“On July 27, 1807, a ship of three hudred tons burthen,* mounting eighteen guns on her deck and carrying letters of marque2* against French and Spanish vessles—the Kitty’s Amelia, Captain Hugh Crow, having assembled her crew of sixty from the Liverpool jails and crimping3* houses; having signed on two surgeons and three mates, of who only the eldest was a navigator; having filled the slave-deck and hold with Manchester cottons, Birmingham muskets, Sheffield cutlery, in addition to hand cuffs, shackles, horse-beans4*, lead, Peruvian bark6*, chain-shot, gunpowder, rum and water casks –dropped with an ebb tide past the Black Rock of Liverpool and set her couse for the Guinea, coast She was the last legal slaver to leave an Engish port.
The Danes had outlawed trading in slaves in 1802, the Swedes in 1813, the Dutch in 1814, Napoleon abolished the trade, Spain prohibited slave trading after 1820. Only the Portuguese contined to make slave trading legal.
“The illegal slave trade was a hothouse in which cruelty flourished.”1 Cruel or not the trade went on.
That did not mean slavery was abolished. It was not.
One wonders, did the slavers never put themselves in the position of being a slave? Could they not see the cruelty in it?
Before the prohibition against slave trading millions had crossed the Atlantic. One of those was a young girl, a Fulani. This is her story. Her story and her progenies’ story.
*burthen: weight of a ship’s cargo. 2*marque: official permission from a goverment to capture enemy merchant ships. 3*crimping: to trick or force men to join the navy or army. 4*mates: next below the captain. 5*horse-beans: broad beans. 6*Peruvian bark: quinine
Bibliography:1The Adventures of an American Slave Trader ( for a picture of how slaves were packed into a ship, see the frontispiece of this book.)
She couldn’t believe her eyes! It was like seeing an image from her past, living in the present. There was Mrs. MacCall walking down the street. She had seen her many times since that apocalyptic day when she had been sold into slavery but always as a slave. Mrs. MacCall had always avoided her eyes, never glancing at Amity. Amity had done the same at first. But, after a time, curiosity got the better of her. What was it about her that allowed her to sell her own relation to the slavers? After a while she had concluded that Mrs. MacCall was basically an unhappy person whose station in life was unsatisfactory to her. When her husband had come from Ireland, he had been a slave driver and then an overseer. This was considered to be a low-class occupation by her fellow society ladies. She had neither the money to buy her way up into the higher echelons of society nor the wit, charm, or beauty to beguile her way into this society. Her husband was exacting as to moral character. He would have divorced her, even with great scandal, if she had thought to sleep her way there. There was not much love between them so that part of her life gave no joy. Her children were spoiled and self-centered. After a while of watching the woman and contemplating her demeanor and actions Amity concluded the woman was at best, unhappy and the act of selling her into slavery had been one without thought, simply to appease those ladies whose good opinion she was trying to secure. It apparently failed miserably. They saw her as truly insensitive to the finer feelings of a lady. Her social standing had not improved and most likely fallen because the Southern ladies did not like the appearance of meanness or pettiness even though they could practice it themselves, covertly.
After seeing Mz. MacCall, she realized something. She was free now, owned by no man. She could tell her son the truth.
She wrote down two words, “Dear Mason.” She had to tell him about himself, about who he really was. She could see that he felt some emptiness in his life. She knew from whence it came. She hadn’t the courage to tell him in person. She wanted him to know the entire story of his existence. Maybe then he would have peace in his heart, a peace that seemed to be missing. She could make the puzzle of his life complete. Her strength was failing her fast. She had to do it soon. She had lived 60 years upon this earth and wasn’t sure how much longer she could hold onto the thread of life. She felt a desperation. Perhaps she wouldn’t live long enough to complete their life history. She would tell it as it had been told to her and of course, she would tell him the complete story of her life as well.
Firstly, Mason, I will tell you the story of the Fulani as my mother told it to me, as her father had told it to her. This is the story of the Fulani’s beginning like unto Adam and Eve. It is not the story of all mankind but only the story of the Fulani. It is said we are the descendants of Mohammed; some say the descendants of Jesus. We may have come from India, no one knows but this is the story that was told:
In the Sahel, in West Africa, there was a happy couple. They lived in a small village. The wife loved her husband and her loved her as well, but as oft times happens, they had a quarrel. She took her son by the hand marched into the bush. When her anger cooled, she returned home but, realized, in her upset, she had left her child behind. They returned to the bush and looked for the child but could not find him and at last gave up the search.
He somehow survived when Water Spirit came upon him and decided to help him. He told the boy to go down to the river. “When you see a white cow emerge from the rive you must turn and walk away. He did this. A great many whit cattle came out of the river. When he looked back the cattle ceased to come out of the river. The last four cattle to emerge were red ones (this explains why there are many more white cattle than red ones). So goes the story of the Fulani.
(They lived in the Sahel and kept to the Fulani Way, “Laavol pulaake, “ the footpath.” The Fulani way was to have modesty and reserve as ideals of personal conduct; patience and fortitude in enduring hardship and caring and forethought to be good herder One needs to adhere to these beliefs in order to travel safely along the path. A Fulani man would mourn the loss of a cow far more that the loss of a wife. His duty was to his herd. The only means to wealth were a man’s livestock. It was even ill-regarded to sell a steer or a cow. They were mixed with Berber. The Berbers were called the Blue men while the Fulani were the called the Red men Your ancestors were not a shade of ebony but shades of burnt umber and raw sienna. The nose of a Fulani is not dished in, not aquiline, but rather straight, starting at the bridge and presenting itself in a forthright manner, not a dainty, petite, nose but a mark of character.)
A Time: 1701 Place: Sahel