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Shani Roper

was born on the island of St. Kitts in the British West Indies. Little is known about how he came to be in Falmouth, Virginia, in the 1770s. However, both the towns of Falmouth and Fredericksburg sat on the banks of the Rappahannock River and were bustling eighteenth-century port cities. Many ships leaving the Rappahannock traded goods and provisions in the West Indies. Jeffery Bolster (1997) argues that in the eighteenth century, enslaved Africans worked extensively on ships and schooners, thereby participating in the complex shipping network in the Americas. Many of these enslaved Africans were skilled seamen who were familiar with the geography of major ports throughout the region. Norman Schools (2010 suggests that it is possible that John DeBaptiste was one of many enslaved Africans from the Caribbean who arrived on these ships visiting the port and who either escaped or took residence in ...