Monday, April 2, 2018

The Jenny and Rose: Addendum

This is an addendum to my series of posts on the Jenny and the Rose, part of my ongoing series Race, Revolt, and Piracy examining racial violence at sea in the eighteenth century.

It's been a couple of years since I first posted on the strangely similar voyages of the guineamen Jenny and Rose. I thought I had pretty well wrung that story dry for research, but thanks to W. Jeffrey Bolster and his excellent book Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail a single new source has completely blown open the case of the Jenny.

In providing sources for his argument that creolization began on the African coast for enslaved mariners, Bolster referenced this run away advertisement from the Maryland Gazette.
Maryland Gazette, October 23, 1760, page 3.
RAN away from the Bay Side in Talbot County, on the 16th of October, Two new Negro Men. One of them has liv'd among the English on the Coast of Guiney, and can speak some English. They came in lately in the ship Jane, Capt. Wilkinson, and he that can speak English denies his being a Slave, and is supposed to be gone to dispute it with the Captain: He is a lusty likely Fellow, and had on a brown Frize Pea-Jacket, Oznabrig Shirt, and wide Trowsers. The other had on an old Pea-Jacket, and wide Trowsers. They both appear as if they had just left some Ship. They are gone away in a Yaul of about 16 Feet Keel. Whoever secures the said Negroes so that their  master may have them again, shall have Forty Shillings Reward, paid by BENJAMIN KEMP.
The 'Jane' is undeniably the Jenny. John Wilkinson was captain of the Jenny, which was one of only two slave ships to sail into Maryland in 1760 (the other being the Duke).

The two enslaved Africans, described as looking 'as if they had just left some Ship', may well have been put to a maritime trade. The boundaries of Talbot County on Maryland's Eastern Shore is perforated by rivers all draining into the Chesapeake Bay. Given the unnamed African's having 'liv'd among the English on the Coast of Guiney,' it is possible that he was working with slave ships there, and perhaps even familiar with how to sail them.

More importantly, he felt that he could negotiate his way to freedom with Captain Wilkinson. This may have been a product of his living alongside English slavers in Africa, where negotiation was central to navigating that fraught cultural relationship. It is also possible that this was what convinced the Africans Wilkinson had armed to put down their weapons. If he promised freedom to all who defended his ship, it would have been far easier to disarm the fifty enslaved men who bested the French in combat. This would also explain why the angry African stole a yawl to 'dispute it' with Captain Wilkinson.

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