British archaeologists have unearthed a slave burial ground containing an estimated 5,000 bodies on a remote South Atlantic island.
The corpses were found on tiny St Helena, 1,000 miles off the coast of south-west Africa. Those who died were slaves taken off the ships of slave traders by the Royal Navy in the 1800s, when Britain was supressing the slavery in the Caribbean. Many of the captives died after being kept on the slavers’ ships in appalling conditions, and later in refugee camps when they reached the island.
According to Britain’s National Archives, between 1808 and 1869 the Royal Navy seized more than 1,600 slave ships and freed about 150,000 Africans.
How on earth did I miss the discovery of a massive slave burial ground on St. Helena?
(h/t to valchanelle)
I have long been fascinated by this under-reported piece of information about the aftermath of the slave trade: that after Parliament abolished the slave trade in 1807, the Royal Navy took Africans enslaved by traders from other nations and “freed” them. But this freeing did not involve returning these people to their homelands—although I’d be interested in hearing about any cases in which it did. No, as I’ve found in my own research, these “captured Africans” were often transported to the Caribbean to work as indentured servants.
It’s probably high time I revisited Monica Schuler’s “Alas, Alas, Kongo” (1980). Roseanne Adderley’s also done good work on this topic: see her “New Negroes from Africa”: Slave Trade Abolition and Free African Settlement in the Nineteenth-Century Caribbean (2006)