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A Slave Ship Named Henrietta Marie
12/4/2013 3:09:03 PM

By Hakim Abdul-Ali

One of the most fascinating studies for me has always been the study of global racism, especially as it relates to the Africana experience. In this lifelong academic pursuit of contemplative understanding, I’ve been enthralled about the vessels that brought the enslaved Africans to the Western world across the vaunted Middle Passage.

Researching and detailing the horrors of “hue-man” bondage has been a persistent endeavor in my quest for understanding this wicked activity. It’s a painful and sensitive reality for people of color like me to digest “hue-manistically” speaking, because we feel, centuries later, the sting of racism and the stain of bigotry through “his-storical” oppression.

Slavery was and is a vicious sore to “hue-man” equality. That being a clearly given reality, I want to bring your attention a special slave ship named “Henrietta Marie” that sank in 1700.

When it sank in the Atlantic Ocean, the “Henrietta Marie” was on its way back to England after having sold about 191 Africans in Port Royal, Jamaica, on its second recorded voyage to the West Indies. The ship sailed under license from the Royal African Company.

It had left Africa with a “his-storically” listed 300 enslaved captives on board. These captives were sold into slavery by fellow Africans, from rival tribes. The slave ship’s captain’s name was Thomas chamberlain.

On the “Henrietta Marie’s” first voyage in 1697 to 1698, the ship carried more than two hundred Africans for sale into slavery in Barbados. In its last voyage, beginning in 1699 the ship sailed from its home port in England on the first leg of the triangular trade route with a load of goods, including cloth, pewter utensils, copper and iron bars, glass beads and whiskey.

“His-storians” note that the Royal African Company, which held a monopoly on English trade with Africa, exchanged about ten percent of the profits of the voyage the ship. Many of the enslaved captives on the voyage from the shores of Africa, many who came from the Guinea coast, died along the way.

The captive Africans, including men, women and children, were fed, cleaned, shaved and oiled, their wounds, if applicable, were tended to in preparation for the sale in Port Royal. It’s historically reported that at Port Royal, the slaves, who were visibly naked and mangled by chains, went on the auction block.

Shamefully, prospective slave buyers might and would prod the Africans bodies, poke fingers in the captives’ mouths to check their teeth, and it’s mentioned by “his-storians”—the future enslavers even tasted the captives’ sweat. This was done because the potential buyers thought that this somehow was an indication of the viable status of the Africans’ health.

According to an 2002 article “National Geographic” magazine, entitled “Last Voyage of the Slave Ship ‘Henrietta Marie,’ ” Jennifer Steinberg says that the “Henrietta Marie’s” cargo grossed well over 3,000 pounds, which is more than $400,000 in today’s currency, for the ship’s investors.

Ms. Steinberg also offered that most of the captives were headed for sugar plantations in West Indies where they’d be worked to exhaustion, many dying within five to ten years. The article also detailed that the fate that the enslaved Africans faced was not the concern of Captain Chamberlain whatsoever.

That doesn’t surprise me in the least, especially knowing the mind-sets of those comatose and warped-mined agents of torture. The captian’s only apparent concern was profit and greed as he and his crew weighed anchor after selling the captives and “other” trade commodities in June,1700, and set a homeward course, their ship foundered on New Ground Reef near Marquesas Keys, which existed about 34 miles off Key West, Florida.

The ship sank leaving no survivors among all the remaining crew on board. It was almost three centuries later in 1972, before adventurous treasure seekers, employed by renowned salvager Mel Fisher, raised artifacts from the “Henrietta Marie,” initially looking for gold, etc.

In the ’80s and ’90s other divers continued the salvage of the slave ship as scientists began conserving the rescued items from the “Henrietta Marie.” There have been many books written about the discovery of the “Henrietta Marie,” and it’s to noted that there has been very few slave ship wrecks identified.

In my mind and for the best of me, I can’t image what those ancestors of so many, many countless stolen Africans in Africa must have felt like to have missed them, knowing (fully well) that they would never, ever return to their places of origins in the Motherland. Just thinking about that informs of the insidious effects of slavery upon future generations of Black people.

If you’re of color, the expression “Never Again” should take on a more symbolic understanding of what made the African world of yesterday disappear into a disenfranchised state of existence. It’s important to study and teach about all aspects of African “Our-Story,” and that includes the sagas of the slave ships from hell and back.

Being a serious minded student seeker of legitimate and authentic knowledge, I refuse to accept the lies of “his-story” that makes no sense just because there are some unaware “colored” folk, who don’t feel that learning about “our” true Kemetic stories, some painful as they may be, should be researched, studied and exposed.

African History and Black “Our-Story” are two fields of studies that must never be abandoned. They should be addressed in “our” schools, colleges and universities with a vigor and vitality to always let folks know that slavery was not a happy Kool-Aid ferry ride across the Atlantic. “Never Again!”

In case you don’t know, there are still some present day “colored” folk of all ethnicity, who think that (colonial) enslavement brought the enslaved ebony souls out of savagery for the betterment of the Africans. This kind of bigoted teaching and thinking appears in not-so-closeted “his-storical” and colonial religious books of deception that are still in evidence today.

It’s said that knowledge is a powerful tool to combat the injustice of ignorance. If that’s truly accepted by all sane scholars and lay student seekers of truth, then the lies about Africa and other oppressed people of color from throughout the world must exposed. “Never Again!” We must learn about “our-story,” “his-story” and all other known and unknown segments of the African and collective world ethnic experiences with integrity in order to say “Never Again!”

Even though the Henrietta Marie sank in 1700, the memories of the slave ships from hell linger vividly and strong in my mind and soul. I respectfully say, “I’ll never forget the enslaved.” Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. “Never Again,” and that’s, “As I See It.”

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