Showing posts from August, 2018

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…