Thursday, March 12, 2009

Born in Africa

Over at Civil War Memory, a recent comment thread touched on the issue of slaves who endured the Middle Passage and lived to see emancipation. This experience was not uncommon in parts of the North — in Newport, for example, Salmar Nubia and Occramar Mirycoo were among the African-born men who led a repatriation effort after Rhode Island passed gradual emancipation in 1784. In the South, several decades separated the end of the legal international slave trade and emancipation, so the question is this: How many African-born ex-slaves lived in the South after the Civil War? And a follow-up: How many were born after the end of the legal international slave trade in 1808?

In the 1870 census, 2,178 Americans are listed as having been born in Africa. Of these, 938 were born in or after 1810. Some of these people may have been sailors or the children of missionaries, but many of them were probably brought to the United States on illegal slave-trading voyages or smuggled in through Mexico.

Here are a few examples:

Quilla Hutchinson, Camden, AL, born in Africa, 1847:

George African, Sumter Co., Georgia, born in Africa, 1845:

Zena Jack, New Orleans, LA, born in Africa, 1812:

Mingo Abney, Saluda, SC, born in Africa, 1844:

Abo Shiloah, Brazoria Co., TX, born in Africa, 1815:

We know for sure that ships carried illegal cargos of slaves to North American after 1808 (see the cases of the Antelope in 1825 and the Echo in 1858). I don't know whether anyone has done a careful study of African-born Americans during the reconstruction era, but the 1870 census has plenty of rich material for someone who might like to look into the matter.

It also strikes me that the 1870 census would be an interesting source for those looking at the late antebellum domestic slave trade — the birthplaces of different family members might yield some good data about pre-war slave trade routes as well as post-war mobility and family reconstruction.


Larry Cebula said...

Where are you accessing the 1870 census?

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

I have access to the library edition through my university.