The Tragic Case of the Brig Uncas: The Illegal African Slave Trade and the New Orleans-Havana Connection, 1844

Friday, January 4, 2013: 10:30 AM
Chamber Ballroom I (Roosevelt New Orleans)
Randy J. Sparks, Tulane University
In 1844 the U. S. African Squadron captured the Brig Uncas off the notorious slave trading barracoon at Gallinas in Sierra Leone. The Uncas, from New Orleans, had run a packet service between that city and Havana, but by the early 1840s had moved into the illegal African slave trade. Joseph Richardson, who was the first-mate of the Uncas and the only U.S. citizen on board, had been murdered by a crew member at sea. Because of the murder and the trial that followed, the records of the voyage are unusually complete and offer a window into the elaborate conduct of the trade between New Orleans, Havana, and Africa. New Orleans commercial firms helped outfit slavers; they hired ships, captains, and the crew. Slavers preferred to hire sailors who were not U.S. citizens given the strict U.S. laws against American sailors being involved in the trade, and the records of this voyage reveal that the tentacles of the slave trade reached from New Orleans to Sweden, Spain and Italy whose citizens composed the crew. Records from the British commissioner of the Mixed Court in Havana, one of the several such courts created to try slave ships captured by the British navy, make it possible to trace the Uncas there and to identify the Cuban investors in the voyage. The Uncas is a useful case study to explore the involvement of U.S. slave traders in the illegal African trade of the 19th Century, and in particular the importance of the New Orleans-Havana connection in that trade
See more of: New Orleans and the Slave Trade
See more of: AHA Sessions
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>