions, enabling them to work easily under a tropical sun. He held up the dreadful prospect of freed slaves slaughtering the smaller white populations.

In 1833 Gladstone was deputed by Liverpool's West Indian interest ...

Article

Erin D. Somerville

The first Englishman to transport African slaves across the Atlantic. The son of a sea merchant and Mayor of Plymouth, Hawkins inherited the family sea business after his father's death. After early voyages to the Canary Islands, he moved to London in 1560 to seek support for voyages to the West Indian colonies, then under tight Spanish control.

Hawkins's first slave trading voyage departed for the west coast of Africa in October 1562. Upon arrival in Upper Guinea, Hawkins raided Portuguese ships for African slaves and other merchandise. Three hundred slaves were brought to Hispaniola, where he illegally sold them to English planters. The financial gains of the expedition were so extensive that Queen Elizabeth I supported an equally profitable second voyage in 1564, which moved over 400 slaves from Sierra Leone. A third slaving voyage in 1567 also supported by the Queen was not as successful ...

Article

Donovan S. Weight

slave owner, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a freed slave and a white man (their names are unknown). Hinard never experienced slavery herself, and her life as a slave-owning black female was far removed from the common experience of most blacks in North America. This anomaly can be explained in part by the political and social turbulence of early New Orleans. By the time Hinard was forty-two, she had lived under French, Spanish, and American rule. In 1791 at the age of fourteen, Hinard was placéed (committed) to the white Spaniard Don Nicolás Vidal, the auditor de guerra the Spanish colonial governor In this lofty position Vidal provided military and legal counsel for both Louisiana and West Florida Both the Spanish and the French legislated against racial intermarriage as a way of maintaining pure white blood but this legislation did not stop white men from ...

Article

Nick Nesbitt

Victor Hugues was the son of a baker from Marseilles, France. At the age of twelve, he joined his uncle in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) at the height of that island's colonial prosperity. After sailing the Caribbean as a corsair in search of English ships, in 1784 Hugues settled in Port-au-Prince, where he opened a bakery. In 1788, when the French King Louis XVI convened the Estates General in Versailles in an attempt to defuse rising antimonarchical sentiment, Hugues was elected and returned to France to represent the petit blancs, or white shop owners and traders. Hugues also became embroiled in the conflict between petits blancs and a mulatto class striving for legal recognition: in February 1791 Port-au-Prince was burned by armed members of the mulatto class, and Hugues, by his own estimation, lost seven-eighths of his worldly goods.

When the French monarchy was overthrown in ...

Article

John Gilmore

Also known as Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (c.1702–1773?), one of the very few victims of the transatlantic slave trade to survive and get back home. Son of an important Muslim cleric from Bondou in what is now the Gambia. In 1731, while on a journey down the river Gambia to trade and sell slaves, Job was himself kidnapped and sold as a slave, together with his servant and companion Loumein Yoai. The two were shipped across the Atlantic and sold, separately, in Maryland.

Job soon ran away. Although he was speedily recaptured, he was allowed to write a letter, in Arabic, to his father, asking him to try and arrange for his ransom. This was sent to London for transmission to the Gambia, and a copy came to the attention of James Oglethorpe (1696–1785 the founder of Georgia who was then deputy governor of ...

Article

Alexander J. Chenault

former slave, slave owner, and pioneer for the legal rights of free blacks, was born a slave in 1802, probably in Virginia, although the precise place of his birth is unknown. Court records show that he was once owned by William Chenault Jr., a prominent lawyer and a member of the lower house of the Kentucky legislature. Prior to emancipation Jones resided on the Chenault family's farm, near Richmond, Kentucky, which was purchased in 1787 from the brother of Kentucky pioneer and settler Daniel Boone. Four years before Chenault died he emancipated Jones (31 May 1830). At the time Jones was married, although not legally, to Sally Ann, a slave woman, with whom he had four children. Although the date of Levi and Sally Ann's union is unknown, marriage between free blacks would not even become legal until 1825 Moreover ...

Article

Liliana Obregón

Bartolomé de Las Casas is a controversial figure, whose prolific and complex writings continue to raise questions after five centuries of study and debate. Though known as the most unrelenting advocate of Native American interests before the Spanish Crown, he endorsed the colonial system and played a role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade Throughout his life he denounced the violence and abuse that were inherent in Spanish policies towards Native Americans while he proposed more benevolent forms of colonization As a strategic reformist and in the hope of saving indigenous lives he initially advocated that imported African slaves be used in place of Native American forced laborers However towards the end of his life Las Casas regretted his promotion of black slavery and was deeply troubled by having condoned any form of human bondage Ironically through his repentance he became the first colonist of the sixteenth century to denounce ...

Article

John Gilmore

Historian of Jamaica and writer on slavery. Long was born in England, a member of a family that had long been settled in Jamaica and owned plantations there. Long himself spent only twelve years (1757–69) in Jamaica, where he was a judge, a member of the House of Assembly, and (for a very brief period) its Speaker, but he always identified himself with the interests of the Jamaican plantocracy, that is, the group of white landowners whose prosperity depended on the ownership of sugar plantations worked by slaves.

Long's major work was The History of Jamaica (1774 This contains an enormous amount of information on all aspects of the island and is still an essential source for historians of the Caribbean However the work is strongly marked by his partisan support for the plantocracy which leads him not only to emphasize Jamaica s importance to Britain ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, wealthy landowner, and community leader was born in Natchitoches, in the Spanish colony of Louisiana. His mother was Marie-Thérèse Coincoin, a slave who became a free woman and a successful agriculturalist, and his father was Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a wealthy French merchant and planter with whom his mother had a nineteen-year liaison. Marie-Thérèse was enslaved when Louis was born, and he was subsequently bought by his father on 31 May 1776 from Madame de St Denis along with three of his siblings for 1 300 livres Louis Metoyer s upbringing was unusual for its day His parents shared a household in a scarcely disguised fashion and unlike most other mixed race families in the Louisianan upper classes there was no white family to compete for the financial and emotional affection of the father Pierre Metoyer reunited his children with Marie Thérèse under one ...

Article

Paul Finkelman

Before the American Revolution, slave owners in what became the United States rarely discussed the rationale for their system of bondage. They accepted slavery as one of the many social statuses that existed within the British Empire. Slavery was, of course, alien to English culture, so much so that its development required some justification. But that justification was easily supplied by the dual claims that slavery was an economic necessity—the colonies needed cheap labor—and that enslavement enabled Africans to become Christians, which was in itself a blessing for them. These justifications proved sufficient throughout the colonial period as new African slaves brought prosperity to the colonies and Christian ministers happily baptized them to save their immortal souls. By the mid-1700s slavery was entrenched, and American colonists seemed to give little thought to the system. With a few notable exceptions, such as the Germantown Quakers protest against slavery in 1688 ...

Article

Erin D. Somerville

English slave‐trading monopoly active between 1672 and 1713. The Company is credited with sending 5,000 ships to Africa carrying £500,000 of English goods, transporting over 90,000 African slaves to West Indian plantations, and importing 30,000 tons of sugar by the beginning of the 18th century.

The Royal African Company was formed on 27 September 1672 by a group of English merchants previously involved in the Company of Adventurers of London Trading into Parts of Africa. It suffered financial troubles from the start, blamed largely on the slow turnover of trade and the extensive credit granted to West Indian planters. The Company's funds were also crippled by its role in the construction and strengthening of forts on the West African coast, believed by the British Parliament to be essential to maintaining English interests in Africa.

The Company traded English textiles metalware and firearms to three regions of the West African ...

Primary Source

The efforts of Cotton Mather 1680 1723 to convert his slaves to Christianity demonstrates the strained attempts by the Massachusetts Puritan community to justify the practice of forced servitude in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries The Harvard educated Mather lived during a turbulent time for the Massachusetts Bay Colony which included the Salem witchcraft hysteria In this tumultuous context Mather challenged the prevailing assumption that blacks had neither souls nor a capacity to reason and called for the humane treatment of servants Despite these relatively progressive ideas Mather also claimed like many Christians at the time that slavery was compatible with his religion as the Bible recognized the institution as legitimate He also went to great lengths to convince others that baptizing the slaves would not one day lead to their emancipation but merely to a more just version of the practice These seemingly competing priorities are on ...

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Allan D. Austin

Islamic slave and autobiographer, was African born and also known as Omar, Uncle Moro, and Moreau. The son of moderately wealthy parents in Futa Toro (northeastern Senegal), whom he honored in several of his American writings, he may have been related, at some remove, to some of the other Fulbe or Fulani caught up in the Atlantic slave trade, such as Job Ben Solomon, Ibrahima Abd al-Rahman, Bilali, Salih Bilali, and Charno (a literate Fula enslaved in South Carolina). All were steadfast adherents to Islam. According to Said's own statements, he was educated for some twenty years by Fulani instructors, became a teacher himself, and while in Futa Toro closely followed the tenets of his religion. He never mentioned having a wife or children.

Said did write that an unidentified African army he belonged to was defeated by an infidel non Muslim enemy ...

Article

Allan D. Austin

Muslim plantation manager on St. Simons Island, Georgia, was called Tom by his master. His history, including details from his earlier life in Africa, was published by America's first student of African—including Arabic—languages, the Georgia linguist William Brown Hodgson. Hodgson prevailed upon Salih Bilali's second master, the prominent James H. Couper, to write him a personal letter about Salih Bilali in 1838. Six years later, disappointed that the master would not grant him a personal interview with Salih Bilali, Hodgson published the letter under the title Notes on Northern Africa, The Sahara and Soudan (1844).

In the letter Couper summarized what Salih Bilali had told him about his African life and homeland of Massina later Mali then contested by the powerful Bambaras a branch of Manding people and his immigrant Fulbe there called Fulani Massina was agriculturally valuable as it lay in the productive Niger ...

Article

John Evans

Son of a slave and a wealthy planter on St Kitts, Wells became a major landowner in Monmouthshire, South Wales, and Britain's first black sheriff. He was probably the wealthiest black person in the country at the time.

His father, William Wells (1730–94), left Cardiff with his brother Nathaniel for St Kitts to make his fortune in the sugar and slave trade in about 1749. He married a wealthy widow in 1753, Elizabeth Taylor née Fenton. She bore William two children, who died in infancy, before she herself died in 1759. Subsequently William fathered at least six children with various slaves, one of whom, Nathaniel, was born on 10 September 1779, the son of Juggy, his African house slave. He was baptized on 3 March 1783 at Trinity Church Palmetto Point By the age of 9 wells was living in London with ...