|This page contains four narratives. Two are by John
Barbot, a slave trader.
- In the first narrative Barbor describes the slave trade.
- In the second Barbot describes a revolt aboard a slave shop
- The third narrative is about Ayubah Sulieman Diallo, a Muslim merchant,
who recalls his capture.
- In the fourth narrative, Venture Smith recalls his capture at the age of
"PREPOSSESSED OF THE OPINION...THAT EUROPEANS ARE FOND OF THEIR FLESH"
John Barbot, an agent for the French Royal African Company, made at least two voyages to the West Coast
of Africa, in 1678 and 1682.
Those sold by the Blacks are for the most part prisoners of war, taken either in fight, or pursuit, or in the
incursions they make into their enemies territories; others stolen away by their own countrymen; and some
there are, who will sell their own children, kindred, or neighbours. This has been often seen, and to compass
it, they desire the person they intend to sell, to help them in carrying something to the factory by way of trade,
and when there, the person so deluded, not understanding the language, is old and deliver'd up as a slave,
notwithstanding all his resistance, and exclaiming against the treachery....
The kings are so absolute, that upon any slight pretense of offences committed by their subjects, they order
them to be sold for slaves, without regard to rank, or possession....
Abundance of little Blacks of both sexes are also stolen away by their neighbours, when found abroad on the
roads, or in the woods; or else in the Cougans, or corn- fields, at the time of the year, when their parents keep
them there all day, to scare away the devouring small birds, that come to feed on the millet, in swarms, as has
been said above.
In times of dearth and famine, abundance of those people will sell themselves, for a maintenance, and to
prevent starving. When I first arriv'd at Goerree, in December, 1681, I could have bought a great number, at
very easy rates, if I could have found provisions to subsist them; so great was the dearth then, in that part of
To conclude, some slaves are also brought to these Blacks, from very remote inland countries, by way of
trade, and sold for things of very inconsiderable value; but these slaves are generally poor and weak, by
reason of the barbarous usage they have had in traveling so far, being continually beaten, and almost
famish'd; so inhuman are the Blacks to one another....
The trade of slaves is in a more peculiar manner the business of kings, rich men, and prime merchants,
exclusive of the inferior sort of Blacks.
These slaves are severely and barbarously treated by their masters, who subsist them poorly, and beat them
inhumanly, as may be seen by the scabs and wounds on the bodies of many of them when sold to us. They
scarce allow them the least rag to cover their nakedness, which they also take off from them when sold to
Europeans; and they always go bare- headed. The wives and children of slaves, are also slaves to the master
under whom they are married; and when dead, they never bury them, but cast out the bodies into some by
place, to be devoured by birds, or beasts of prey.
This barbarous usage of those unfortunate wretches, makes it appear, that the fate of such as are bought and
transported from the coast to America, or other parts of the world, by Europeans, is less deplorable, than that
of those who end their days in their native country; for aboard ships all possible care is taken to preserve and
subsist them for the interest of the owners, and when sold in America, the same motive ought to prevail with
their masters to use them well, that they may live the longer, and do them more service. Not to mention the
inestimable advantage they may reap, of becoming christians, and saving their souls, if they make a true use
of their condition....
Many of those slaves we transport from Guinea to America are prepossessed with the opinion, that they are
carried like sheep to the slaughter, and that the Europeans are fond of their flesh; which notion so far prevails
with some, as to make them fall into a deep melancholy and despair, and to refuse all sustenance,
tho' never so much compelled and even beaten to oblige them to take some nourishment: notwithstanding all which, they
will starve to death; whereof I have had several instances in my own slaves both aboard and at Guadalupe.
And tho' I must say I am naturally compassionate, yet have I been necessitated sometimes to cause the teeth
of those wretches to be broken, because they would not open their mouths, or be prevailed upon by any
entreaties to feed themselves; and thus have forced some sustenance into their throats....
As the slaves come down to Fida from the inland country, they are put into a booth, or prison, built for that
purpose, near the beach, all of them together; and when the Europeans are to receive them, every part of
every one of them, to the smallest member, men and women being all stark naked. Such as are allowed good
and sound, are set on one side, and the others by themselves; which slaves so rejected are there called
Mackrons, being above thirty five years of age, or defective in their limbs, eyes or teeth; or grown grey, or that
have the venereal disease, or any other imperfection. These being set aside, each of the others, which have
passed as good, is marked on the breast, with a red-hot iron, imprinting the mark of the French, English, or
Dutch companies, that so each nation may distinguish their own, and to prevent their being chang'd by the
natives for worse, as they are apt enough to do. In this particular, care is taken that the women, as tenderest,
be not burnt too hard.
The branded slaves, after this, are returned to their former booth, where the factor is to subsist them at his
own charge, which amounts to about two-pence a day for each of them, with bread and water, which is all
their allowance. There they continue sometimes ten or fifteen days, till the sea is still enough to send them
aboard; for very often it continues too boisterous for so long a time, unless in January, February and March,
which is commonly the calmest season: and when it is so, the slaves are carried off by parcels, in
bar canoes, and put aboard the ships in the road. Before they enter the canoes, or come out of the booth, their
former Black masters strip them of every rag they have, without distinction of men or women; to supply which,
in orderly ships, each of them as they come aboard is allowed a piece of canvas, to wrap around their waist,
which is very acceptable to those poor wretches....
If there happens to be no stock of slaves at Fida, the factor must trust the Blacks with his goods, to the value
of a hundred and fifty, or two hundred slaves; which goods they carry up into the inland, to buy slaves, at all the
markets, for above two hundred leagues up the country, where they are kept like cattle in Europe; the slaves
sold there being generally prisoners of war, taken from their enemies, like other booty, and perhaps some few
sold by their own countrymen, in extreme want, or upon a famine; as also some as a punishment of heinous
crimes: tho' many Europeans believe that parents sell their own children, men their wives and relations, which,
if it ever happens, is so seldom, that it cannot justly be charged upon a whole nation, as a custom and
One thing is to be taken notice of by sea- faring men, that this Fida and Ardra slaves are of all the others, the
most apt to revolt aboard ships, by a conspiracy carried on amongst themselves; especially such as are
brought down to Fida, from very remote inland countries, who easily draw others into their plot: for being used
to see mens flesh eaten in their own country, and publick markets held for the purpose, they are very full of the
notion, that we buy and transport them to the same purpose; and will therefore watch all opportunities to
deliver themselves, by assaulting a ship's crew, and murdering them all, if possible: whereof, we have almost
every year some instances, in one European ship or other, that is filled with slaves.
Source: John Barbot, "A Description of the Coasts of North and South Guinea," in Thomas Astley and John
Churchill, eds., Collection of Voyages and Travels (London, 1732).
"PREMEDITATED A REVOLT"
James Barbot, Jr., a sailor aboard the English slaver Don Carlos, describes a slave uprising that took place
aboard the vessel.
About one in the afternoon, after dinner, we, according to custom caused them, one by one, to go down
between decks, to have each his pint of water; most of them were yet above deck, many of them provided
with knives, which we had indiscreetly given them two or three days before, as not suspecting the least
attempt of this nature from them; others had pieces of iron they had torn off our forecastle door, as having
premeditated a revolt, and seeing all the ship's company, at best but weak and many quite sick, they had also
broken off the shackles from several of their companions feet, which served them, as well as billets they had
provided themselves with, and all other things they could lay hands on, which they imagin'd might be of use for
this enterprize. Thus arm'd, they fell in crouds and parcels on our men, upon the deck unawares, and stabb'd
one of the stoutest of us all, who receiv'd fourteen or fifteen wounds of their knives, and so expir'd. Next they
assaulted our boatswain, and cut one of his legs so round the bone, that he could not move, the nerves being
cut through; others cut our cook's throat to the pipe, and others wounded three of the sailors, and threw one of
them over- board in that condition, from the fore- castle into the sea; who, however, by good providence, got
hold of the bowline of the fore-sail, and sav'd himself...we stood in arms, firing on the revolted slaves, of whom
we kill'd some, and wounded many: which so terrif'd the rest, that they gave way, dispersing themselves some
one way and some another between decks, and under the fore- castle; and many of the most mutinous, leapt
over board, and drown'd themselves in the ocean with much resolution, shewing no manner of concern for life.
Thus we lost twenty seven or twenty eight slaves, either kill'd by us, or drown'd; and having master'd them,
caused all to go betwixt decks, giving them good words. The next day we had them all again upon deck,
where they unanimously declar'd, the Menbombe slaves had been the contrivers of the mutiny, and for an
example we caused about thirty of the ringleaders to be very severely whipt by all our men that were capable
of doing that office....
I have observ'd, that the great mortality, which so often happens in slave- ships, proceeds as well from taking
in too many, as from want of knowing how to manage them aboard....
As to the management of our slaves aboard, we lodge the two sexes apart, by means of a strong partition at
the main mast; the forepart is for men, the other behind the mast for the women. If it be in large ships carrying
five or six hundred slaves, the deck in such ships ought to be at least five and a half or six foot high, which is
very requisite for driving a continual trade of slaves: for the greater height it has, the more airy and convenient
it is for such a considerable number of human creatures; and consequently far the more healthy for them, and
fitter to look after them. We build a sort of half- decks along the sides with deals and spars provided for that
purpose in Europe, that half- deck extending no father than the sides of our scuttles and so the slaves lie in
two rows, one above the other, and as close together as they can be crouded....
The planks, or deals, contract some dampness more or less, either from the deck being so often wash'd to
keep it clean and sweet, or from the rain that gets in now and then through the scuttles or other openings, and
even from the very sweat of the slaves; which being so crouded in a low place, is perpetual, and occasions
many distempers, or at best great inconveniences dangerous to their health....
It has been observ'd before, that some slaves fancy they are carry'd to be eaten, which make them desperate;
and others are so on account of their captivity: so that if care be not taken, they will mutiny and destroy the
ship's crue in hopes to get away.
To prevent such misfortunes, we use to visit them daily, narrowly searching every corner between decks, to
see whether they have not found means, to gather any pieces of iron, or wood, or knives, about the ship,
notwithstanding the great care we take not to leave any tools or nails, or other things in the way: which,
however, cannot be always so exactly observ'd, where so many people are in the narrow compass of a ship.
We cause as many of our men as is convenient to lie in the quarter- deck and gun- room, and our principal
officers in the great cabin, where we keep all our small arms in a readiness, with sentinels constantly at the
doors and avenues to it; being thus ready to disappoint any attempts our slave might make on a sudden.
These precautions contribute very much to keep them in awe; and if all those who carry slaves duly observ'd
them, we should not hear of so many revolts as have happen'd. Where I was concern'd, we always kept our
slaves in such order, that we did not perceive the least inclination in any of them to revolt, or mutiny, and lost
very few of our number in the voyage.
It is true, we allow'd them much more liberty, and us'd them with more tenderness than most other Europeans
would think prudent to do; as, to have them all upon deck every day in good weather; to take their meals twice
a- day, at fix'd hours, that is, at ten in the morning, and at five at night; which being ended, we made the men
go down again between the decks; for the women were almost entirely at their own discretion, to be upon
deck as long as they pleas'd, nay even many of the males had the same liberty by turns, successively; few or
none being fetter'd or kept in shackles, and that only on account of some disturbances, or injuries, offer'd to
their fellow captives, as will unavoidably happen among a numerous croud of such savage people. Besides,
we allow'd each of them betwixt their meals a handful of Indian wheat and Mandioca, and now and then short
pipes and tobacco to smoak upon deck by turns, and some coconuts; and to the women a piece of coarse
cloth to cover them, and the same to many of the men, which we took care they did wash from time to time, to
prevent vermin, which they are very subject to; and because it look'd sweeter and more agreeable. Toward
the evening they diverted themselves on the deck, as they thought fit, some conversing together, others
dancing, singing, and sporting after their manner, which pleased them highly, and often made us pastime;
especially the female sex, who being apart from the males, on the quarterdeck, and many of them young
sprightly maidens, full of jollity and good-humour, afforded us abundance of recreation; as did several little
fine boys, which we mostly kept to attend on us about the ship.
We mess'd the slaves twice a day, as I have observed; the first meal was of our large beans boil'd, with a
certain quantity of Muscovy lard....The other meal was of pease, or of Indian wheat, and sometimes meal of
Mandioca...boiled with either lard, or suet, or grease by turns: and sometimes with palm- oil and malaguette
or Guinea pepper I found they had much better stomachs for beans, and it is a proper fattening food for
At each meal we allow'd every slave a full coconut shell of water, and from time to time a dram of brandy, to
strengthen their stomachs....
Much more might be said relating to the preservation and maintenance of slaves in such voyages, which I
leave to the prudence of the officers that govern aboard, if they value their own reputation and their owners
advantage; and shall only add these few particulars, that tho' we ought to be circumspect in watching the
slaves narrowly, to prevent or disappoint their ill designs for our own conservation, yet must we not be too
severe and haughty with them, but on the contrary, caress and humor them in every reasonable thing. Some
commanders, of a morose peevish temper are perpetually beating and curbing them, even without the least
offence, and will not suffer any upon deck but when unavoidable to ease themselves does require; under
pretence it hinders the work of the ship and sailors and that they are troublesome by their nasty nauseous
stench, or their noise; which makes those poor wretches desperate, and besides their falling into distempers
thro' melancholy, often is the occasion of their destroying themselves.
Such officers should consider, those unfortunate creatures are men as well as themselves, tho' of a different
colour, and pagans; and that they ought to do to others as they would be done by in like circumstances....
Source: James Barbot, Jr., "A Supplement to the Description of the Coasts of North and South Guinea," in
Awnsham and John Churchill, Collection of Voyages and Travels (London, 1732).
"HE WAS NO COMMON SLAVE"
Any West African, regardless of status, might be enslaved. Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, who was born around
1701 to a family of Muslim clerics, was a well- educated merchant in the Senegambian region of West Africa,
which had supplied Europe with beeswax, gold, gum, ivory, and small numbers of slaves since the fifteenth
century. In 1730, he was kidnapped and transported to Maryland. In Maryland, he wrote a letter to his father,
which came to the attention of James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, who helped purchase his freedom
and bring him to England, where he was known as Job ben Solomon.
In February, 1730, Job's father hearing of an English ship at Gambia River, sent him, with two servants to
attend him, to sell two Negroes, and to buy paper, and other necessities; but desired him not to venture over
the river, because the country of the Mandingoes, who are enemies...lies on the other side. Job not agreeing
with Captain Pike...sent back the two servants to acquaint his father with it, and to let him know that he
intended to go farther. Accordingly having agreed with another man, named Loumein Yoas, who understood
the Mandingoe language, to go with him as his interpreter, he crossed the River Gambia, and disposed of his
Negroes for some cows. As he was returning home, he stoppped for some refreshment at the house of an old
acquaintance; and the weather being hot, he hung up his arms in the house, while he refreshed himself. Those
arms were very valuable; consisting of a gold- hilted sword, a gold knife, which they wear by their side, and a
rich quiver of arrows, which King Sambo had made him a present of. It happened that a company of the
Mandingoes, who live upon plunder, passing by at that time, and observing him unarmed, rushed in, to the
number of seven or eight at once, at a back door, and pinioned Job, before he could get to his arms, together
with his interpreter, who is a slave in Maryland still. They then shaved their heads and beards, which Job and
his man resented as the highest indignity; tho' the Mandingoes meant no more by it, than to make them
appear like Slaves taken in war. On the 27th of February, 1730, they carried them to Captain Pike at Gambia,
who purchased them; and on the first of March they were put on board. Soon after Job found means to
acquaint Captain Pike that he was the same person that came to trade with him a few days before, and after
what manner he had been taken. Upon this Captain Pike gave him leave to redeem himself and his man; and
Job sent to an acquaintance of his father's, near Gambia, who promised to send to Job's father, to inform him
of what had happened, that he might take some course to have him set at liberty. But it being a fortnight's
journey between that friend's house and his father's, and the ship sailing in about a week after, Job was
brought with the rest of the slaves to Annapolis and Maryland, and delivered to Mr. Vachell Denton, factor to
Mr. Hunt, before mentioned. Job heard since, by vessels that came from Gambia, that his father sent down
several slaves, a little after Captain Pike sailed, in order to procure his redemption; and that Sambo, King of
Futa, had made war upon the Mandingoes, and cut off great numbers of them, upon of the account of the injury
they had done to his schoolfellow.
Mr. Vachell Denton sold Job to one Mr. Tolsey in Kent Island in Maryland, who put him to work in making
tobacco; but he was soon convinced that Job had never been used to such labour. He every day showed
more and more uneasiness under this exercise, and at last grew sick, being no way able to bear it; so that his
master was obliged to find easier work for him, and therefore put him to tend the cattle. Job would often leave
the cattle, and withdraw into the woods to pray; but a white boy frequently watched him, and whilst he was at
his devotion would mock him, and throw dirt in his face. This very much disturbed Job, and added
considerably to his other misfortunes; all which were increased by his ignorance of the English language,
which prevented him from complaining, or telling his case to any person about him. Grown in some measure
desperate, by reason of his present hardship, he resolved to travel at a venture; thinking he might possibly be
taken up by some master, who would use him better or otherwise meet with some lucky accident, to divert or
abate his grief. Accordingly, he travelled thro' the woods, till he came to the County of Kent, upon Delaware
Bay, now esteemed part of Pensilvania; altho' it is properly a part of Maryland, and belongs to my Lord
Baltimore. There is a law in force, throughout the colonies of Virginia, Maryland, Pensilvania, etc. as far as
Boston in New England, viz. that any Negroe, or white servant who is not known in the county, or has no pass,
may be secured by any person, and kept in the common gaol, till the master of such servant shall fetch him.
Therefore Job being able to give no account of himself, was put in prison there.
This happened about the beginning of June, 1731 when I, who was attending the courts there, and had heard
of Job, went with several gentlemen to the gaoler's house, being a tavern, and desired to see him. He was
brought into the tavern to us, but could not speak one word of English. Upon our taking and making signs to
him, he wrote a line or two before us, and when he read it, pronounced the words Allah and Mahommed; by
which, and his refusing a glass of wine we offered him, we perceived he was a Mahomedtan, but could not
imagine of what country he was, or how he got thither; for by his affable carriage, and the easy composure of
his countenance, we could perceive he was no common slave.
When Job had been some time confined, an old Negroe man, who lived in that neighbourhood, and could
speak the Jalloff language, which Job also understood, went to him, and conversed with him. By this Negroe
the keeper was informed to whom Job belonged, and what was the cause of his leaving his master. The
keeper thereupon wrote to his master, who soon after fetched him home, and was much kinder to him than
before; allowing him a place to pray in, and some other conveniences, in order to make his slavery as easy as
possible. Yet slavery and confinement was by no means agreeable to Job, who had never been used to it; he
therefore wrote a letter in Arabick to his father, acquainting him with his misfortunes, hoping he might yet find
means to redeem him. This letter he sent to Mr. Vachell Denton, desiring it might be sent to Africa by Captain
Pike; but he being gone to England, Mr. Denton sent the letter inclosed to Mr. Hunt, in order to be sent to
Africa by Captain Pike from England; but Captain Pike had sailed for Africa before the letter came to Mr.
Hunt, who therefore kept it in his own hands, till he should have a proper opportunity of sending it. It happened
that this letter was seen by James Oglethorpe, Esq. (an English philanthropist who found the of colony of
Georgia as a haven for debtors), who, according to his usual goodness and generosity, took compassion on
Job, and gave his bond to Mr. Hunt for the payment of a certain sum, upon the delivery of Job here in England.
Mr. Hunt upon this sent to Mr. Denton, who purchased him again of his master for the same money which Mr.
Denton had formerly received for him; his master being very willing to part with him, as finding him no ways fit
for his business.
Source: Thomas Bluett, Some Memoirs of the Life of Job, the Son of Solomon (London, 1734).
"I THEN HAD A ROPE PUT ABOUT MY NECK"
Kidnapped at the age of six, Venture Smith was sold to the stewart on a slave ship and brought to
Connecticut. At the age of 31, after several changes of ownership, he purchased his freedom with money that
he earned by hiring out his labor and "cleaning musk-rats and minks, raising potatoes and carrots, and by
fishing in the night, and at odd spells." In order to purchase his wife and sons, he fished, sailed on a whaler,
ferried wood from Long Island to Rhode Island, and raised watermelons. Later, he actually became a
slaveholder, purchasing at least three slaves. At his death at the age of 77 in 1805 in East Haddam,
Connecticut, he left a hundred- acre farm and three houses.
I was born in Dukandarra, in Guinea, about the year 1729. My father's name was Saungm Furro, Prince of the
tribe of Dukandara. My father had three wives. Polygamy was not uncommon in that country, especially among
the rich, as every man was allowed to keep as many wives as he could maintain....
The first thing worthy of notice which I remember was, a contention between my father and mother, on account
of my father marrying his third wife without the consent of his first and eldest, which was contrary to the custom
generally observed among my countrymen. In consequence of this rupture, my mother left her husband and
country, and travelled away with her three children to the eastward. I was then five years old....After five days
travel...my mother was pleased to stop and seek a refuge for me. She left me at the house of a very rich
farmer. I was then, as I should judge, not less than one hundred and forty miles from my native place,
separated from all my relations and acquaintance....
My father sent a man and horse after me. After settling with my guardian for keeping me, he took me away
and went for home. It was then about one year since my mother brought me here. Nothing remarkable
occurred to us on our journey until we arrived safe home.
I found then that the difference between my parents had been made up previous to their sending for me. On
my return, I was received both by my father and mother with great joy and affection, and was once more
restored to my paternal dwelling in peace and happiness. I was then about six years old.
Not more than six weeks had passed after my return before a message was brought by an inhabitant of the
place where I lived the preceding year to my father, that that place had been invaded by a numerous army
from a nation not far distant, furnished with musical instrument, and all kinds of arms then in use; that they were
instigated by some white nation who equipped and sent them to subdue and possess the country; that his
nation had made no preparation for war, having been for a long time in profound peace; that they could not
defend themselves against such a formidable train of invaders, and must therefore necessarily evacuate their
lands to the fierce enemy, and fly to the protection of some chief; and that if he would permit them they would
come under his rule and protection when they had to retreat from their own possessions. He was a kind and
merciful prince, and therefore consented to these proposals....
He gave them every privilege and all the protection his government could afford. But they had not been there
longer than four days before news came to them that the invaders had laid waste their country, and were
coming speedily to destroy them in my father's territories. This affrighted them, and therefore they immediately
pushed off to the southward, into the unknown countries there, and were never more heard of.
Two days after their retreat, the report turned out to be but too true. A detachment from the enemy came to my
father and informed him, that the whole army was encamped not far out of his dominions, and would invade
the territory and deprive his people of their liberties and rights, if he did not comply with the following terms.
These were to pay them a large sum of money, three hundred fat cattle, and a great number of goats, sheep,
My father told the messenger he would comply rather than that his subjects should be deprived of their rights
and privileges, which he was not then in circumstances to defend from so sudden an invasion. Upon turning
out those articles, the enemy pledged their faith and honor that they would not attack him. On these he relied
and therefore thought it unnecessary to be on his guard against the enemy. But their pledges of faith and
honor proved no better than those of other unprincipled hostile nations; for a few days after a certain relation
of the king came and informed him, that the enemy who sent terms of accommodation to him and received
tribute to their satisfaction, yet meditated an attack upon his subjects by surprise and that probably they would
commence their attack in less than one day, and concluded with advising him, as he was not prepared for
war, to order a speedy retreat of his family and subjects. He complied with this advice.
The same night which was fixed upon to retreat, my father and his family set off about the break of day. The
king and his two younger wives went in one company, and my mother and her children in another. We left our
dwellings in succession, and my father's company went on first. We directed our course for a large shrub
plain, some distance off, where we intended to conceal ourselves from the approaching enemy, until we could
refresh ourselves a little. But we presently found that our retreat was not secure. For having struck up a little
fire for the purpose of cooking victuals, the enemy who happened to be encamped a little distance off, had
sent out a scouting party who discovered us by the smoke of the fire, just as we were extinguishing it, and
about to eat. As soon as we had finished eating, my father discovered the party, and immediately began to
discharge arrows at them. This was what I first saw, and it alarmed both me and the women, who being
unable to make any resistance, immediately betook ourselves to the tall thick reeds not far off, and left the old
king to fight alone. For some time I beheld him from the reeds defending himself with great courage and
firmness, till at last he was obliged to surrender himself into their hands.
They then came to us in the reeds, and the very first salute I had from them was a violent blow on the back part
of the head with the fore part of a gun, and at the same time a grasp round the neck. I then had a rope put
about my neck, as had all the women in the thicket with me, and were immediately led to my father, who was
likewise pinioned and haltered for leading. In this condition we were all led to the camp. The women and
myself being pretty submissive, had tolerable treatment from the enemy, while my father was closely
interrogated respecting his money which they knew he must have. But as he gave them no account of it, he
was instantly cut and pounded on his body with great inhumanity, that he might be induced by the torture he
suffered to make the discovery. All this availed not in the least to make him give up his money, but he
despised all the tortures which they inflicted, until the continued exercise and increase of torment, obliged him
to sink and expire. He thus died without informing his enemies where his money lay. I saw him while he was
thus tortured to death. The shocking scene is to this day fresh in my mind, and I have often been overcome
while thinking on it....
The army of the enemy was large, I should suppose consisting of about six thousand men. Their leader was
called Baukurre. After destroying the old prince, they decamped and immediately marched toward the sea,
lying to the west, taking with them myself and the women prisoners. In the march a scouting party was
detached from the main army. To the leader of this party I was made waiter, having to carry his gun, etc. As
we were a scouting we came across a herd of fat cattle, consisting of about thirty in number. These we set
upon, and immediately wrested from their keepers, and afterwards converted them into food for the army. The
enemy had remarkable success in destroying the country wherever they went. For as far as they had
penetrated, they laid the habitations waste and captured the people. The distance they had now brought me
was about four hundred miles. All the march I had very hard tasks imposed on me, which I must perform on
pain of punishment. I was obliged to carry on my head a large glat stone used for grinding our corn, weighing
as I should suppose, as much as twenty- five pounds; besides victuals, mat and cooking utensils. Though I
was pretty large and stout at my age, yet these burdens were very grievous to me, being only six years and a
We were then come to a place called Malagasco. When we entered the place we could not see the least
appearance of either houses or inhabitants, but upon stricter search found, that instead of houses above
ground they had dens in the sides of hillocks, contiguous to ponds and streams of water. In these we
perceived they had all hid themselves, as I supposed they usually did on such occasions. In order to compel
them to surrender, the enemy contrived to smoke them out with faggots. These they put to the entrance of the
caves and set them on fire. While they were engaged in this business, to their great surprise some of them
were desperately wounded with arrows which fell from above on them. This mystery they soon found out. They
perceived that the enemy discharged these arrows through holes on top of the dens, directly into the air. Their
weight brought them back, point downwards on their enemies heads, whilst they were smoking the inhabitants
out. The points of their arrows were poisoned, but their enemy had an antidote for it, which they instantly
applied to the wounded part. The smoke at last obliged the people to give themselves up. They came out of
their caves, first putting the palms of their hands together, and immediately after extended their arms, crossed
at their wrists, ready to be bound and pinioned....
The invaders then pinioned the prisoners of all ages and sexes indiscriminately, took their flocks and all their
effects, and moved on their way towards the sea. On the march the prisoners were treated with clemency, on
account of their being submissive and humble. Having come to the next tribe, the enemy laid siege and
immediately took men, women, children, flocks, and all their valuable effects. They then went on to the next
district which was contiguous to the sea, called in Africa, Anamaboo. The enemies provisions were then
almost spent, as well as their strength. The inhabitants knowing what conduct they had pursued, and what
were their present intentions, improve the favorable opportunity, attacked them, and took enemy, prisoners,
flocks and all their effects. I was then taken a second time. All of us were then put into the castle
(a European slave trading post), and kept for market. On a certain time I and other prisoners were put on board a canoe,
under our master, and rowed away to a vessel belonging to Rhode Island, commanded by Captain
Collingwood, and the mate Thomas Mumford. While we were going to the vessel, our master told us all to
appear to the best possible advantage for sale. I was bought on board by one Robert Mumford, steward of
said vessel, for four gallons of rum, and a piece of calico, and called Venture, on account of his having
purchased me with his own private venture. Thus I came by my name. All the slaves that were bought for that
vessel's cargo, were two hundred and sixty.
Source: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, A Native of Africa (New London, Conn., 1798;
expanded ed., Hamden, Conn., 1896).
These narratives were edited by Steven Mintz, University of Houston
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