Kongo Slaves: African Traders


3. African Traders

Four main 'staples' traded in the hinterland of Angola Coast were salt, copper, cloth, and slaves. In the 1500s these goods, and foodstuffs sold locally, were paid for in nzimbu shells (kingdom of Kongo) or nkudimba cloth (colony of Angola). By the 1600s most prices, including tolls and taxes, were calculated according the dominant unit of value - 'a piece of Indies', equivalent to one male adult slave.

In the relatively balanced economy of the seventeenth century, 'commodities' produced in one area, near the sea, next to ore deposits, where raffia palms grew, or from expansionary wars, were marketed in areas that did not have those 'natural' advantages. Growing reliance by ruling African elites on European 'luxury' imports, like muskets, powder and shot, wines and spirits, education (in Portugal), or religion (in Kongo), seriously altered this balance. In the seventeenth century, the Portuguese desire for slaves had…

Kongo Slaves: West-Central Africa


2. West-Central Africa

In 1441 two Portuguese captains sailed their small ships down the Atlantic coast of West Africa to Cabo Branco, which they named for the whiteness of its sand. Antonio Goncalves and Nuno Tristao returned from this 'voyage of discovery' with a small quantity of gold dust, some ostrich eggs, and 12 'black' Africans. In 1442 Goncalves sailed south again, back to Cabo Branco and on to the Bay of Anguin, this time returning to Portugal with some gold dust, some fine white salt, a few ostrich eggs, and 10 'black' Africans. In 1443 it was Tristao's turn to venture back to the Bay of Anguin. He returned home to his home port with a total of 29 slaves, 14 of whom he had captured from their canoes and the rest from raiding fishing villages. (1)

So it all began. Portugal, the first (1441) and the last (1866) of the 'great' European slaver nations had embarked on its African destiny.

In subsequent decades a series of navigators e…

Kongo Slaves: Stono Rebellion 1739

Stono Rebellion 1739

"The 1730s was a decade of slave unrest throughout the New World plantation complex". Rebellions erupted on St John (Danish) in 1733, in the Bahamas in 1734, on Antigua in 1735, on Guadaloupe in 1737, and in Jamaica and South Carolina in 1739. The South Carolina event is the subject of this introductory essay. (1)

The Stono River Insurrection  occurred on September 9, 1739, and it was extinguished within a few days. However, as one descendant notes, "Dis war last less than two days but it sho' was pow'fu hot while it lasted. I reckons it was hot, 'cause in less than two days,21 white men, women, and chillun, and 44 Negroes, was slain". (2)

Historical Accounts

The weekly Boston Globe published the following description based on "Letters [received] from Charlestown in South Carolina, of the 14th of September": "About 100 rebellious Negroes got together, arm'd, and murder'd twenty one white Persons, Men, Women and Ch…

American Story: New Century


New Century

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States was well on its way to becoming an economic and political powerhouse. The benefits of democracy and industrialisation were not so apparent in Alabama however. In fact, when the Southern Democrats swept the board in the 1900 election, the State took the opportunity to turn 180 degrees backwards.

It is obvious now that stalling the aspirations of half its population because they were black was counter-productive. It makes no sense for a society to limit the expansion of its tax base, to discourage more of its people from becoming contributors to its institutions.

However the priority for white Alabaman voters in 1900 was what one newspaper called, "the perplexing, menacing problem of negro suffrage". The solution, it seemed, was a new constitution, because "the present one is out of date, imperfect and unfitted to present circumstances.

From its inception, the Constitution of the State of A…

American Story: Lynch Law


Lynch Law

Camp Springs Cemetery and Church is a well-tended sanctuary. To the west, behind the screen of mature trees surrounding the church, miles of natural regrowth stretch to the wetlands of Okatuppa Creek, and to the uplands of Piney Ridge beyond. On the edge of wilderness, apparently unfenced and unfarmed, it seems a suitable resting place for the generations of Boykins that are buried there.

Among these graves are two of Burrell's boys, the Confederate veterans Henry Clark and Solomon (spelled Solomin on his headstone). With them are Henry H., WWI Alabama Pvt. Field Artillery; Andrew, WWI Alabama Pvt. Infantry; Lester Earl, WWII TEC4 US Army; and Burnice, WWII SI US Navy.

The Boykins were certainly patriotic Americans. If the service of Solomon Jr. in the War of Independence and Burwell in the War of 1812 are recalled, then the family were represented in every significant conflict that involved the American military between 1775 and 1945.

Neither of the family pat…