The trans-Atlantic slave trade was the largest long-distance coerced movement of people In history. From the late fifteenth century, the Atlantic Ocean became a commercial highway that integrated the histories of Africa, Europe, and the Americas for the first time. For several centuries slaves were the most important reason for contact between Europeans and Africans.
But why were the slaves always African?One possible answer draws on the different values of societies around the Atlantic and, more particularly, the people involved in creating a trans-Atlantic community saw themselves in elation to others – in short, how they defined their identity. In fact, Africans themselves sold slaves to Europeans for use in the Americas. Given the long- lasting historical repercussions of the estimated eleven million African captives forced to cross the Atlantic from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, we know amazingly little about the individual experiences of the horrific Middle Passage.Historian Randy Sparks informative book, Two Princes of Callback, tells the remarkable true story of two African Princes enslaved at Old Callback in the Bight of Bavaria, taken first to the Caribbean and hen shipped to Virginia.
They then escaped to England where they sued for their freedom in hope to make it back home. Sparks book gave the public a first-hand look on the atrocities the slave trade brought to the Africans. Sparks not only discusses the maltreatment the slaves received but also mentions how the slave trade provided communities with economic benefits.
Two Princes of Callback addresses issues in Africa today from colonialism to the horrific slave trade with this extraordinary true story of two Princes journey back to freedom. Sparks study began when he encountered a series f letters by former slaves to Charles Wesley, the brother of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. The letters were written by Little Ephraim Robin John and Anaconda Robin John, natives of Old Callback, a principal source for the Atlantic slave trade in the eighteenth century.The brothers Robin John called upon and received assistance from Charles Wesley to gain their freedom and guide their conversion to Methodism. Sparks studied the letters in detail and searched for other sources that could shed light on the Robin Johns’ odyssey. The result is a much-needed examination of the transatlantic slave trade entered on the lives of two individuals. In Sparks hands, the Robin Johns’ story allows us “.
.. To translate those statistics [of the slave trade] into people” (Sparks 5).The Robin Johns’ enslavement and liberation resulted from their active roles as slave traders at the West African region of Old Callback. Little Ephraim Robin John and Anaconda Robin John were members of the elite Fix slave traders of Old Callback and participated in the Keep secret society that governed the commercial relations with Atlantic traders. As Old Callback grew from a small town in the late seventeenth Century to one of the most important slave trading regions of the eighteenth century, Fix traders such as the Robin Johns came to dominate Old Callback society.The Robin Johns’ ability to speak and write English, and effectively move through the cultural settings of Africa, America, and Europe, Sparks shows, was indicative of the increasing interconnectedness of the Atlantic coast.
The North European slave trade and was dominated by the English. The South was exclusive preserve of the largest slave traders of all, the Portuguese. In 1767 British slave traders aggravated with paying exceedingly high costs demanded by Old Callback Fell traders directly assisted rivals at nearby New Town in a bloody massacre that resulted in the capture of the Robin Johns.Whatever the route taken, conditions on board reflected the outsider status of those held below deck. The sexes were separated, kept naked, packed close together, and the men were chained for long periods. No less than 26 percent of those on board were classed as children. Mortality remained high in this period because of the illegal nature of the business.
Throughout the slave trade era, filthy conditions ensured diseases, between 12 and 13 percent of hose embarked did not survive the voyage.Crew mortality as a percentage of those going on board, matched slave mortality over the course of the voyage, but as slaves were there for a shorter period of time than the crew, mortality rates for slaves over time were the more severe. Immediately upon enslavement in Old Callback, the Robin Johns began to use their intimate knowledge and connections developed through years of participating in the Atlantic slave trade to scheme for their freedom. Sparks rightfully concludes that “However rare such cases may have been, the Robin Johns knew what cost captives did not-that it was possible to make their way home” (Sparks 73).The Robin Johns earned the title “Two Princes” upon enslavement because they clearly set themselves apart from other Africans. Their knowledge of the English language and well-known connections to merchants trading in the Atlantic served to keep them away from dangers. In 1772 Chief Justice Lord Mansfield ruled that James Somerset, who had been brought to England as a slave by his Virginia master but had escaped, could not be re- enslaved and forcibly sent outside the country against his will.
The RobinJohns sued for their freedom on the basis that they would be sent back to Virginia and sold as slaves against their will. Unable to establish a “legitimate” account for the Robin Johns enslavement, Lord Mansfield declared them free in 1773. Shortly thereafter, they began their return journey back to Old Callback. In their seven-year odyssey crisscrossing the Atlantic the Robin Johns repeatedly drew upon their connections established as Fix slave traders, but also sought out new allies to assist them in their quest for freedom.The hardest lesson for modern readers of the Robin Johns’ extraordinary story will undoubtedly be that they never renounced the slave trade or slavery. Avoiding both disappointment and shock, Sparks concludes that they returned to slave trading after finally returning home from their journey to freedom. Here lies the tragic consequence of Atlantic slavery and the close relationship between slavery and freedom.
Without their personal investment in the slave trade, the Robin Johns most likely would not have gained their freedom.The Princes economic benefits from the slave trade allowed them to not only gain their freedom but also rebuild their hometown to the rosaceous place it used to be before they were captured. In the slave societies bordering the early-modern Atlantic, whether they were connected by trade such as that between Old Callback and Bristol or plantations in the Americas, the clearest indication of personal freedom was marked not by individual autonomy and economic independence, but by ownership of another human being.Ironically, the Robin Johns had to own slaves for them to gain their freedom status permanently. With great care, engaging prose, and appreciation for the complexities and contradictions of the human indention, Randy Sparks allows the Robin Johns’ story to vividly illustrate the few triumphs and numerous tragedies that marked the transatlantic slave trade. Awareness of the insider-outsider divide within Europe coincided with the onset of the struggle to suppress first the slave trade, and then slavery itself.Early in the British campaign to suppress the slave trade, Charles James Fox, a British statesman, posed a question for the House of Commons that he described as “the foundation for the whole business.
” How would members of Parliament react, he asked, if “a Bristol ship were to go to any part of France… And the democrats (there) were to sell the aristocrats, or vice versa, to be carried off to Jamaica….
To be sold for slaves? The very posing of this question – and this is the earliest documented example from someone close to power – meant that the issue was not whether the system was to be questioned, but rather, when it would end. In the same year, the Danes passed legislation ensuring their own slave trade would become illegal in 1802. In 1807, the British and IIS governments made the trade illegal. Beginning in 1810, the British established a network of treaties that allowed heir naval vessels to detain the slave ships of other nations.The decisive actions against the traffic nevertheless did not come until the mid sass and again in 1851 , when the Cuban and Brazilian governments respectively took serious action against the slave trade. The Atlantic Slave trade was an important even in world history the impacts, experiences, and social conduct have helped develop humanity to be a better world for society. The story of the two Africans in the book allowed people to live through the dangers and benefits the African Slave trade imposed.
The African Slave trade that occurred centuries ago still affects certain areas of Africa, particularly, economically.The slave trade was not just an inhuman movement but also a dangerous market. In such case, the Robin Johns were leaders of a powerful trade selling thousands of slaves to ironically be captured and sold as well. This book marks the story of two rich slave trader becoming slaves and seeing the atrocities the slaves go through Once they are put in the same position to fight for their lives and ultimately their freedom.
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